The Mercury Program & Maserati: Confines of Heat

Brian Houston

The Mercury Program & Maserati

Confines of Heat

Label: Kindercore
US Release Date: 2003-10-07
UK Release Date: Available as import

Confines of Heat is a split-EP by Mercury Program and Maserati, featuring three tracks by each group. The two bands have teamed-up on this record because they share geographic roots (Maserati is from Athens, Georgia and Mercury Program is from Florida) and musical styles. Both bands play instrumental, experimental post-rock, and both bands play it quite well.

But a split-EP of two bands with similar styles and similar upbringings demands an answer to the question of who is better. This EP should not have been labeled as Mercury Program and Maserati, it should have been labeled as Mercury Program versusMaserati. The record could have been named Battle for the Southern Post-Rock Soul or something else illustrative of the struggle in which these two young bands find themselves engaged.

So anyway, since Kindercore had pitted these two young bands together, a winner must be declared. Again, both bands play pleasant, engaging, instrumental rock, but it seems that Maserati play it just a bit better.

Maserati get the last three tracks of the record, and this positioning allows them to take the listener's interest, which has been sparked by Mercury Program during the first three songs, and absorb the audience into the energy that is Maserati. Maserati's melodies are a bit more pensive than Mercury Program, and Maserati's playing is thicker and more reflexive. Mercury Program's playing has a math-rock vibe to it that makes it feel like the band is playing inward, instead of projecting out.

"Cities", which is the best Maserati track on the EP, starts out tentatively and the entire song has a restrained brooding to it. This brooding is where the thickness of Maserati's sound comes from. Maserati's tracks are instrumental, but they are not an avalanche of sound; rather Maserati use the thickness of silence and a heavy-pacing to accent the sounds that are offered. "Cities" transports the listener to someplace else, a place that sounds like it may exist in the depths of an urban center (hence the song's name) but probably is just an unknown area of the psyche. Maserati's other tracks ("Closer Than You Know How" and "Wires Were Towers") are similar in approach, but a somewhat lighter and more organic.

For Mercury Program's part, the cleaner more upbeat sound of "You Give Me Problems about My Business" is well-served to appear at the beginning of the record. Mercury Program sound more hopeful than their EP-mates, and the optimism of the Program's approach works better as a prelude to Maserati as opposed to attempting to overcome Maserati's darkness. In fact, the darkest Mercury Program track, "A Crusading Theme", is the last Mercury track leading into the Maserati section of the record. The arrangement of these tracks may seem like just a technicality, but the reality is that the folks at Kindercore have done a nice job of taking two different band's efforts and arranging them together in a way that makes a cohesive record. Even though this is only an EP (and a split EP at that) it still feels like a record with an overriding purpose.

Ultimately, what is more important than the battle for the southern post-rock soul is the promise that both of these bands show for their future instrumental and experimental exploits. What this EP is really about is simply letting the listener know that there is something amassing down there in the deep-south that is engaging and creative. And by the end of the EP the listener should know that the trouble that is a-brewing is not an anomaly, because apparently there is something of a Southern instrumental post-rock scene. So get ready.





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