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The Mercury Tree - Spidermilk CD (album) cover


The Mercury Tree


Heavy Prog

3.61 | 53 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars These young virtuosi from Portland, Oregon, under the determined leadership of microtonally-captivated Ben Spees, have progressed further from "normal" musical traditions than any prog band I know with the possible exception of veteran guitarist Dave Fiuczynski. Whereas their earlier music was more immediately accessible, they are now in the territory of TOBY DRIVER/KAYO DOT where the listener has to "work" in order to familiarize and get used to the unfamiliar musical constructs perpetrated by explorations and use of microtonal scales.

1. "I Am a Husk" (4:48) offers a toned-down introduction into the band's new sound. A kind of display of KAYO DOT plays THE WHO. (8.25/10)

2. "Vestments" (4:39) opens with fast moving "Discipline"-like multi-instrumental weave before several guitar tracks begin to display their atonal microtones. Virtuosic, to be sure, but enjoyable to Western ears? It will be a challenging scenario--one that I fear will not bode well for The Mercury Tree's fan base (though many hard core experimental musicians will appreciate and love this). The vocals and more comfortable bass and drum lines help make this one more easily accessible and, perhaps, enjoyable. (9/10)

3. "Arc of an Ilk" (6:35) an amazing composition of angularities pulled off with jaw-dropping dexterity and flawless team timing. The problem is, that it's not "pretty" or very engaging. It is entertaining from the vantage point of watching and appreciating virtuosi at work. (8.75/10)

4. "I'll Pay" (6:22) fascinating and incomprehensibly complex there are some nice vocals and melodies (especially in the repetition of the title in the background vocal chorus) here above the and great musicianship. (9.25/10)

5. "Interglacial" (1:45) feeling quite Asian in its melodic sensibilities, this brief instrumental is surprisingly pretty. (5/5)

6. "Superposition of Silhouettes" (3:43) aside from the chromatic chords, this one has a pretty, accessible sound and structure--quite like a pleasant TOBY DRIVER song (and the closest thing to old Permutations-era TMT). (8.75/10)

7. "Kept Man" (3:15) microtonal PORCUPINE TREE anyone? (8.25/10)

8. "(Throw Up My) Hands" (2:59) pure TOBY DRIVER discordant minimalism and beyond! (8/10)

9. "Disremembered" (7:07) what starts out as a stark Ben Spees solo effort turns into a 60s-ish surfer song la Dick Dale with a totally twisted modern approach to it, then back into the stark motif of the opening section, before turning into a KING CRIMSON-esque exercise in odd tempoed polyrhythms. Stunning construction and performance. I just wish it were a little more enjoyable from a melodic sense. (13/15)

10. "Brake for Genius" (3:32) The song that gave me the Jane Siberry comparison. (8/10)

11. "Tides of the Spine" (4:33) The almost normal acoustic guitar work makes this song partly accessible. (8.75/10)

This album--The Mercury Tree's ffith of this decade--often has a Ben Spees solo album feel to it--especially the middle four songs of the album, "Intergalcial" to "(Throw Up My) Hands." Aside from the aforementioned Toby Driver, the only other artist I can compare Ben's singing style to--an artist who uses such unpredictable and often angular melody lines--would be Canadian muse JANE SIBERRY. My rating for this album might be higher if I could hear and make sense of the lyrics, but, alas! I am "blocked" from comprehension of sung words by a lifelong learning defect. While I am mentally blown away by the skill, dedication, practice, and mental dexterity that goes into being able to play, write, work collaboratively with such experimental musical scales, my own ability to enjoy myself while listening to music like this is challenged to a point that I am sad to admit is beyond my control. No matter how hard I try to distance myself, to chose a different perspective to come at this music from, I just can't seem to find pleasure in the experience. It's work. The musical harmonics on display are even, at times, repellent to me. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge--I've spent over seven months with this album now--and have from the beginning truly appreciated the genius involved in creating such music, but, in the end, I find myself feeling exhausted and dejected by it. Reviewing this album has been so challenging by the fact that I found myself having to choose to rate each song according to likability and accessibility rather than skill and virtuosity. Usually, I am able to incorporate consideration for both of these very important elements of art, but here I felt cursed to actually have to choose between the two. I guess my reasoning is two-fold: I'm seeking internal resolution to my personal feelings for the work and I'm trying to offer accurate and true commentary to others as to whether or not they might enjoy seeking out this album for their listening pleasure. I highly recommend that each and every one of you take this album for a spin for your self to see what you think. I'd actually be interested to see comments of your reactions.

Four stars; a remarkable display of progressive progressive rock music--one that certainly pushes boundaries (as well as buttons). I'm not sure this album will be everyone's cup of tea but it is certainly recommended that you try.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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