Alicia Merz opens out her books of secrets. That's the title of the notebook attached to one of the "Without The World" editions, in which are collected writings and poems filed as a season journal, softly illustrated by her brother Bruno.
The album, published by German label Denovali, is the debut from her personal project Birds Of Passage where she shows her overwhelming inner world.
Alicia's musical world is very rich and hard to label: it mirrors her creative isolation, that chooses a "bedroom context" not as a mere form but as a clear artistic choice. Guitar, organ, harmonium and electronic effects are enough for Alicia to sum up in her "songs-non-songs" the cycle of the seasons, following the rhythm of a heart that seems to know anything else than winter.
Gauzy echoes and icy ambient blasts flick through the pages of Alicia's sonic journal, while her airy syllables and her hypnotic sighs suddenly reveal the chills of a wintery loneliness, wrapped under a thick atmospheric nd emotional blanket ("winter again, the doors are open, the rain falling and all the music brings me down/ alone again, my room is frozen, the world falling and they don't miss me, I am bound", from "Scarlet Monkeys").
Distintcly inward-looking, but far from being gloomy and hopeless, the album evokes a soft andb charming nostalgia, also in its most static moments - when Alicia's voice flows disjointly and overlapping the background drone - but clear and rough when it gets to a sort of autoanalysis ("What have i done? Innocence's gone"), whose echoes become sour along tiny noises, sharpened by the (mid-)lo-fi recordings.
Still, the aspects of the expressive surface are not everything to Alicia, who throughout her work seems to set endlessly saturation, speed and width of the sound, between dark layers, crescendo, surprising acoustic notes and smooth sounds, that altogether shape the short intro and the eleven songs no-songs of "Without The World".
This way, the journey into the secrets of Alicia's soul moves naturally from beatless ambiental oscillations ("Pray For A Sunny Day", "Heal") to frequencies disturbed by lo-fi distorsions ("Skeletons", "The Patterns On Your Face" and "Those Blackest Winter Nights", vaguely resembling Flying Saucer Attack), from the repetitions of loops and extended notes - recurring in nearly all the tracks - to the opalescent sight of the gorgeous "Fantastic Frown", shaped by a lovely melody and by the gentle notes of Bruno's acoustic guitar. This track is also the one which represent at its best the double identity of "Without The World": on one side incorporeal melodies and abstract ambience, on the other an endless juxtaposition of those elements, which builds a musical and emotional universe that keeps moving from dream to hallucination, from heavier drones to light ambient lethargy.
Being set up on this fragile balance, the whole record achives a perfect blend of lo-fi manipulations and songwriting intimacy, even deeper than the one made by other female "drone-writers" as Jessica Bailiff or Liz Harris.
Once left in the outside world all the storms - both emotional and meteorological - Alicia Merz has built a haven in a warm and precious place, a place where can spring freely something magic and unpredictable as "Without The World". Something magic that can turn cold shivers into thrills of passion and the chills of loneliness into the warm silence of lovers.
The Patterns On Your Face