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THE MERCURY TREE

Heavy Prog • United States


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The Mercury Tree biography
THE MERCURY TREE is from Portland, Oregon. They released their most recent album in 2011 ''Pterodactyls''. The band started in 2004 from a solo project of Ben SPEES (vocals, guitars, keyboards), then became a full band in 2006 with the addition of James CRUTCHER (bass) and Avery COOPER (guitar) and Mike BYRNE (drums). In 2007, they released their first self-titled album. Then, some members went on different projects; one was Mike, the drummer, for the reformation of SMASHING PUMPKINS. A new lineup was made with Liz KUHN (flute) and Alan JOHNSON (bass). In 2010, Connor REILLY was the new drummer providing his heavy progressive influence. After 3 years Alan was replaced by Aaron CLARK on bass.

The band's sound leans towards a spacey, jam oriented, shoegaze mood, with more use of live looping and keyboards, which can be heard with their latest album Freeze in Phantom Form, from 2012. More improvisation have been used in this album, which allow the band to explore some new sounds and the result is impressive. The band is now playing with a more experimental sound, a bit in the vein of RADIOHEAD, with some effects added to the instruments. The heavy guitar riffs are present and their some spacey interludes to create a unique sound of heavy progressive, post-rock. The band have been also influenced by PORCUPINE TREE; at times you think it's STEVEN WILSON that sings.

Written by rdtprog

The Mercury Tree official website

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THE MERCURY TREE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE MERCURY TREE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.83 | 12 ratings
Pterodactyls
2011
3.42 | 12 ratings
Freeze IN Phantom Form
2012
4.22 | 17 ratings
Countenance
2014
3.92 | 92 ratings
Permutations
2016

THE MERCURY TREE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE MERCURY TREE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE MERCURY TREE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE MERCURY TREE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Five Seven
2007
4.00 | 2 ratings
Eerie
2009
5.00 | 1 ratings
Eerie B-Sides
2009
4.50 | 2 ratings
Descent
2010
4.50 | 2 ratings
Family Style
2014

THE MERCURY TREE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Permutations by MERCURY TREE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.92 | 92 ratings

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Permutations
The Mercury Tree Heavy Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A genre-bending prog rock mashup of styles, replete with influences that mostly sound extremely modern (there's a high-quality post-rock and math rock foundation to a lot of their music) but with some interesting diversions here and there. (In particular, opener Symptoms has this pulsating, rhythmic style which feels like it's taken from prime zeuhl.) The fact that it's credited as being recorded at "The College of Wizardry & Bongo Fury" is a hint to the band having a good sense of humour, but the music here is serious and smart, offering a technical tour de force with quality compositions that don't ever descend into aimless noodling or waste time with filler.
 Permutations by MERCURY TREE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.92 | 92 ratings

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Permutations
The Mercury Tree Heavy Prog

Review by JohnNicholson

5 stars The Mercury Tree, the Portland, Oregon, math rock trio of Ben Spees (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Connor Reilly (drums), and Oliver Campbell (bass), returned in March with its fourth studio album Permutations. The latest album follows upon the magnificence of Countenance, which came out in September 2014, with an even more massive wall-of-sound.

Call it noise-rock suspended and then smashed in the atmosphere, or dream-rock propelled off a cliff and hitting the ground, the sonics The Mercury Tree crafts crams the headspace with agitated unrest and strung out rapture, amply displaying the raging and fervent fire that exists at the heart of the beast known as The Mercury Tree.

Album-starter 'Symptoms' is actually one of The Mercury Tree's best tunes, running on restless drum rhythms, an ominous bass line thrum, majorly warped guitar lines, and hazy, androgynous-sounding vocals. The powerful guitars fire on all cylinders, swerving off the road, then realigning themselves before picking up the pace and skidding around the bend. A noisy conflagration of sound hits the middle and end sections of the song with abrasive and more delicate notes colliding and spinning out of control.

