Dreams of Sleep and Wakes of Sound

by Laraaji : Merz : Shahzad Ismaily

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    Double vinyl with gatefold cover, original artwork by Los Angeles visual artist Jed Ochmanek and Swiss graphic designers Maison Standard. Printed inner sleeves. Includes full colour mp3 download card.

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Merz - Entrance
Merz : Shahzad Ismaily - That's Your Blue Home
Merz - Broken Shield
Merz : Shahzad Ismaily - Assembly
Merz : Shahzad Ismaily - Cima Dome
Laraaji : Merz - Monastic Cafe
Merz - (N)o(t)ver
Laraaji : Merz - Invisible Now
Merz : Laraaji : Victoria Williams - Same Pale Sun


Dreams of Sleep and Wakes of Sound

Double vinyl album released 28th June 2019 on Dampfzentrale Bern

“I had this semi-serious genre title of ‘Industrial-Devotional’. A kind of devotional music for the post-industrial age,” says UK songwriter Merz of his latest album, a three-way collaborative record with ambient pioneer Laraaji and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily. He continues: “ I was thinking of a type of music that could co-exist in sanctified temples and in city urbanism. To add some spirituality to the material life, getting in there like a Trojan horse.”

The genesis of the album was also rooted in a deep textural essence, not only to explore a new kind of genre but to do so with a very specific palate in mind. “I wanted to make an instrumental album featuring a variety of stringed instruments: harps, zither, guitars, santoor,” says Merz. “I was going to call it ‘Strung Out’ - terrible title.” Thankfully the terrible title was axed but the tonal mood was largely kept in tact as a basis for exploration and collaboration.

Merz and Ismaily had worked together previously and the sessions for those recordings led to some ideas that spilled over into this one. “We had a few recording sessions during which we both switched around various instruments including the Chinese guzheng, the Persian santoor, an old f-hole guitar, a tenor guitar. We recorded around twelve tracks in those sessions, three of which are on this album,” Merz says.

Laraaji was then brought in when the pair decided they wanted to perform a concert in Monastic conditions, which Merz describes as: “Creating a temple-like space and requesting the discipline of silence from the audience right from entering the space to leaving the space. This project was part of my Associated Artist residency at the Dampfzentrale music and contemporary dance venue in Bern, Switzerland.” As an artist who radiates zen-like qualities in both his personality and work - as well as being a master of the zither - Laraaji was the first artist he thought of asking to be involved.

As a result, the tracks that feature Laraaji came from a live record of this concert as well as the rehearsals. These are then blended together with some solo tracks of Merz’s, along with the aforementioned collaborations with Ismaily. So whilst this record in many ways is a collection of three people never playing together in the same room picked from different sessions, the results are remarkably coherent and unified. The sonic palate has been extended a little more than the initial plan - including the use of the Moog Rogue synthesizer - but the immersive urbanism meets rural isolation combination that Merz sought to achieve has come together with flowing grace. Strings and chimes collide to create an engulfing and often transfixing album that succeeds in having the impact of an ambient album in its pull-like quality but is also rich with instrumentation and possesses a busyness to the album that doesn’t rely on singular long drones.

A big part of this free-yet-coherent feeling from the focused spontaneity the players encouraged in one another. “The attitude towards the playing was to try and compose in the moment,” Merz says. “To think of the improvisations as in-the-moment melodic compositions as opposed to experimental adventuring.” When it comes to Merz’s solo pieces, he even compares the approach more to how electronic music is made. “The three solo guitar pieces were selected from around 80 guitar recordings that I made during a year. “Broken Shield” is me making one adjustment every second or so to my guitar, effects pedals or amp settings as I play the piece. In the same way an electronic music performance might manipulate sounds, but this being entirely live playing.”

For Laraaji when he listens back to the finished record it sits neatly in line with Merz’s intentions for his newly created genre Industrial-Devotional. “Listening to this album takes me to visions of a modern dance theatre in rigorous performance. It brings up visually and emotionally the harsh ambient conditions of urban industrial factory worker life perhaps in Asia somewhere: relentless hurried longing for relief from paralyzing life work and an anxious longing for comfort and gentleness.”


releases June 28, 2019

Dreams of Sleep and Wakes of Sound

1 Entrance
2 That’s Your Blue Home
3 Broken Shield
4 Rent a New Place, Everything Could Change
5 Assembly
6 Cima Dome
7 Monastic Cafe
8 (N)o(t)ver
9 Invisible Now
10 Same Pale Sun
11 Somewhere To Run

Tracks 4, 7, 9, 10: Laraaji and Merz
Tracks 2, 5, 6: Shahzad Ismaily and Merz
Tracks 1, 3, 8, 11: Merz

Laraaji: processed electric zither, synthesizer, vocals, chimes

Shahzad Ismaily: Moog Rogue synthesizer

Merz: Chinese guzheng harp, Persian santoor, processed electric and acoustic guitars

Tracks 10, 11 featuring special guest vocalist Victoria Williams

Tracks 4, 7, 9: written by Laraaji and Conrad Lambert
Tracks 2, 5, 6: written by Shahzad Ismaily and Conrad Lambert
Tracks 1, 3, 8, 10, 11: written by Conrad Lambert

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 recorded and mixed by Conrad Lambert
Tracks 4, 7, 10 recorded by Björn Meyer, mixed by Conrad Lambert
In Bern, Switzerland and Joshua Tree, USA.

Mastered by Adi Flück at Centraldubs, Bern, Switzerland

Artwork by Jed Ochmanek
Graphic Design by Maison Standard
Laraaji photo: James Paul
Shahzad photo: Scott Irvine
Merz photo: Jed Ochmanek

Thank you Roger Ziegler and Catia Lanfranchi


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Merz UK

Merz is an English musician, singer and songwriter who, since 1999, has released five albums and a bunch of EP's via Epic Records, Gronland Records and Accidental Records. His music is an eclectic construct of electronics, psych-folk and experimental-pop. ... more

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Track Name: Merz - Somewhere To Run
When you find a wash of love
That you just fall short of
You'll weep like a wash willow
Hallowed in the middle
You take the oxygen away from me
And release it when you please

Skull spinning like a goldfish bowl
As an ill wind blows eddies through my home
I'm always looking for the happy ending
Maybe no end to the searching
Lost bounties, lost qualities
Lost, just lost

This day is not my friend
And I am not my friend
Somewhere to run
Somewhere to run
Somewhere to run

Every day there's a triple darkness
And never a moment's peace
We're all crossing over to the other side
Of Al-Qiiyama city streets
Total proximity but no intimacy

To laugh is to ignore
Wrath and laughter have no power
While they are warming up the same old horrors
Your words are just echoes of echoes
The powers that be
A rouges gallery

This day is not our friend
And we're all at wits' end
Somewhere to run
Somewhere to run
Somewhere to run

You feel the cold and take the blows
But you'll find no comfort here
It's disillusionment every day
Preserve your soul how any which way
And proceed with the desert's creed
To make real
To make real
To make real what you only believe

This day is not your friend
Heaven help us friend
Somewhere to run
Somewhere to run
Somewhere to run