Birds of Passage

This Kindly Slumber

This Kindly Slumber is humble and heartbroken. Her music drifts along sedately, but underneath this trembling illusion is a spirit wracked by unrest and consumed with tension. Alicia Merz’s third album as Birds of Passage is dreamy, but This Kindly Slumber awakens with a softer side, the placid pillow under which she rests, with the light breeze of relief and the low-hanging atmosphere weighing the music down. It is her anchor, providing a renewed burst of strength at the dawning of a new day. Her music doesn’t just attach itself to the listener – the darker tones seep underneath the skin, nestling in the soul. Her lingering sadness has been tempered by time, softened with age. And yet, her poetic lyrics remember the dark period vividly, when the world chained the spirit to the dirt. Her downtrodden passages are ambient trails, lost in the fog-lights.

Her drones are kept from rising, sticking low to the ground,  but we are never quite sure if it is their choice or if they are instead pushed to the ground in submission. The muddy, bleak reverb is left to hang morosely, like long, sunken stretches of fog choking the asphalt of a gloomy open road. Her voice kisses the broken song, caressing it with her bleak yet endearing comfort, as if they were intimate vocal kisses spoken to a dying lover. Her warm words are crimson berries that bear fruit in the cold depths of winter, hanging over crooked, bare branches where nothing else survives. Her dove-like vocals soar over the sad stone, but her introverted lyrics blossom with the fondness of love.

Her music falls under the spell of tender romance, the point where a regular crush becomes the first love, but it is also punctured by the thorn of sadness, as if the love had never lasted as long as we’d all hoped. Her lyrics would be seductive if it were not for their haunting tone. ‘Belle de Jour’ is a poem to that lost love; the captivating, suffocating love that knows no bounds, the kind that pursues the special someone until the divide of death, until it finally torments the mind with the absence of her presence. These thoughts cling to the mind as the hands once clutched her body, tightly, bombed by the fictitious fixation that love is not the hopeful dream but the troubling sickness.

‘And All of Your Dreams’, with the harsh, abrasive texture clanging against the soil-covered bass, is the only time the music becomes frustrated, longing to let go of its leash. It’s the death of a relationship. And then, that special someone loses their status – they become a ‘Stranger’. ‘Take My Breath’ and its ashen arpeggios lie low in the cold mist, sunken in the road of wet reverb, doting on the sorry melody. ‘Yesterday’s Stains’ are given voice, released as a kind of therapy, but the fatigue never leaves the spirit. As if to underline this, the subtle, harsh rhythm imprints itself firmly onto the face of the music, keeping the victim a slave to the earth. The black soil sticks to the palm.

Ashen stone conceals her sung poetry, which is left to wander beside the crumbling gravestone. Coda ‘Lonesome Tame’ is the point of no return. The fog comes down, bringing with it some stacked delays and the thick coat of reverb. Three ascending notes – all that is needed – swirl in the fading light. Her ambient atmosphere is the kindly slumber, the grounding that so longs to ascend.

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