Review Summary: Bleak Beauty
As winter approaches, sadness penetrates deeper as I'm reminded that I'm walking a path that's directionless, albeit clearer. Now, I almost see a finishing mark, as well as every marring rock, stick, and twig on my way. These small, should-be insignificant obstacles either prompt me to crawl, wary of my destination, or run, desperately willing that feared final result to turn out okay. Either way, I feel trapped, because I'm too distant from my former steps to start over, but I still want to go back to start a new path of intent rather than stay stuck, fearful of all potential outcomes. Yet, I feel I can't return now, for I'm treading between familial obligation and selfish happiness, still hopelessly trying to figure out my own meaning.
Recently, This Kindly Slumber
has helped me reflect on my situation. At first, I felt it sonically represented myself - drowsy and listless, fundamentally unequipped to transcend ingrained hindrances. But lethargic it may seem, This Kindly Slumber
is humbly spirited, extracting breath from winter rather than dying from cold weather. Alicia Merz's haunting voice, alluding to heartbreak, seems to accept pain as part of living and dying. Always, Merz finds sweetness in winter, snatching living elements and emanating wisdom from them. Her voice feels aged and armored to identify beauty often ignored - sunlit sheen on ice-covered streets, snow bunnies, evergreen trees. Although lacking in vibrancy, such moments - if noticed - arrest, caressing our hearts and comforting our souls.
Instrumentally, This Kindly Slumber
subtly captures attention by creeping. Assisted by grounded drones, weighted reverb finds solace in fog. Only occasionally does Merz layer melodies on top of this fog - often as scant as two repeating notes (“Belle de Jour”) or simple as lean arpeggiated sequences (“Take My Breath”). But notwithstanding occasional melody, this record's a soundscape of omniscient desolation, only pierced by melancholic phrases that cut gloom with their noble self-possession, allowing Merz's fragile yet somehow strong voice glow. Using This Kindly Slumber
's icy, droning backdrop as inspiration, she presses light into everything bleak, hugging sadness, hurt, and exhaustion instead of running away to resign them to their own devices.
When listening to This Kindly Slumber
, there's a sense of beauty amidst devastation, a feeling that sadness is okay as long as it doesn't overwhelm, as long as instances of beauty don't vanish to be engulfed by snow.