The Physics House Band are a self-proclaimed ‘experimental group’, and this is perhaps the only way to define them; not because they don’t fit into any set genres, but because they glide through so many all at once. Playing an impressive thirty-three instruments between them, Adam Hutchinson, Sam Organ and Dave Morgan break every genre border in the name of experimentation. Four years after the release of their debut EP Horizons/Rapture, which sold out twice (notably over CD and vinyl), the boundary-breaking Brighton trio are back with a dense, gloriously psychedelic trip of an album.
Inspired by a water feature of the same name, which was stumbled upon by Hutchinson in a Spanish art gallery, their new mini-album Mercury Fountain flows manically, but with a sense of purposeful chaos. Warpy and blissfully hallucinogenic, the album slides between experimental jazz, tech-rock, psych, and progressive rock, with the hallmark sounds of each genre trickling together to form a seamless avant-garde stream of creative genius.
To dive into Mercury Fountain is to plunge into a cosmic, obscure realm of time travel and tumultuous time signatures. ‘Calypso’, the album’s only video thus far, sweeps us through white-water rapids with a sturdy, buzzing bassline as a raft. Then comes the calm before the storm. ‘Holy Caves’, with a droning synth and a foreboding bass electrically charged with tense energy, could easily be the soundtrack to a Western shootout when backs are turned at high noon and five steps are taken with fingers twitching on triggers.
This highly strung energy is released in a gush throughout the album, but it falls to a temporary lull at the halfway point in ‘A Thousand Small Spaces’. We are floating peacefully on the surface of the Mercury Fountain here, where airy chiming notes shimmer like sunlight glinting off still water.
But this moment of tranquillity is brief, and ‘Obidant’ cannonballs us back once more into the surging depths of the Mercury Fountain. The Physics House Band have themselves described it as “taking a violent journey into the tumultuous and insane furthest reaches of the mind”, claiming “it’s probably the craziest thing we’ve ever written”.
Writer and comedian (and massive fan of the band) Stewart Lee hails Mercury Fountain as “a super-dense sci-fi mindfuck of a thing […] a twenty-nine minute surge of tracks that it would be a crime to split apart”. Indeed, the track listing on this record works in this chaotically muddled order to achieve an authentic journey akin to an experimental stream of crazed consciousness.
Beginning and ending with the aptly named ‘Mobius Strip’ and ‘Mobius Strip II’, the record quickly comes full cycle; emerging from the Mercury Fountain reeling, only to dive back in. Stewart Lee beautifully sums up its enthralling madness, describing it as “a two black Americano experience that makes me wish I still had pin-sharp hearing to lose”. Luckily, the dizzying dexterity of Mercury Fountain can be heard loud and clear.