The Mercury Program:
The Florida quartet The Mercury Program returns from the hinterlands with a tight, seven-song EP of thirty-two minutes duration. The material is intricate without being suffocating—or perhaps it's simply that the musicians involved are so proficient (or so conversant with the material) that even the most challenging passage proves easily navigable. The group has, after all, been around since 1997 so clearly some degree of telepathy is in place at this stage of its development (after issuing two full-lengths and two EPs between 2000 and 2004, the band took a break from recording and spent the subsequent years working on new material in relaxed manner). A front-line of chiming electric guitars, sparkling electric piano, and vibraphone melodies is solidly supported by a lockstep rhythm section that handles complex patterns with relaxed ease and swings with jazzy conviction. The group's natural sound is largely electronics-free with the exception of “Katos,” which emerges from a synthetic cloud of static and fuzz before morphing into a pulsating dub-funk workout that—especially when led by a vibes theme—can't help but call Tortoise to mind. Other memorable moments include the jazzy travelogue “Arrived/Departed,” the almost prog-like “The Church of Cause and Effect,” and “Stand & Sing,” which squeezes a serenading sampling of Latin-jazz fusion into just two minutes. All told, Chez Viking serves up tight instrumental rock from a band that eschews cheap histrionics for musicality and sonic colour in through-composed compositions that generally get the job done in five minutes or less.