Next number 'Exhume the Worst' is immersed in lurching guitar burn and a ponderous drum beat and is a test to the less intrepid eardrum.'Spees hovers sweetly and lightly over the noise, leavening the harshness with his pleasantly mild vocal tones.''Permutations' revels in its staticky, fuzzed-up ambience that's cut with loops of warped, tape recorder-like sounds.'It is one of the centrepieces of the album which easily showcases the band's trajectory on their way of progress. 'Ether/Ore' comes on like an experimental barrage of serrated guitar jags and a dynamically propulsive drum beat.'Spees' vocals rise from the deep, and are still indecipherable.'The song's spine, with its recognizable verses, is pop in construct while the chorus arrangements slay with blazing guitar pyrotechnics and effects.'The song features guest appearance from saxophonist Tony Mowe, who adds another dimension. Its claustrophobic ending makes it sound quite a blast!

This burns out into the smoldering embers of comedown 'Placeholder' with the drawn out piano section fading away amid the brighter sparkle of slowly chiming guitar-bass interaction.'It's a delightful respite from the aggressive fury that preceded it.'This lull turns into the full-on narcotic sway of another style-changer 'Unintelligible.''Spees pulls out his gently soporific vocals amid the twiddle of gleaming drum beats and delectably woozy guitar grind.'But this beginning is a deceit because mid-way through, the sonics amp up in intensity with the rhythmic churning of bending guitar distortion and a more kinetic drum beat.' By the end of the song, the guitars and drums are voraciously consumed by an all-encompassing devolution of immolating noise.

'Sympathesizer' is probably the most catchiest song on the album. It varies in speed ranging from an almost drone to a more fast- paced prog piece. Tony Mowe once again provides his saxwork, but this song also features the former member Aaron Clark who does some guitar work.

The remaining three songs wrap around 25 minutes of music which goes from Porcupine Tree-inspired 'Seek and Release,' to a well- control and balanced 'mess' on one of my favourites 'Prometheist.' The closing epic 'Deep Five' just confirms the prior allegations that 'Permutations' is the band's most progressive record out to date. It was hell of a task to beat 'Countenance,' but they did it. And they did it with style.

 Permutations by MERCURY TREE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.92 | 92 ratings

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Permutations
The Mercury Tree Heavy Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

5 stars Quite different and refreshing syncopated prog in the OCEANSIZE and quirky TODD RUNDGREN/STEVEN WILSON and even TOBY DRIVER vein of song and melody construction, this is very interesting and refreshing music to listen to, to study. The enigmatic lead singer can sound as dissonant and chromatic as avant/RIO singer ELAINE DI FALCO or he can burst forth into his death metal growls or he can sound as pure of voice as TEARS FOR FEARS' Curt SMITH. I really like this!

1. "Symptoms" (6:59) opens the album with an edgy weave of instrumental sounds and rhythms--though there is a bit of a djenty base to it all. Once the vocal's odd melody and odd sound enters and establishes its place, the song takes off in a PROGHMA-C kind of full-speed ahead way. Heavily distorted guitars, heavily echoed vocal, this could be straight off of a KAYO DOT album. The rapid fire guitar and keyboard arpeggi in the fifth minute are replaced by a new section of Bill NELSON-like quirky-odd vocal melody. The two sections alternate into the sixth minute, shift key and scales, taking on somewhat more of a DEVY TOWNSEND sound and feel through to the end. Unusual, perhaps even unique song. (8/10)

2. "Exhume The Worst" (4:56) is a very odd sound and feeling "love song." PORCUPINE TREE would have loved to created this one. Some interesting and odd almost BEACH BOYS background vocals end the chorus section before the song returns to a chunkier bassed version of the opening. At 2:30 we here the vocalist's first scream/growls. The multiple guitar leads interwoven in the fourth minute's instrumental section are fascinating--so unusual! Odd, edgy song that I'll probably end up loving more than I do now. (8/10)

