THE MERCURY TREE
(2019 - self release - USA)
Literally an ear bending masterpiece by an ever evolving The Mercury Tree. Something that you could imagine coming from people like Ric05, Robert Fripp, or Adrian Belew (check out 'The Sheltering Sky' off Discipline by King Crimson, for a similar sounding approach), if their minds were on this microtonal format. With The Mercury Tree's Spidermilk', they raised the bar from their previous EP collaboration ('Cryptic Tree ') with Igliashon Jones (who is now their guitarist, along with Ben Spees), using 17 and 23-note equal divisions of the octave. Here, they stay with 17 equally spaced notes per octave, producing shimmering strings of notes with a new spectrum of colors and tones. Add the band's complex writing on top of that, and the results are cosmic, daring, wicked, and enticing all at once. In fact, this is their best yet. It took them two years to complete.
Microtonal composition was being explored by Faust (German 'Krautrock' pioneers) back in late 60's and early 70's, so the idea is not new, just one that can be expanded and used in many different ways. One tone explored in various dimensions, is where the open window still exists. So without going into a lesson in that region of music theory, I will proceed speaking about the music at hand. For those interested, the band gives a web link to read more about each song and info on the microtonal tuning used for those pieces.
The Cardiac clan will love this, with a junction of a wavering early Gentle Giant (if these guys were still together, this is what we might expect, assuming they stayed independent from major record labels), and Lost Crowns world. The music is a mosaic of delicate harmony, a bit of heavy crunch guitar work, a brilliant modernism that absolutely qualifies as original and fantastic. I recognized this group's unusual virtuoso even on their debut (self titled) back in 2007. [I reviewed that by the way]. With each release, they grow more tentacles, never staying in their own footprints. Every recording has been an automatic favorite and with 'Spidermilk', they have broken all the molds, cast off their scales, and created what is a definite TOP CHOICE pick for 2019 on my list. The musicians are: Ben Spees - voice, guitar, and keyboards/ Connor Reilly - drums/ Oliver Campbell - bass/ Igliashon Jones - guitar/ with special guest: Tony Mowe - alto & baritone saxophone.
At times the music is unreal, shifting from glorious multi part vocal harmony, quick twists that yank you out of the fluffy clouds, trembling arpeggios of electric guitar picking, surprise explosive metallic prog that Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, solo) would be proud of, and suave passages that will sooth the beast of the hardest heart. While the music is futuristic, it also keeps a nostalgic essence, both in the atmosphere on the venture and the synthesis. Riding a tsunami of dynamics and styles, even some elements of post rock expose themselves. 'Spidermilk' feels impulsive, yet it is a fact that The Mercury Tree compose with dedication, preciseness, and on a scholastic level. In the end, this is a supernatural album, and extravagant in every way. Stunning and setting a new benchmark for every future release forever. Just buy it and hear for yourself. AN EARTHSHAKING RECOMMENDATION!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 6 - 1 - 2019