“Can we find new permutations of the same old combination if we relax and ignore the facts?”, sings Ben Spees towards the climax of Permutations, the fourth album from his progressive trio The Mercury Tree. It’s quite a shift from its 2014 predecessor Countenance. If Countenance felt a bit more mathematically precise, on Permutations the trio achieves to get a more rawer, but more live sound.
Whether that plays to the strengths of an outfit with such an excess of ideas and imagination is debatable. Permutations is loose, (extremely) busy and roughly energetic, but that necessitates a sacrifice. What’s lost is the band’s proximity to golden-age prog. I believe that it was a conscious decision to shift from the-hundred-times-recycled-prog-formula and brace experimentalism instead.
However, The Mercury Tree definitely have a lot to offer with Permutations. I have this crazy idea to put all their studio albums in a playlist and engage in a listening experience. It strikes me that I will only like that get a better image of where Permutations is and where it stands, but no matter what it’s another splendid work.