3. "Permutations" (10:42) Opens with some vascillating keyboard notes and "tuneless" guitar notes before the vocal talks to us. Acoustic guitars and spacey keyboards enter and establish an odd rhythm and pacing before layered voices contribute a kind of rondo of the repetition of a lyrical phrase. At the two minute mark plucked strings bring in a dissonant series of rising and falling arpeggi while an almost punk-like bass and GG vocal harmonies sing over the top. Djenty lead guitar solo ends and leaves us in a vacuum into which the "tuneless" guitar notes return. Vocals. At 4:30 we actually hit a very beautiful section--vocally and soft minor key instrumental weave--which builds and builds into a very violent crescendo at 5:30 and is then sustained for 30 seconds before returning to the "beauty" melodies of a recapitulation of the "vacuum section." Interesting section with reversed lead guitar at the end of the seventh minute leads into heavy weave over which a more dissonant vocal harmony is sung. The djenty rhythm section is danced within by the rapid-fire "plucked strings arpeggi until at 8:53 everything quiets down into a MAUDLIN OF THE WELL-like acoustic section with breathtaking beauty, both vocally and melodically. Gradually electric walls of sound build around the falsetto vocalizations before playing out to the song's end. Wow! What an odd, interesting ride! (9/10)

4. "Ether/Ore" (4:08) has such an odd electro-pop percussive foundation over which treated and untreated vocals, saxes, keys and guitars play--an odd weave--kind of early TODD RUNDGREN-esque while at the same time being again somewhat near the Bill NELSON/BE-BOP DE-LUX zone. Brilliant but odd as [&*!#]! (9/10)

5. "Placeholder" (4:32) familiar piano and bass chords give this a bit of a jazzy feel but the vocals are so TOBY DRIVER-like! I am thinking that this is by far the most accessible yet psychedelic of all songs thus far. A really cool, odd, yet gorgeous song. Gabriel RICCIO (THE GABRIEL CONSTRUCT) would love this one. The yelled near-rap in the final minute sung over the long drawn out angelic vocals in the background are awesome. (10/10)

6. "Unintelligible" (5:06) has some ZA!/OCEANSIZE feeling to it. (9/10)

7. "Sympathesizer" (4:42) has some cool full-wall of sound foundation (not unlike those used by Terria-era Devin Townsend) over which all kind of odd and creative sounds and instruments are added. (9/10)

8. "Seek And Release" (5:46) shows some RADIOHEAD influence. And OCEANSIZE. Again, yeat another song that develops in a hitherto uncharted territory, unpredictable and utterly surprising and exciting. (9/10)

9. "Prometheist" (9:00) has a Post Rock-with-oriental-instruments sound with Bill NELSON like vocals and, later, angular, djenty bass and guitars. This could be a KARNIVOOL or VOTUM song! Absolutely awesome guitar and bass parts in the sixth and seventh minutes! The last 90 seconds play out in a kind of spacey, latent-power play--one is never sure whether or not the band is going to leap back out into dynamic decibelia! (9/10)

10. "Deep Five" (10:32) employs some King Crimson basics that have become widespread throughout prog world in the last 30 years over which a deceptively emotional, beautiful and understated vocal establishes itself. This singer is a special force! And the vocal harmonies are equally amazing. The polyphonic instrumental weaves in the fifth minutes are quite wonderful--as is the keyboard and bass'n'drum section that follows. Gamelan like percussives and buzzing synths and synth water sounds play in the soundscape over the steady, insistent drums and bass. This is heaven!! What an awesome way to close out this revelatory album. Brilliant!! (10/10)

Even though I am blown away by this fresh new music, I have a feeling that this is a real grower--that it will climb in my esteem with each and every listen. Really cool stuff! Heavily recommended to all prog lovers. This is one gift that will keep on giving for a long, long time! Check it out! THis one is pushing the envelope! In all directions!

Already a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music; soon to be cherished as an eternal masterpiece.

 Permutations by MERCURY TREE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.92 | 92 ratings

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Permutations
The Mercury Tree Heavy Prog

Review by Smurph

5 stars The Mercury Tree- Permutations

I don't even know where to start here. Microtones, 3 and 4 part vocal harmonies (sometimes more?), angular riffs that don't sound like copies of the 2000 math rock/metal bands that exist already, odd approaches to songwriting, vocals that sound just a little bit like Bob Drake? Heavy sections that bring to mind a desperate alien soul trapped in a human incapable of understanding any of the thoughts created by her mind? Why am I ending these sentences with question marks? Where am I?

