(2018) Birds of Passage - The Death of Our Invention
The Death of Our Invention heralds the return of Alicia Merz’s project after four years of silence. Yet despite a lengthy interval that suggests some degree of alteration in presentation naturally would have taken place, the New Zealand-based artist’s fourth full-length evidences little change in sound or style from her previous work. Normally that might be cause for complaint, but not here; in light of the deep entrancement induced by her earlier Birds of Passage recordings, it’s a relief to discover she hasn’t altered the project in any significant way for the new set. The haunting vocal settings that are her Birds of Passage trademark are in plentiful supply, and the songs themselves, especially when her fragile, tremulous voice figures so prominently in the mix, are still as exposing of Merz’s inner world as an open wound.
In these minimalistic presentations, field recordings, acoustic guitar, piano, and electronics are used to intensify the emotional tenor of the material, while Merz’s hushed and sometimes multi-tracked vocal delivery is as intimate as a whisper. One could describe her as a singer-songwriter and her material songs, yet both are misleading: Merz’s presentation has more in common with a spiritual medium than anything singer-songwriter-related, and her pieces are more celestial reveries or incantations than conventional songs.
“Haunt My Existence” is quintessential Birds of Passage, a stirring dreamscape whose plaintive vocal expression and vaporous sound mass exert an irresistible pull. In such a case, the material feels strangely rooted in the conventions of classic ‘50s and ‘60s songwriting, yet the way Merz wraps its elements in thick layers of electronic treatments gives the material a wholly era-transcending impact. Stylistically, Julee Cruise’s Floating Into the Night might be the closest thing The Death of Our Invention has to a kindred spirit, what with their shared focus on nocturnal goings-on and emotional angst, though Cruise’s vocal delivery, as distinctive as it obviously is, is the less ethereal of the two.
Merz’s material often plays like gothic fairy tales translated into stirring musical form, and when she strips away all possible facades, pieces like “The Love Song” and “Without the World” hit with maximum force. A fellow reviewer has referred to her world as “icy, desolate, and dark,” a description that strikes me as only partially correct. Yes, it is dark—shadowy might be the better term—and there’s desolation, too, but to these ears it’s not terribly icy or cold. On the contrary, her voice warms the reverb-drenched material with its humanizing presence, and the openness with which she allows the listener to partake of her inner world likewise melts whatever chill the music might impose. Much like the greatest singer-songwriters, Merz wears her heart on her sleeve, even if she does so in characteristic Birds of Passage manner.
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01 - If Full of Care Part 1.flac
02 - Haunt My Existence.flac
03 - Creature of My Night.flac
04 - The Love Song.flac
05 - Shadows of Our Mind.flac
06 - Another Thousand Eyes.flac
07 - Without the World.flac
08 - Dare I Feel.flac
09 - Demons in Our Midst.flac
10 - Wake to the Dream.flac
11 - Modern Monster.flac
12 - If Full of Care Part 2.flac
Country: New Zealand
Genre: alternative folk, ambient, dream-pop
Source : CD
Format : FLAC
Format/Info : Free Lossless Audio Codec, 16-bit PCM
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : ~ 491-687 Kbps
Channel(s) : 2 channels
Sampling rate : 44.1 KHz
Bit depth : 16 bits