Paraphrasing Prophecies is available at:
The mini-album A Handshake with Who is available at:
Paraphrasing Prophecies– 9.4
A Maya Calling– 9.2
When I Was a Hedge– 9.2
Pass on Through– 9.0
Giant, in This Life– 9.0
Post Bop– 9.4
A Maya Calling, When I Was a Hedge, Post Bop
Album features the wonderful musicians, in no particular order – (The silky day confederation have approved, reconfigured and beamed alien impregnation into all) –
Allan ‘Ghengi’ Varnfield – Drums (1,3,4,5,6)
Alec ‘Rover 2k’ Harrison – Bass (1,3,4,5)
Tobias ‘Baines’ Fitton – Bass (6)
Alex ‘Boo Big Gun’ Hedley – Vox (2,6)
Jack ‘Harmodessey’ Cullimore – Strings (1,3,4)
Michael ‘Vibagrove’ Alberry – Keys (4)
Anna ‘Anaine Banome’ Merrick – Vox (1)
OVER the past few days I have been concentrating on…
female-based music. It has been great getting to grips with its depth and range: I have been amazed by what has been offered; how many different sounds have come forth- it has been quite sensational. From Folk and Electronic music; across to Country and Beatbox; there seems to be ample talent out there- a scintillating melting pot of genres. Few would argue about the quality coming out (when it comes to new female musicians). The guys have their talent and abilities, yet the female acts/bands seem to be nudging ahead: when it comes to diversity (at the very least) they are edging into the lead. I have been searching around for some great male solo artists. Over the past few weeks I have been investigating the odd male-led band; U.S. artists that have intrigued me a lot. When it comes to male solo acts, there has been a scarcity: not too many great examples are coming forth; I am not sure why this is. I guess a lot of the male-based music is contained within bands: compared to the women, the band market is largely male-dominated. The mainstream is not really helping issues too much: if you real think about it, can you name three (great) male solo artists? I had to Google it, and still couldn’t name three- the solo realm is dominated by female talent. I guess the girls are better on their own; there is a certain personality required (to make it as a solo act). Less evident in new music, there are a few male sole stars coming through: when it comes to range and innovation, they are still (the men) lacking. In my mind, the men seem less daring- when it comes to genre and sound fusions- less experimental and ambitious- their sounds are more linear; perhaps more restrained and confined. A lot of Folk/Pop-based acts- represented by the likes of Ed Sheeran and James Bay- are emerging; fewer stunning artists- that lay out their emotions with any degree of sonic inventiveness. My featured artist is a bit of a mystery and enigma: with few online sites- just a Facebook account- there is scant information; he is just starting out- emerging from the ashes (of a deceased) act. Billy Merrick- the man behind Bee Meru- was a member of the band; one of the most distinct acts coming out of the scene- is stepping out on his own (albeit with supporting musicians) to create new life. Before I go into more depth, it is worth mentioning Saturday Sun. Having reviewed the band a while back- and being impressed by their originality and sound- it is sad they no longer play. Derived from a Nick Drake song- from his album Five Leaves Left- the guys mixed gentle rhythms with gorgeous rhymes; lusciousness and beauty- tracks that crept and swelled; bubbled and overcame. With the music industry being what it is- bands and artists can collapse and call time- out of it comes Bee Meru. Employing similar atmospherics and mood-shift; hugely evocative and emotive tracks- it is great to have him on the scene. With the hole Saturday Sun has left, few artists have stepped into the breach- and continued their magic. Bee Meru’s mini-album A Handshake with Who sees Merrick step out in the music world; bring his voice to the party- and capture new hearts. It would be good to see Bee Meru more widely represented (in time). Having a SoundCloud account- for the music- and Facebook (for the social side of things) a Twitter account would be wise: it would allow more fans and acts to connect; reach a wider audience. When it comes to music-sharing and recognition; getting people connected and listening- Twitter is a much more effective and simple tool; something the young artist should consider. That said- and when music videos start to come- a YouTube account would be good; maybe BandCamp too. In the social media age, it is important to get your material (and name) as far and wide as possible- the first months/steps are all-important. Some more Facebook photos would be good to: see the man behind the music; a few studio shots or live captures- just fill in gaps and reveal a bit more. Merrick is in his initial phases; putting Bee Meru’s most together- I’m sure this will all come in time. What is important- and what is being displayed now- is the music itself. Stepping aside from his peers/market expectations, Bee Meru is an outfit with a distinct and striking voice: the music captures Saturday Sun’s hallmarks; adds Merrick’s distinct words and ideas- the resultant seduction has resulted in a terrific creation. A Handshake with Who is a mini-album/E.P. filled with atmosphere and grip; passion and spirit- the songs are not predictable or sound-alike; they change course and projection. One of Merrick’s talents- when he was a member of Saturday Sun- was his distinct guitar sounds. On A Handshake’ they are put to the fore: stunning and variegated; scenic and passionate, he is one of the most stand-out strings-men on the block. He is showing what the male singer-songwriter can achieve; go beyond boundary walls- and rival the best (the female representatives) are showcasing.
