Swedish dream-pop act Merely’s third album, Hatching The Egg is about as far away from social commentary or observational art as you can possibly get. Classically-trained instrumentalist and vocalist Kristina Florell, who’s been putting out music as Merely since 2012, draws on the incorporeal for inspiration on her latest LP.
Florell explains, “A great source to understand and feel the power of music is trying to be open to the non-literal. I always try to explore that freedom when I create. What is a ‘meaning’ really? I prefer not to describe my art that way.”
A press release cites the manifestation of “creatures from the other side” on this album, and you certainly get this feeling when the music starts that there’s some intangible force being funnelled to you from the unknown—only for its trail to dissolve as soon as you identify the source. With sonic reference points like the hazy dream-pop of Cocteau Twins and the experimental synth-pop of John Maus, Hatching The Egg shifts between misty, reverb-laden pop sweetness and textured, electronic dynamism.
It’s fair to accuse Florell of leaning on effects and production too heavily, but that’s also what gives this record such a full-bodied, ethereal sound. The opening track “Vixen’s Dream” is one of the most gratifyingly palatial dream-pop songs in recent memory and the first line is sublime (“Warm sand / Whisper through my hand”). But her cloudy backing vocals are arguably more entrancing than the lead vocals—a fairly frequent occurrence on this album. Having said that, her airy vocals fill the space of this record nicely and hold a similarly grand weight to that of Bjork.
Some of the electro-pop production flourishes occasionally clash with the more dream-pop-leaning synths and her cavernous vocals. It’s as if futuristic robots and this beautiful, undefined orb of energy are battling in an epic saga. Though for some listeners, that might be a point of intrigue rather than a clash. There are also psychedelic and prog touches, allowing each instance of sonic transcendence to feel like a singular, passing cloud. Possibly more transcendent than its sound, is the album’s lyrics. There are references to dreams (“In The Wizard’s Eye”), nature (“The Sunset Beach”), the afterlife (“Mystery Garden”) and escape (“Oracle’s Dream”)—all packaged in an inventive, poetic manner. On “In The Wizard’s Eye,” she sings with mystifying grace, “With my own wizard eye / I can see / Where those who sow with tears / Harvest with songs of joy,” and on “Sacrifice” she proclaims with a solemn darkness, “Near your thin skin so easy to cut / I’m floating down through your thick blood / In the gloom underground.”
If you’re not paying close attention, Hatching The Egg feels like a transfer of energy rather than a collection of songs. Merely isn’t the type of artist to dish out crisp, romantic dream-pop—she’s much more interested in the liminal energies that fill us with an unspeakable wonder. It cuts deep into the soul without the need for a concise explanation of why you feel moved. It’s simply a record that’s felt and experienced rather than heard.