reviewed by Jack Derricourt
The first snows fell today in my neck of High Park. Joggers, babies, and dogs were all exposed to their first taste of white fever. I huddled my mess of novel draft papers indoors and prepared for the worst. Thankfully, the delightful tunes of Merganzer, and her illustrious new release Mirror Maze were ready to help me out.
The solo project by Mika Posen contains lightly compacted songs with the allure of fresh snow. Piano, vocals, and the incredible mikatron — a mellotron device involving samples of Posen’s violin — push and pull on each other to create unique textures on the album. She declares the project to be experimental pop, and the recording style certainly leads itself to the genre: there is separation between the many musical voices at play, as if each sound were being tinkered with in a separate room; in “Other Voices” a tribal drum sounds off while the mikatron proclaims itself loudly, as if the two sonic partners were duelling each other.
Thankfully, Merganzer possesses a much cheerier outlook on General Winter than I do. In “Mirror Maze” the speaker proclaims that the “nights are getting longer” and looks on to the coming solstice and its promise of safety. There is a similar mood to much of the album: something sinister always seems in the works, a “darkest day” as mentioned in “Vitava,” but the promise of new changes always appears, a promise of invention out of sorrow or confusion. The sound supports this atmosphere, with the novel sounds of the mikatron and the space provided by the production allowing pathways through the music to form in inspired ways.
Possibly my favourite moment on the album comes in “Songs Without Words.” The declarative lyric, “We sing songs without words” is sung to the most compelling melody, highlighting the keen use of vocal material on the record. Sparse, crisp pieces for voice litter the record, but it is in the arrangement around the one line that the rich quality of orchestration conducted by Merganzer is exhibited at its best.
I really enjoyed this record. While it didn’t make me want to go out and play in wet, slowly freezing world, it did give me hope for the magic of the changing season. Leaving the old world for something new, Merganzer conjures up an experimental beauty. Listen and enjoy.
Top Tracks: “Mirror Maze” ; “Songs Without Words”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)