Remaining true to his dark folk landmark – with the help of electronic heavyweight Matthew Herbert – and under the influence of inhabiting a “huge old school – turned arts atalier space” in his relocation to Switzerland, UK artist Merz released his fourth album No Compass Will Find Home, with Accidental Records in October, still triumphant from his return in 2005, following disagreements with his record label in 1999 resulting in a self imposed exile.
Merz, born Conrad Lambert, seems to have soaked up the breathtaking scenery and used it as an inspiration for this album, which was written in an old science lab apparently once used by Albert Einstein. Album opener Arrows appears to be decapitated in comparison to the rest of the record; the gentle folk exertions in the song suppress the psychedelic profusions instilled into the following tracks, flirting with notions of insanity and the usual dark arrangements found comfortably in previous releases, such as 2008’s Moi Et Mon Camion. That said, the vocal harmonies in Arrow are beautifully sown into the medieval folk guitars, haunted by a background of silence, broken only by soft waves. The guitars are no doubt inspired by the medieval heritage of Bern, in which Lambert was stationed, the city being valued by the UNESCO as a cultural World Heritage Site. Lauterbrunnan is a much heavier product, growling guitars threatening and ready to bite, however the instrumental does not last long enough for this to become a reality, Judge, however, fulfils this prophecy, well, slightly, plucked to life, but not how the previous song would allow you to believe. The steady guitars climb upon echoed lyrics, tunnelling into an avalanche of despair.
Eudaimonia is rich with electronica, the impact of Lambert’s environment largely realised in this track, the distorted fluctuations transport you to the Swiss Alps, while the lyrics propel your imagination with lamentations about the frustrations of science, and the Aristotelian idea of human flourishing in which the tracks name translates. Toy already a favourite with critics, with The Guardian crowning it as one of the Best Tracks of 2011, holds elements of Romanticism, reminiscent of Lord Byron, with magical descriptions of a waitresses imagination, and the plays on fantasy. Credo is another promising track, the excitement in which the tracks energy producers is enhanced when applying it to the definition of a Credo as a statement of a religious belief, the song becomes alive with the layers of guitars and synths.
Every album needs a ballad, and NCWFH’s forms in the shape of Our Airman Lost, the heavy emotion erupting from the slow synths and tickling guitar plucks, Lambert unravels a list of metaphors and stories until the chorus plummets into ponderous drums, while this endearment spills over into the next track The Hunting Owl, and flourishes in album closer, and namesake No Compass Will Find Home.
Clearly Lamberts work with Matthew Herbert, and the comfort of independent label Accidental Records, in which Herbert himself founded, has allowed a freedom suitable for his needs, a need in which results in a more unlimited expression within his music, a vast array of themes and elements in which indulge, and provoke the mind.
Standout Tracks: Toy, Credo, Our Airman Lost
For Fans of: Grizzly Bear, Fredo Voila
Written by: Charlotte Owen