MERZ – ‘Thinking Like A Mountain’
Merz’ new record Thinking Like A Mountain is out now. The album mixed by Matthew Herbert and featuring songwriting collaborations with notable musicians Shahzad Ismaily, known for his work with Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Billy, Yoko Ono amongst others, experimental drummer and sound artist Julian Sartorius, vocalist and cellist and a founder member of Icelandic band müm Gyða Valtýsdóttir and with additional mix work by Dimlite and Ewan Pearson.
The title is derived from a term coined by Aldo Leopold in his book A Sand County Almanac. It means to have a complete appreciation for the profound interconnectedness of the elements in the ecosystems.
Possibly the most experimental Merz album to date, from the 12 minute, glacially-paced opening track Shrug to the dream-like coda Mercy, expressionistic free-association lyrics, songs written and recorded during improvisations with other musicians. The music carefully crafted out of a diverse blend of instrumentation alongside a delicate and intricate production style. Skittering percussion and electronics coast alongside organic harmonic textures whilst Merz’ juxtaposingly rich yet brittle voice rides the crest of this vast soundworld throughout. The character of the album nods to the ambient spectrum of Krautrock – Roedelius, Faust and Popol Vuh in particular, Arthur Russell World Of Echo era and similarities with bands like Atlas Sound and Low.
A breath of fresh air from the relentless hunt for the download-friendly 3 min pop track, “Thinking Like A Mountain” takes its time to develop and takes you with it with every ornate moment of listening. That’s not to say that individual tracks like ‘Oblivion’ or ‘Absence’ don’t stand up on their own – on the contrary their infectious guitar lines and vocal melodies knock hard at the door of the finest acoustic pop, whilst tracks like ‘Serene’ and the wonderfully apocalyptic ‘Ten Gorgeous Blocks’ explode into a rhythmical cacophony akin to the most engaging of Radiohead or Caribou.
Recently Merz offered to perform a series of ‘house’ concerts, each event was given a number, like an art print, to signify the uniqueness and intended permanence of each occasion. In reality these ‘house’ concerts turned out to include only one actual, recognisable house; the locations – a Scottish castle, a fishing village chapel, a Sussex cow barn (ex), a Brixton railway arch, a Yorkshire working-man’s club, a Fulham Air Force Legion members club, a Cumbrian yurt, a Coventry Snooker club, an institute of modern art, a Bavarian forest, and a Liechtenstinian art gallery.
Start as you mean to go on.