The Mercury Program

Gainesville, Florida's Mercury Program explores much of the same post-rock terrain as bands like Tortoise and HiM. "Post-rock" is a vague term, as befits a music that is difficult to describe. It's something akin to jazz, but not quite jazz, funky yet not funk, rocking yet not rock, and jamming but not jam music.

The Mercury Program started as a trio in 1997. With the addition of fourth member Whit Travisano, their sound is thicker and more adventurous on this all-instrumental EP. The half-hour-long CD reaches its apex on "Marianas," a gorgeously ethereal seven-minute slice of instrumental bliss. Echolike guitar riffs play against gently crashing cymbals and Travisano's chiming electric piano.

The Mercury Program's lineup is odd, with many of the band members overlapping each other on instruments. Tom Reno and Whit's brother Sander both play bass. Sander plays drums, as does Dave Lebleu. Lebleu plays vibraphone, as does Whit. Reno also handles guitar and bells, while Whit alone plays electric piano.

The vibraphone is enjoying a renaissance these days. Calexico and Clem Snide, to name but two of today's finest indie bands, prominently feature the second-most-melodic of all percussion instruments (the piano being first). The vibraphone brings a sense of melancholy to the proceedings here and fosters the autumnal, rainy-day feeling of the CD. It's the perfect soundtrack for driving around slick streets or curling up on the couch while a deluge lashes at the windows. Like the rain, this music is rhythmic and fairly defines the word "ambient." It's all-encompassing, going where it wants to and flowing back together again. As a good gullywasher should, this CD sweeps clear the mind's gutters and leaves the listener feeling clean and refreshed.

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