To get a sense of (some of the) potential of Bee Meru, it is worth mentioning Saturday Sun- and the legacy they have left. Having been featured in The Guardian- part of their Band of the Day featured- last year; they highlighted the spine-tinging vocals (by Alex Headley); the shimmering and shivering guitars; the nature-referencing lyrics and scenes. What the band did- and the main reference point for critics was- their fusion of The Bends-era Radiohead; Jeff Buckley (the vocals especially) and ‘90s-based bands. Saturday Sun had that great evocative sound; when music was at its peak: sometimes downbeat and reflective, the music was never dull. Compelling and emotional; grand and compulsive- few listeners could ignore its assault. Out of the dissolvent (of the band), Merrick has kept a flame alive- his voice has its own stunning appeal; the instrumentation remains stirring; the songs equally potent and wondrous. For Saturday Sun fans; this should be a natural move/discovery- you will find some familiar and pleasing similarities. Anyone new (to Bee Meru) should judge it on its own merits; jump in with fresh ears- and let it do its work. Whilst there are shades of Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and ‘90s music to the songs; what you get is something both modern-sounding and personal- songs that means a lot to Merrick; are defined by his stunning vision. With Merrick’s voice recalling a little bit David Bowie; parts Nick Drake, it may be wise (to check out those) acts. In terms of Bowie albums- that can be compared with Bee Meru- it is worth seeking-out The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. That album- whilst the songs’ style may vary from Bee Meru- showed grand-sweeping ambitions; individualised and unique vocal delivery; a far-reaching sense of musical ambition- Bowie mixed Glam-Rock with Pop; strings and hooks; cinematic and apocalyptic. Bee Meru has a similar sense of adventurousness and innovative spirit: across songs, Classical shades fuse with Pop hooks; Rock drive spars with twisted undertones- running a gamut of emotions and sights. On a contrary note, one would do well to investigate Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left: an album that possess distinct melancholy and glorious strings; stately compositions and that rich voice- with one ear to the grave; another to the sun. As I explained before- when it comes to making comparisons- Bee Maru should be judged on merit alone; use these references as a guidance/jumping-off point. Combining ‘60s/’70s heritage with current ambitions, A Handshake with Who is an E.P./mini-album packed with power and quality; covering such a wide spectrum- in terms of instrumentations, emotions and ideas- it will appeal to a wide range. With Pink Floyd influences- a combination of Wish You Were Here’s sweeping epics; Dark Side of the Moon’s odd beauty- and you have a stunning record; from a very promising artist.
One thing I would say about Paraphrasing Prophecies– and the vocals across A Handshake with Who– is that sometimes clarity and concision get lost. Because of Merrick’s dusky and distinct vocal style, some of the lyrics do get lost and buried. It is perhaps a minor qualm- and one that can be applied to a lot of acts coming through- yet the song’s instantaneous drama and wonder floods any concerns at all. The early words looking at paraphrasing and “(All) prophecies new-born…” the song’s intriguing and compelling title is investigated and highlighted- there is an instance and urgency to the early words. After an acoustic guitar-led introduction, the song gets underway quickly and efficiently: no needless build-up and wandering; the E.P./mini-album begins its pioneering within a few seconds. Merrick’s voice tows the line between grave and optimistic: there is a sense of romance and calm to his tones; that husky/dusky quality gives the words gravitas- each utterance is delivered with conviction and passion. The composition begins to build and climb- strings are introduced and the backdrop becomes moodier and duskier- and our hero sounds pained and reflective. After the embryonic acoustic/calm scent, the composition becomes rushing and spiced; aching and spiraling. The percussion starts to punch and pervade; the song becomes more electric and enflamed. Mutating into something animalistic and invigorated, electric strings bubble and burble: sounding contorted and sexualised, the song changes course again- becoming more dramatic and gripping with each passing moment. Having built off a few, cautionary words- the song now becomes something orchestral and grand; eliciting a range of images and thoughts. As the guitars twinkle and yawn, the strings vibrate and shiver- the combination creates an ecstatic and exhilarating whole. Whereas the listener (is at the early stages) invested in the vocal and its plight; now you become lifted by that composition- something that speaks a volume of words with few notes. Strangely moving, the strings carry you away; there is plenty of energy and movement- it is hard not to be swept along. Merrick’s voice quivers and tremors with meaning and desire: compelled by the heightening backdrop, he seems at his