Music News

Critic's Choice

What happens when punks get sick of playing punk? Historically, all kinds of great things, from Public Image Limited to Slint to the Mercury Program -- which will perform Saturday, August 16, at 32 Bleu in Colorado Springs, with Appleseed Cast, Chin Up Chin Up and Eyes Caught Fire, and on Sunday, August 17, at the Bluebird Theater, with Appleseed Cast, Chin Up Chin Up and Otion. This Florida quartet started out in 1998 as a pretty standard post-rock combo, layering turbid rhythms and dissonance over sparse, spoken-word poetics. But things started morphing with the group's 2001 release, All the Suits Began to Fall Off, in which vibraphones and cello became enmeshed in a diaphanous network of texture and melody. Sure, it was jazzy, but it rocked, too, swelling and bursting with pulses of sheer, gorgeous force. The Program's most recent release, last year's A Data Learn the Language, traded in some of Suits' brute physicality for a more algebraic, cranium-straining formula: While guitars, vibes and drums still breathed freely, the group took a cue from fellow prog-emo outfit Pelé and began integrating laptops and software. Instead of being carbon-based, the music now sounds cybernetic; the soft flesh of acoustic beats and melodies is fed into circuitry and spit back out as pings, slivers and squiggles of sound, forming a tissue that bridges the synaptic gap between The Sea and Cake and Boards of Canada. Although the band's early punk-rock roughness has been sanded down to a polymer sheen, the Mercury Program still makes songs that twitch and shudder with an organic elegance.
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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller