The Merricks – Monkey Way (Siro121)

Who's looking at you? It's the album artwork for Monkey Way by The Merricks. And it's eyes say "I love you," even if it's mouth cant because it's not in the shot.

Artist: The Merricks
Title: Monkey Way
Label: Sirona-Records
Cat#: Siro121
Keywords: Electronica, Dark Ritual
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

In need of music I began to walk, torch in one hand and bullwhip in the other, through the vaults of the Sirona-Records’ discologues. By this point they had become as thick and dark as the deepest jungle. After much cautious plodding and the death of my guide I finally arrived in a great hall and discovered this, The Merricks album Monkey Way, the object of my search. Wasting no time, I removed a satchel of spice I’d bought for this very purpose from a tradesman just outside of Tangier. With one quick, graceful motion of my arm, no doubt the result of years of masturbation in solitude, I replaced the Monkey Way album with the satchel, but… damn! The weights were not equivalent as I’d hoped and one of the many traps set in this desolate place had gone off. I had spent many grueling years training myself in stuffy classrooms at university preparing for something just like this. I ran. I ran like my ass was on fire, expecting the ball to drop at any moment. Instead, to my surprise, the old giant boulder release valve had been out of order for a few weeks so they’d replaced it with a poisonous dart wall while they fixed it. Nobody told me about that shit, so looking behind me the whole time I had ran right into the oncoming barrage of arrows. Then I died…

… or so I thought! When I came to in a hospital several months later they told me I’d been screaming repeatedly about how good this album was, which necessitated the frequent use of horse tranquilizers. I think I’m ok now. Ok enough at least to write a review… but I might never be the same.

The first track on the album is some real funky shit titled ‘Don’t Mess With The Monkey’. It’s got this oldschool breakbeat feel, analog bass frequencies with a touch of distortion sizzle underneath a slo-mo break. Strings come in over the top, cold as ice. It’s very sort of like a soundtrack piece, something that would play as a posse of badasses rolled into town. They’d probably be on horses, and wield katanas. Seems about right.

‘Far From Home’ gets a different vibe going. There’s a swingy electronic pulse sequence with light electro rhythm modulation. A simple string is laid over and sustained. It’s a bit like Kraftwerk, very snappy and syncopated but also kind of funky in a totally robotic way. I keep expecting to hear, “Fahn fahn fahn on the autobahn.” But it doesn’t need anything like that, which is good because it never happens.

‘You’ll Never Get Me’ comes in with some bass kicks and a tamborine, adding electronically produced ape sounds and then some congas and other tribal percussion sounds. The synthetic sounds are really nice, especially the noisy bass synth that gives the track an electro-tinged feel.

After that is ‘On The Bridge’, in which deep, spacy pads create a feeling of isolation on a canyon or some other vast space, while a clicky kick keeps a simple beat going. More clipped percussive sounds enter the mix soon. There are some interesting robo claps that come in also, really nice. Much later, in the second half, more sustained electronic pads in higher octaves as well as strings lighten up the feel of the music while allowing it to keep it’s openness. It’s a downtempo groove, minimalistic with a lot of breathing room.

‘Vanishing Memory’ is a subdued break groove with low cello. There’s a lot of strange electro rhythm clips thrown in and the groove gains in body as the track goes. There’s also a subtle hint of piano in the disperse chord arrangements.

Then there’s ‘Moving Meat With Flies And Hot Salsa’, which may or may not be what I do for a living, I’ll leave that to the imagination. Really fucking cool shit, bringing back the breakbeats proper and laying on some experimental sound effects. We’re coming back to the sound explored by the first track, though this sounds more bizarre than like a soundtrack. The bass is kind of like an upright, but it’s hard to tell. The track’s so funky it’s hard to pinpoint just what is going on in your ears. All you know for sure is that you’re hearing some great stuff.

‘The Wait’ comes in with low drones, a steady kick and a bass pulse on every other off-note. Some shrill mid-high sound comes in, it reminds me of the noise of some old broken down arcade machine that dispenses toys.

‘Can’t Change My Nature’ is total tribal music. Percussion, animal cries, magic. Wild safari of the mind. Gotta love those bongos!

Next is ‘Resistance’, which starts off with some water sounds and a light touch of wind before a low 4/4 bass pulse comes in as well as some difficult to discern vocals and reverse stuff. Trumpets reverberating into the rain, like a mystical serenade? You got it. Plucky string sounds are also echoing around. The sound on this track is so strange… I love it. It’s constantly shifting and moving into other terrain. Dark tribalism, followed by chill tribal ambient stuff with really nice synth chords. It’s the kind of track you want to put on and just go walk somewhere and experience the world around you. Amazing, and expert use of sound throughout. It gets better and better as it goes.

The last track is ‘Gradmad’ and features the artist Subprodukt. Beginning with a sizzling, gritty synth and adding bells the track then heads straight back into breakbeat territory, almost IDM. I recognize an FL vocal sample about dangerous groups and then the beats get more fierce. There’s a low key choir swirling around far in the background. You won’t know whether to dance or enter a catatonic state of hypnosis. The breakdown during which the beat disappears completely and is replaced by a reverb-laden synth sequence is really nice, especially when the rhythms come in.

I love the vibe of this album. It’s really quite a varied bit of music, but in a subtle way, staying cohesive in terms of production and overall sound use. Other than that, if you like tribalism and breaks you’ll find a lot here that speaks to you. There’s a creeping shamanic magic to the whole thing that particularly shines through on tracks like ‘Resistance’ and ‘On The Bridge’. Now to dole out the linkage so you can hear it for yourself:

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