I am a dog, tied to a park bench. My owner left me there, hoping that someone would take me home, as he decided to kill himself. He couldn't stand the thought of leaving me alone in that apartment for several days to eventually feast on his dead body. Dogs might be the most loyal animal but even they get hungry. What brought him to this point? It couldn't have been me. As I sit on the park bench, no one comes for me. There's been an outbreak. An attack? People are fleeing the city, frightened. I chew through my leash to get away and sniff the air for my owner. I miss him. I find his body and mourn my loss, but feast anyway. A lost animal in a dead city. There might not be any hope but there is freedom.

This is music that will make you question things. I have never listened to the Mercury Tree before, but this makes me interested to hear anything Ben Spees and company have ever touched. Ben, the guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist, mixed the album himself and deserves some credit for keeping everything sounding organic and clear. The mastering job is surprisingly nice as well. Nothing is over compressed but it still feels loud.

I guess the closet comparisons I could find would be 5uu's, less chaotic PoiL moments, or early Thinking Plague with Ex-Girl style vocal harmonies at times, but this isn't as immediately off-putting as any of those groups. (Though I usually love the off-putting.) In fact, as complex and strange as this album might be, I never find myself thinking that they went too far, and when listening to this entire album it seems apparent that this music could only exist right now. Each over-the-top expression feels justified and never tiring, each influence necessary to create the end result, but far removed from those sounds. There are plenty of moments of reserved beauty, especially towards the end of the album. There are also sections that will leave you without reference points other than to consider odd combinations in your brain. Just stop it. Listen to it.

This is my favorite album of the year so far.

 Countenance by MERCURY TREE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.22 | 17 ratings

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Countenance
The Mercury Tree Heavy Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars US band THE MERCURY TREE was formed back in 2006, and released their debut album the following year, a production now out of print. They have released new studio albums at regular intervals since then, and the self-released CD "Countenance", their fourth studio album, was released in 2014.

The first association I got when I started to play this album was towards fellow US band Umphrey's McGee. Not because The Mercury Tree is achingly similar to that band throughout, but due to certain similarities in mood and atmosphere in addition to certain musical details that are comparable. There's also something about the relatively easygoing way in which these compositions develop that brings associations of this kind to mind, smooth transitions and elegant shifts, that adds a certain emphasis to this association.

The calmer, light toned and elegant passages that is a recurring feature throughout is of a nature that will strike a chord with fans of Umphrey's McGee, alongside the elegant, controlled lead vocals and soft vocal harmonies. The manner in which these sequencer are so smooth an elegant in execution almost begs for this comparison to be made, at least as I experience this album. It doesn't take all that long before The Mercury Tree starts tuning their compositions though, and while adding a firmer, harder edged expression to the material isn't an unknown feature for fans of Umphrey's either, The Mercury Tree goes about this approach with a firmer hand and tends to add a harder and edgier sound to their compositions when developing towards these territories. In addition they have a stronger affection for quirky, sophisticated instrument movements, tight and controlled at that, that gives the material a bit more of an orientation towards a band such as The Mars Volta. Other features that moves the sound further away from the original association described is the use of odd sounding instrument elements and unusual details, which to me gives many of the composition a slight King Crimson flavoring. With a select few inclusions of nervous, post rock style guitar textures the overall sound on this album expands even further beyond the range of the initial associations that arose when this album started to unfold.

It should also be noted that The Mercury Tree know their way around jazzoriented compositions, as exemplified to good effect on the two instrumentals Mazz Jathy and Jazz Hands of Doom. None of them purebred jazz or jazzrock specimens as such, but both of them compositions where the band gets to showcase that they are very well aware of that style, but opts to explore in what might be described as a tighter and more controlled manner and with a rather more liberal inclusion of non-jazz instrument details and arrangements.

Still, when the time comes to summarize this excellent album, I still return to Uhmphrey's McGee for comparison. That initial feel and association is stuck, and while The Mercury Tree are rather more controlled in performance and execution and rather more expansive in terms of depth and scope, the similarities are still, for me at least, at times striking. The Mercury Tree comes across as a tighter, more controlled and more expansive version of Uhmphrey's McGee for me on this album, without the Americana touches and loose improvisational feel, but with quirkier composition developments and arguably subtly more of a King Crimson tinged take on the music at times. If this description sounds enticing, then this is an album that warrants a check.

