This isn’t the first return for Merz aka UK musician Conrad Lambert. After huge hype and a major label release in 1999, Merz walked away from the deal and disappeared completely. Returning from self imposed exile in 2005, he released critically lauded album Loveheart on indie label Gronland and then scaled the iTunes charts in the US with follow-up album Moi et Mon Camion. Solidifying his reputation as a peerless contemporary balladeer, with heartfelt tunes, intricate production and enigmatic displays of multi-instrumental talent.
“I wanted to work with Matthew Herbert because of his work with Micachu and The Invisible, two really adventurous British groups. Having made the last record, which dallied with my folk roots, I became switched-on again to music that seemed to have been made in the near future, artists who were ahead of the rest, with vision. Also being in an environment like Switzerland that has quite a modernist feel about it at the same time as being very medieval, it has an appealing balance between the old and the new. High velocity Snowboarding…..replacing walks in the pastoral English countryside….definitely contributed to the more adrenalin fueled sounds.”
Eagerly anticipated album amongst Merz’s international fan base, the album track TOY has already attracted media attention, the song receiving heavy rotation from US station KCRW and listed by The Guardian as one of the Best Tracks of 2011. Described by Merz as “A big bowl of Romanticism and a rush of Rousseau-esque rhythms”, the album features notable musicians Gyda Valtysdóttir (founding member of Icelandic band Múm), London guitarist & composer Leo Abrahams and Swiss drummer Julian Sartorius
Musically the album appears to hark back to the adventurism of Merz’s eponymous debut in 1999, and while his last album Moi et Mon Camion (2008) was an homage to his English roots, this latest long player is harder to pin-down. Recorded in Switzerland, No Compass Will Find Home is a progressive, wild and ragged record with a unique kind of psychedelia.
Since the release of 2008’s Moi et Mon Camion , Merz has been touring UK, Europe and the USA, including festivals appearances at Green Man in UK, Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland and SXSW in Texas. While on the road touring Merz re-located to Bern, Switzerland where he began work on his new album.
“Shortly after arriving in Bern, I hired an atelier in the Progr arts centre, an old High School… One of the rooms I wrote and recorded in was a laboratory once used by Albert Einstein. At the same time I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s books… themes of scientific and cultural progress started coming out, particularly in the song Eudaimonia (an Aristotelian concept of human flourishing). Other songs are a response to this new environment; living on the continent, the Alps, the Medieval city of Bern. Reflections on Lord Byron’s visits to the Lauterbrunnen valley and the Mediterranean. Songs about being a Flaneur in a new town”.
The songs Our Airman Lost and The Hunting Owl are a response to events less abstract, during the songwriting process Merz’s brother-in-law had life-saving brain surgery, then stayed in a coma for a week with no certainty of survival; “It was a prolonged brush with death. A close family member in an intensive care bed forces you to look reality in the face and when I did that all I saw was fantasy and metaphor. Nothing ‘real’ made any sense.”