The Mercury Program – A Data Learn the Language

The Mercury Program
A Data Learn the Language

I love these warm and fuzzy Tiger Style releases. The Album Leaf, American Analog Set, Tristeza, and all of the others. How can you not at least like them a little? Even if you are a bitter and hardened punk kid, how can you not at least admit that these guys are good? But then again, maybe it’s just me. Who knows…
Anyhow, A Data Learn the Language is the third full-length and first in over two years from Gainesville, Fla’s The Mercury Program, who also have a handful of EPs and seven-inches under their belt since they started out back in 1997. This is one of those gentle “post-rock” bands that any reviewer would quickly say came from the school of Tortoise, but this group does much better than many of its peers who have tried similar things. The album seems intended to be heard all the way through in one sitting, with many of the songs unnoticeably bleeding into each other, each sprawling out for anywhere from four to eight minutes without getting the least bit boring or monotonous.
There is an interesting relationship between the instruments used on A Data Learn the Language. At moments they sound like long-time friends, just kicking back and catching up on old times, but at other times there are slight hints of tension, like on “Gently Turned Your Head” or “Sultans of El Sur,” which add just the right amount of spice. The drumming immediately stands out, right from the opener “Tequesta.” The beats laid down by Dave Lebleu are mildly spastic in a fun sort of way, but they remain extremely tight and gentle. The patterns can either go off on their own and take the spotlight, or they can take a step back and settle in comfortably with the relaxed grooves of bassist Sander Travisano. Lebleu also contributes various computer effects, as well as sharing some of the vibraphone duties with two others, including Tom Reno, whose guitar work is perfect; just daring enough to be noticed, and just daydreamy enough not to put you to sleep. And then there are the electric piano and vibraphone contributions of Whit Travisano, which deepen the textures and add one more lovely layer for the listener to dig around in. The lack of any vocals allows the listener to focus more on the intricacies of the cat and mouse game these instruments are playing, and it all pays off quite nicely.
The years of experimentation and musical growth seem to have paid off for The Mercury Program, and this is one of those albums that serve as the perfect soundtrack to numerous occasions. Whether you’re cruising down the highway on a clear day or just lounging around the house, these laid back instrumentals are the sort of thing you could either leave going in the background as you go about your business, or play with the headphones on, allowing them to swirl around in your head and wrap themselves around you.