The Mercury Program
From the Vapor of Gasoline
It’s both enchanting and engaging. When you enter, it seems as if you’ve entered an event in progress, and when you leave, it seems like it’s a premature exit on your part. As soon as you’re on the other end of the door, the Mercury Program is going to set into another tune. Difference and repetition seem to come up everywhere, but they figure in even more so here. Listening to a song is like slipping into a slow spin cycle that whirls into infinity. These songs could go on forever, looping and doubling back upon themselves.
The debut Mercury Program record was filled with wide open cornfield spaces, miles and miles of even terrain, shaken up periodically, but never unpleasantly so. Here it seems as if they’ve filled in those open spaces with soft vibraphone clouds, dazed Rhodes plod, and spiraling guitar chords. The drumming remains even-tempered while accenting silences with a force that could propel airplanes.
From the Vapor of Gasoline is in parts positively lush. The bowed vibraphone glow slowly illuminates the rest of the band, introducing them on the title track. The pulse of the Rhodes sets the tone for “Down on Your Old Lung” the most quietly seductive song on the album. The pace gives the impression of dancing with a ghost, laboring over each step before she disappears in a flurry of distorted guitars. Like Karate, the Mercury Program can kick in the distortion and make it count, which is less common than one would think.
They haven’t lost that homespun rock urge, no matter how lofty some of the songs get. “Highways Like Veins” invokes driving past long fields of wheat, the subtle tensions of the road and distant mirages. “Nazca Lines of Peru” revolves around a consistent riffing traded between the guitar and vibes.
From the Vapor of Gasoline is one of the more comfortable rides you’ll take in the near future. With its quiet charm and narrative splendor, the Mercury Program prove themselves to be a limber and powerful ensemble, capable of carefully constructing songs, but as adept at hiding the scaffolding.
Tiger Style, 149 Wooster St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10012; http://www.tigerstylerecords.com