most intense and focused. That insatiable and spirit-raising coda keeps coming round for more- few artists spend so much consideration when it comes to atmosphere. Our hero seems to be entranced and intoxicated: his voice seems haunted and tormented; paradoxically hopeful and seeking. Once more the composition mutates and changes: past the half-way marker, it becomes sparser and more relaxed. Blues-infused and calming- strangely reminding me of Dire Straits to an extent- a spectral and gorgeous backing vocal comes into the fray; adding to that sense of chill and emotion. I have mentioned Pink Floyd before- and so have other reviewers- when assessing Bee Meru. In the most genuine/complimentary way, Merrick laces his compositions with Floyd-esque theatrics. In the same way Dark Side of the Moon brims with peculiar sounds and off-kilter notes; fractured emotion and gorgeous melody- so too does Paraphrasing Prophecies. The backdrop is at no times secondary: it always creates its own drama and story; grabbing the listener and eliciting such a sense of ambition. Never disingenuous or muted, the strings (and percussion) continues its course; the guitar lines mix sensual and woozy; the backing vocal Siren-esque and tender. Towards the final moments, you get the biggest hit of the song: given what has come before, the track starts to level-out and fade- you start to take it all in; look back and reflect; the song’s nuance and potency hits the mark.
Before congratulations and recommendations are ladled, it is worth looking at the lyrics- at times they do get overwhelmed and lost. Merrick has a tremendous voice; is one of the most impressive lyricists on the scene- some of his potency does get watered-down and negated. Putting the vocals higher up (the mix) would result in great decipherability and clarity: the words would become more focused and intelligible. That said, the track is always going to compel as a whole: which is very much the case with Paraphrasing Prophecies. The lyrics/vocal mix is a minor detraction: when you judge the song as an entity, it doesn’t really become an issue- only problematic when trying to interpret and extrapolate the meaning before the song. What you come away with- and what is most obvious- are the song’s natural qualities. Starting with the vocal itself: in spite of some words being missed; what I get is that sense of occasion and emotion. Merrick is not a singer that has to fake and force anything: his tones are completely authoritative and natural. Reviewers have noted the comparisons with David Bowie and Nick Drake- this would do him a disservice. I have always found Bowie an acquired taste- limited in some aspects; not capable of truly haunting- and Drake too particular (no singer will ever come close to Drake’s sound). Merrick infuses the slightest hint of both; he is very much his own artist. Feather-light (and alternatively) filled with the world’s weight- it is a rich and varied weapon. What Merrick does fantastically is to create weight of emotion, without ululation and over-emoting- which is what a lot of modern-day singers do. Paraphrasing Prophecies is one (of A Handshake with Who’s) most orchestrated and composition-heavy tracks. Whereas other tracks (across the record) are more bare and simplistic, the opener is heady and multifarious. Allan ‘Ghengi’ Varnfield’s drum work is one (of the track’s) stand-outs: teasing and light at one moment; emphatic and steamrolling the next- he shows himself to be a stunning sticks-man. Seamlessly keeping the song tight and flowing, the percussion ensures everything remains controlled and focused- no mean feat given the song’s ambition and sonic endeavours. Alec ‘Rover 2k’ Harrison (love the nickname!) provides supple and passionate bass notes. Like Varnfield, Harrison provides plenty of power and urgency; he offers plenty of texture and personality. Harrison (like all good bass players) understands his role: he fits well with the other players; knows when to step back (and when to be right in the mix) – perfectly drives and augments the song. Jack ‘Harmodessey’ Cullimore provides the song’s strings- and the song’s emotional heartbeat. Being a progressive and inter-changeable song- in terms of the composition and energy- Cullimore perfectly sound-tracks (the hardest-hitting moments). Emotional and graceful; sorrowful and shivering, his strings create plenty of beauty and amazement- at times you are overwhelmed by how affective (his performance) is. Final kudos must go to Anna ‘Anaine Banome’ Merrick- the echoed, ethereal backing voice. Whilst Merrick, (Billy) is the pained and troubled lead voice, Merrick (Anna) offers a counterpoint of light and hope- something that lifts the mood and perfectly sits in the mix. The entire ‘band’ comes together superbly; there is such an intuition and closeness- each member understands the role (of the others). Completed with a lush and polished production sound, Paraphrasing Prophesies is a dramatic and layered song: one that never loses its sense of beauty and force; that endless sense of invention and potency. A perfect introduction to Bee Meru- and A Handshake with Who– the track is one of this year’s most affecting.
