New Zealand artist Merk is the moniker of Auckland, New Zealand artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mark Perkins, who began his career as a touring member of Tom Lark and Fazerdaze. I reviewed his single ‘Laps Around The Sun’ earlier this year finding it to be yearning, raw and melodic, with a deep melancholia reflecting on transience of life and the beauty in fleeting moments.
This is a theme that forms a golden thread through this majestic and poised album.
Perkins says of the album:
In the past it felt like I was hiding, but now I’m trying to wear my heart on my sleeve a little more
Opening track H.N.Y.B. sets the tone – Merk’s angelic voice soothes over a sparse weaving instrumentation in a lovely interplay as Merk muses over the chance for rebirth offered by the New Year -a cyclical event.
‘GOD’ has an almost Asian musical timbre with its percussive and wind elements and funky smooth bass. Think of the band Japan with its experimentation in style and rhythm.
‘American Parties’ sets off at a joyful canter as Merk sings about the attractions of America with an innocent and wistful air – we all just want to go to America and American parties, trying to make a dollar in America, it’s as easy as it could be. Yet this apparent naive optimism is somewhat undercut by an air of self-referential absurdity in the last line.
‘Laps Around the Sun’ is another melancholic observation about the vicissitudes of life:
This song is about finding poetry in the mundane, repetitiveness of life. It was written on my birthday, which is also Valentine’s Day. Whether you are waiting for the weekend or celebrating another lap around the sun, or falling in and out of love or doing the dishes there’s beauty to be found in the never-ending repetitions and rhythms of life. By sheer coincidence we ended up filming the video on my birthday too, so it was natural for it to become about that. We made it very guerilla style with a small crew of friends, it felt super wholesome and very meta.
There’s a sense of youthfulness and joy as well in spite of the downbeat tone – captured by the video with its detailing of the minutiae of life and small pleasures as Perkins ramble around the landscapes – often a lonely isolated figure dwarfed by the surroundings:
‘Something New’ with its hints of trumpet punctuating the track is gorgeous, filled with a sense of wonder and joy in exploration of new pastures – an element of optimism found in the unknown.
‘Canoe Song’ holds the central theme of the album deep within its gentle acoustic strumming:
We are the infinite youth, holding our breath in the pool, trying to hide from her Dad, he overheard everything.
Perkins’s finds simple and expressive beauty in the mundane things in life and creates an evocative world.
‘Deep Dive’ has that same asian percussive feel that bubbles below the service – an upbeat melodic tune that shimmers shines with all the grace and stature of Talking Heads:
The closing title track revisits the words from ‘Canoe Song’ – no one feels they are growing older – with a dreamy fugue that has the enthralling majesty of Sigur Ros.
‘Infinite Youth’, as its title implies, focusses on a blurring edge between youth and adulthood – a time when there is a a joyful naivety but one tempered by knowledge that such a time is ending. It creates a dreamy fugue throughout – on the one hand displaying an ebullient at times hyperactive musical landscape that is darkened by multi layered meanings in lyrics and a wistful downbeat tone. It really captures the essence of transition from a world of innocence where the temporary nature of life is ignored – the sense of the infinite youth – to one of the realisation and acceptance of the transience of life.
What sets it apart, though, is the freshness of the instrumentation: Merk eschews the traditional sounds and patterns of indie pop for a more nuanced and delicate approach, drawing inspiration from Asian musical tones and creating vast open spaces that are celestial and awe-inspiring.