This Kindly Slumber is Alicia Merz’s third outing as Birds of Passage. It is kindly, for awhile, but it bears the thorn of sorrow, too. Hopes and dreams lay beside the pavement; they’ve taken such a battering that they seem unresponsive, left for dead as if they were roadkill.
Torn apart by disappointment and desolation, her notes are slow to lift, and her gloomy light is left to shine upon a cemetery of past love. The frozen arpeggios hang like vines. Her voice is the only warmth and the only act of kindness in a cold and lonely place. Dreamy drones rise up, into the cold air, but they can’t go any higher. Just like the dream, they find themselves suppressed, tormented by its waking life as it lies in slumber. There are allusions in the dream, seeping through into the melody to try and resolve the particular problem. She is alone, but a fighter. And a strange kind of reassurance lives deep inside. Reverb washes away the attack of the strings, soothing the spirit with its dull tone, and her lyrics produce the thin but present comfort and hope of flowers left beside a rough ruin that was once a gravestone.
Her drowsy drones are allowed to stray, but they keep to the soil. This is down to the heavy cloud of reverb, weighing her down with its anvil-ton. Her soothing voice is left to soar above the hushed wash of processed guitar, sparkling like a dark crystal under the water, illuminating the music with its sunset of beauty despite the threat of the dark, dusky shelter of folk and nocturnal drone. It will be alright; just believe that the dark, grey cloud is pregnant with a silver lining. Her sung vocal swoons and then weeps. Her voice is tender but vulnerable. And while the subject of love can be predictable, there is always a reason as to its repetition, and that is its power.
As a songwriter, Merz is untouchable. Her cautious optimism and underlying sadness make for a compelling, if downcast, form of poetry. Ambient music has a power to heal, and her voice is the healer. Coda ‘Lonesome Tame’ is sadness in song. Three swirling notes say farewell, trailing into the distance. They are never to be seen again, thoroughly fatigued in their misery. This Kindly Slumber is sweet in its sorrow, stolen kisses and borderline depression; knife wounds to the heart, killing me softly. (James Catchpole)
Release Date: 24 January