The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Birds Of Passage

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Interview with Alicia Merz, Birds Of Passage.

“I truly whisper to you.”
—Alicia Merz

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry


‘Winter Lady’ is the sophomore album from New Zealand artist Alicia Merz, who creates spellbinding music under the Birds of Passage moniker. My introduction to her unique art was this very album; an album of heavenly sonic creations. Each song possesses this otherworldly dimension that takes you on a captivating journey. Alicia Merz’s songs are hauntingly beautiful with emotion-filled cinematic soundscapes. Inside the songs of ‘Winter Lady’, a desolate world is created, which is filled with darkness. A spectrum of emotion; agony, pain, hope, longing, love, breathes deeply into the world of the listener. But in the darkness lies hope. Upon first hearing Birds Of Passage a few months ago, ‘Winter Lady’ soon became a treasured album for me and has been a purveyor of solace and hope ever since.

A masterwork of minimalism is etched all over the current record. Opener ‘Fatal Melody’ contains atmospheric ambient sounds and Alicia’s fragile vocals. “I won’t be the saviour for your fatal melody” is the lyric to the chorus that resonates powerfully into the slipstream of one’s mind. ‘Highway Men In Midnight Masks’ is sublime. The graceful piano notes echoes Erik Satie’s ‘Gymnopedies’. The mesmerizing soundscapes unravel your very being. “Life was never crazier/And I was never lovelier” is a lyric to the verse. ‘Away With The Night’ is a drone/ambient tour de force that recalls Sylvain Chauveau and The Haxan Cloak. The reverb-drenched instrumentation builds and builds, providing one of ‘Winter Lady”s emotional climaxes. Alicia’s vocals are breathtaking; “search my body for scars” paints a darkness yet the ambient sphere that forever surrounds provides eternal light. Album closer ‘Waltz While We Sleep’ is my personal favourite. As the title suggests, this beautiful ballad is a waltz for longing where everlasting hope shines through the harrowing of “darkest night”. There is rarely a song that resonates such emotion as ‘Waltz While We Sleep’. The result is quite staggering. Alicia’s voice hangs delicately in the clouds of sound long after the music fades into the horizon, “Touch me I’m the crippled bride of fear/Hold me and my winter fingers disappear.”

Sing a song of whispers
Unraveled in all of my troubled skin
Interpret all of my dreaming
Before they begin

‘Away With The Night’, taken from Birds of Passage ‘Winter Lady’.



Interview with Alicia Merz.

Congratulations Alicia on your truly inspiring music. The ‘Winter Lady’ album introduced me to your work. An album of such heavenly art. Your songs possess this otherworldly dimension that takes you on a captivating journey. The songs are hauntingly beautiful with emotion filled cinematic soundscapes.

Mark, thank you so much for your kind words and appreciation 🙂 you are too too kind 🙂


Tell me please about the album ‘Winter Lady’? There is a desolate world created filled with darkness. A spectrum of emotion breathes deeply into the world of the listener. But in the darkness, hope lies inside the beautiful melodies, especially the album closer ‘Waltz While We Sleep’.

Your description is what I always wish my music may bring forth to the listener! You are a beautiful audience, someone who really understands my music. I always want there to be that glimmer of hope because I write from the dark place that many people are in, but I want to try and be able to help them out of that place, even if it is by just being with them in the darkness so they know they are not alone. I never know whether people actually feel anything close to what I hope my songs bring, but I have some hope now, given your words.

When I was a teenager I used to lie in the darkness of my room and the sadness of my soul, and be enveloped by whatever despairing music it was I was playing loudly. Feeling that kindred feeling that I was not alone in my dark somehow would help me. This is what I wanted for Winter Lady.

So I wrote these songs from my heart, touching also on important and terrible sadnesses that are all too common in our world. And there is a little of my fantasies in the album too.


I’d love to get an insight into ‘Winter Lady’ and the journey it means for you, please?

Winter Lady is the icy girl who has learned to be wary, cold and bitter, among other things (fatal melody, away with the night, hollow) by the experiences she has been forced to endure (disaster of dreams, the monster inside you).

But she is still full of deep love and excitement, imagination and fantasy, and she also tells you her secrets (highwaymen in midnight masks, waltz while we sleep). I wrote what I needed to write at the time, I guess I may have been, may still be, somewhat of a winter lady.


Where does your inspiration lie?

Usually it is in extreme elements, particularly cold and dreary, or stormy days. Or beautiful ones. Sometimes it is from reading a beautiful piece of writing by someone like Longfellow or Robert frost. These things mix with my experiences and emotions and then I can sometimes write something worth keeping.


The song ‘Waltz While We Sleep’ is heartbreakingly beautiful. It feels like a prayer, a lullaby. Your voice is so delicate and fragile. The piano meanders slowly like a river of tears, beneath this cinematic backdrop. Please tell me about this song please?

Thank you for the beautiful description 🙂
That song was the last song I wrote before I put all of Winter Lady together. It is the conclusion. Winter Lady’s final words about everything, where she tells you the most of her secrets and bares herself more than ever.


How do you capture the intimacy in your songs? This is what immediately took me aback listening to your music.

I truly whisper to you.


I’d love to know more about the artwork? The illustrations capture the emotion of  Winter Lady’s fragile world. 

The cover is based on Charles Keeping’s illustrations of The Highwayman poem by Alfred Noyes. My song Highwaymen in Midnight Masks was inspired by this poem (& also Loreena McKennitt’s setting to music of it). I have always been fascinated by the poem and highwaymen ever since I was a little girl looking at that book.


What was Nils Frahm’s input to the album in his role of mastering?

He made it sound sooooooooooooo much better! I don’t know how. I am very privileged to have had him master it for me.


I recently read you have a new album that is near completion. It’s wonderful news. Can you shed some light on this new work?

I am hoping to finish it in early 2013. I haven’t got much to tell about it sorry. But I hope you will like it as you do Winter Lady 🙂


What music inspires you?

Nick Drake, Gorecki, Leonard Cohen, Loreena McKennitt, many others.


‘Winter Lady’ by Birds Of Passage is out now.



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January 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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  1. […] For our interview with Alicia Merz, please see HERE. […]

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