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The Mercury Program | All The Suits Began To Fall Off (Tiger Style)
An intriguing title (although I'd be happier if they added 'the Face of the Earth'), a humorous publishing name ('Cellos Make Me Nervous' ?? made all the more amusing by a guest cellist) and an abundance of talent make Gainsville's The Mercury Program more than just instrumental hopefuls belatedly hopping on any bandwagon. As with Jimmy Lavalle's Album Leaf project, the key to ATSBTFO's success is borne of contrast, melody and creation of mood. Opener The Secret Is Quiet begins with some brief interplay between guitar and vibes before the quartet join forces for a workout that would sit at home with Billy Mahonie or Dianogah, until the introduction of the feared cello brings a prolonged comedown. On There Are Thousands Sleeping in Peace Whit Travisano's electric piano looms menacingly behind spry, agile percussion, Tom Reno's guitar makes a blazing entrance and then spars delicately with the keys and drums, each circling the other before a second outburst is followed by a descending scale reminiscent of American Analog Set at their most melodic. Reno opens Marianas with an echo-laden pattern, setting the scene for this centrepiece - a seven and a half minute epic of telepathic wonder. The combination of two drummers and vibes may have been copyrighted by Tortoise, but the closing minutes of the misleadingly titled Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta are more compelling than anything on Standards, closer A Delicate Answer as hypnotic and subtle as its title implies. As stopgaps between full-lengths go, this 30 minute EP will take some following. One feels The Mercury Program are up to the challenge.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001