 Countenance by MERCURY TREE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.22 | 17 ratings

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Countenance
The Mercury Tree Heavy Prog

Review by JohnNicholson

5 stars The Mercury Tree is a group that I'd always meant to check out, as I heard about their ingenious blend of jazz, psychedelic and progressive rock quite a lot (probably somewhere around the release of their second studio album "Freeze in Phantom Form," back in 2012). Led by singer/guitarist Ben Spees, they formed in 2006 and gained attention with the release of their debut full-length "Pterodactyls," and album that was preceded with series of EP releases. Their newest offering is "Countenance", an album that absolutely blew me away with freshness it exudes in every second. In fact, rarely have I been so instantly and overwhelmingly impressed by new music before.

Possibly the best description of this recording lies in a question the band asked on the album's Bandcamp page: "Why wouldn't there be a dragon in space?" You'll think, what kind of an unserious question that is. The Mercury Tree's music is far from being unserious, what they keep proving throughout the album on many, many occasions. So, what then? Though it seems unlikely you will see any dragons these days, the playfulness and a little bit of satire behind these words speak a lot about the album in question. Drummer Connor Reilly offers a good explanation of what Countenance is about, telling Prog Sphere: "Countenance takes a little bit of every direction that we've been exploring over the last four years and mashes them all together to create what I feel is an eclectic, yet exhilarating experience. Each song has its own unique identity, but at the same time, is definitely part of one bigger picture."

That seems accurate. With its luscious timbres, multiplex arrangements, skilful dynamics, and riveting vocal performances, comparisons to several superb artists including King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Radiohead, Tool and The Mars Volta are apt. It's impossible not to be in awe of Countenance.

"Pitchless Tone" begins sparsely, with a chamber piano echoing, soon to be followed by Ben Spees' clean guitar staccato-ing. The band is on a quest to find a pitchless tone, with Ben singing: "do you really not yet know, I define a nameless shape, I define a markless gauge, I define a pitchless tone." The variety in sound comes forward with the following "Vestigial," which features whistling. There is an overall lighter attitude to the song, which with its warmness feels like above-mentioned King Crimson and The Mars Volta might have crafted together. It's more accessible, but it's still quite adventurous and complex.

An alternative rock beginning of "Otholits" comes in agreement with lyrics which read "every day splits me in two, make it three including you." But soon enough things get quirkier, what turns into probably the most schizophrenic and extraordinary entry on the album (what seems to be expected from a 11-minute long piece). The song offers masterful dynamic changes along with peaceful passages. These juxtaposed approaches shift constantly as the duration progresses, making it an incredibly exciting and daring affair. This piece alone should earn The Mercury Tree a lot of acclaim.

"Mazz Jathy" and "Jazz Hands of Doom" are the only instrumentals on "Countenance," and both allude what to expect stylistically.

The group's peculiar lyrical content continues on "To Serve Man" and "The Ellsberg Cycle," with the latter featuring vocal performance by bassist (or to say it more accurate - fretless bassist) Aaron Clarke, who almost accusatory sings: "pin a man for the crimes of those who were too scared to speak up, pin a man for the lives of those who died for an empire."

At the end, it's more than obvious that I love this album, mainly due to how distinctive, courageous, complex, catchy, and colourful it is. Because it combines so many dissimilar influences with a tremendous amount of originality, "Countenance" doesn't really sound like anything else being made today, and that alone makes it remarkable. It doesn't hurt that the songwriting, arrangements, and performances are top notch too. Really, albums like this demonstrate how special music still can be. I'm often very critical of how mundane, repetitious, uninspired, and just plain useless most popular music is, and so bands like The Mercury Tree feel like a true breath of fresh air. "Countenance" quickly became one of my favourite albums of the year, and I have no doubt that you'll feel the same way once you experience it.

Thanks to andy webb for the artist addition.

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