Breathe Less –  Bruno Merz (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Bruno Merz - Breath Less (cover)Sitting somewhere between the relative conformity of Simon and Garfunkel and the increasingly meandering and distant haze of Nick Drake, Breathe Less is the perfect blend of minimalism and structure. There is just enough of a musical safety net in place, one built from sonorous, sweeping cellos, and gently chiming guitars, which ensures that the gossamer vocal threads don’t drift away on the breeze. It is an approach which Damien Rice used to put himself on the map and whilst, on paper at least, it seems like a simple approach, there are few other artists of recent times, except perhaps Bon Iver, who navigate such calm waters whilst creating so few ripples.

It is a song which feels as weightless in its musicality as it is heavy in its heart-aching sentiment, just the sound of a man with his guitar and his memories yet somehow sitting in the space between musical expression and private rumination, exposing regrets without relinquishing them. It is this balance between the public song and the private thought that makes this emotional exorcism even more intense for being so tentative.

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Whisper Turn – Bruno Merz (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Bruno_Merz_-_Whisper_Turn_(cover)It’s difficult to write about Bruno Merz’s sparse and elegant music without making the obvious comparisons to Nick Drake. I’m not the first to point it out and I won’t be the last. But there is something in the minimalism, the delivery, the restraint and the understatement that he adopts that make it hard not to drop the D word. The lyrics have the same compressed style and purposeful simplicity nature, almost like folkloric haikus or chilled nursery rhymes and he also uses similar elemental imagery that coloured Nick’s songs.

But whereas Drake revelled in hippy meadows and the green fields of an older England, Merz instead offers a warning, one which suggests the gentlest of wake up calls, to open our eyes to the effect that we, as the human race, have on the world. He predicts rising seas, broken fields and burning skies but knows that it isn’t to late to stop the relentless march towards oblivion, if we just open our eyes to our destructive ways.

The real charm of the song is that it is rebellious in the quietest of ways, it is happy to point out and suggest rather than lead and rabble-rouse, which is perfect for the modern age and our belligerent attitudes. In a world where people seem ever more frequently turning their back on expert or academic advice, dismissive of science and show open hostility towards people who hold opposing views, maybe we need a quiet revolution, one guided by gentle reflection and subtle suggestion, one inspired by beauty rather than browbeaten by dystopian visions and chilling rhetoric.

Maybe Bruno Merz is more than just a writer of eloquent and beautiful songs, maybe he, and musicians like him, can be the inspiration we need to change our ways. Even a snowball can become an avalanche, maybe this song represents the first flakes of snow we need to build it.

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