Having followed Saturday Sun- and been entranced by their music and way of working- Merrick contacted me; explained he has a new release out- wondering whether it could be featured. I was expected some Saturday Sun-esque music; something that did not stray too far from their mould- I was pleasantly surprised. Bee Meru- a great and catchy name- is an act to watch very closely. A Handshake with Who is a six-track collection boasting fascinating stories, swelling compositions- subtle and effective guitar work to boot. A Maya Calling sees Alex Hedley (his old bandmate from Saturday Sun) take on vocal duties: backed by echoing and haunting strings, the song is a beautiful and thought-provoking thing. Shimmering and lustful; haunting and touching- it put me in mind of Kid A-era Radiohead- the song is stunning. With the vocals yearning and firm; the acoustic guitars pastoral and simple; the emotive backdrop ever-urgent and pressing- it comes together superbly. You are caught into that voice: it is quite tired and wracked; there is emotion and insistency- augmented by that symphonic backing, and the track envelops and flourishes; spreads its wings and encapsulates. When I Was a Hedge is a more playful and delicate thing: with its introduction mixing Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left-era) with Folk stands, it is a gorgeous beginning. Tripping and flowing; riparian and calming, the strings ache and echo; the guitar trickles and rushes- you transport yourself to somewhere safer and more ensconced. Whipping-up images of sun and the river; the tranquility of nature- the listener is giving a chance to dream and imagine; witness something genuinely special. Pass on Through begins with a clatter and upbeat march: the percussion smatters and jumps; the introduction mutates and grows- our hero comes to the microphone. Merrick’s voice is up top- as it is throughout the record- and has a Bowie-esque croak and whisper: both natural and world-worn, it perfectly represents the (song’s lyrics). Giant, in This Life is a serene and emotive affair. One of the E.P./mini-album’s sparsest tracks- it contains no strings or keys- it mixes Pink Moon-Nick Drake with honest and open lyrics: that sense of emotion and vulnerability is never far from the surface; the song reveals its intimacies and honesty over repeated listens; shows something new (you may have missed upon an initial listen). Post Bop sees Headley back into the fold: leading the vocal charge, he conspires with Merrick’s guitar- old bandmates back together; combining on one of the record’s most stunning tracks. A perfect bookmark- that matches the opener’s ambition and quality-level- the track builds and builds; becomes more pressing and urgent. Pink Floyd comparisons come to mind: mixing their Dark Side of the Moon experimentation/ghostliness (with some Wish You Were Here texture and imagination). Soulful and tight- the composition and instrumentation is seamless and perfect- the song relies of wordless vocals (Headley lets his ethereal howl flow through the notes). The track builds up to the heavens; gets more intense and loud- such an evocative and scintillating piece. Tying together old Folk masters- the likes of Nick Drake and Neil Young- with ‘70s Psychedelic and Avant-Garde music; A Handshake with Who is a complex and masterful E.P.- something few other artists could produce; a product of a singular mind. A perfect record for a new listener- those not attuned to Saturday’s Sun’s legacy- and fans of Merrick’s past life; there is enough for everyone. Cleverley lacing in older sounds will unite older generations; the modern production and sound will draw in the young- the E.P./mini-album has a crossover appeal and ability to unite- it does not confine its appeal and campaign. Before I conclude, it is worth going back to my initial point: that which concerns the male singer-songwriter core. I have grown a little tired of the placid and boring male songwriters: those that sound bereft and uninspired; strum their guitar and offer little personality- they do not experiment with sound and genres; little regard to atmosphere and innovation. Billy Merrick was always a skilled songwriter- Saturday Sun’s back catalogue can attest to this- and on his own (backed with a few choice musicians) he has produced something impressive- a sense of ambition few of his peers possess. Since the early offerings from James Blake- and his stunning voice-and-electronics combination- I have been crying out for a new voice; someone with that quality and sense of accomplishment. Bee Meru has a skillset not often found (in today’s music): that consideration for compositional atmosphere and nuance; the focus on stunning vocals and lyrics- the complete music package. Differing from the bland-as-you-like modernity, Bee Meru is a name to watch; an artist with plenty more to come (let’s hope at least). With A Handshake with Who in circulation- and it beginning to grab reviews and attentions- it is my hope others will follow suit- and come up with something distinctly unique. With the (male) singer-songwriter genre being in stagnation, Bee Meru could act as guidance; give impetus to the new breed. His music and ambition could well be a…
SIGN of things to come.
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