The Merricks is a name regular readers of The Static Dive have heard before. The multi-genre experimental composer and musician (a/k/a Marc-Emmanuel Ackermann, a/k/a Master Panda) is one of the most interesting and definitely the most prolific of all the artists we have covered. In 2020 alone he produced six full-length albums. His entire catalog of records over the years is counted in the dozens.
Chronicling the genres in which he has worked would be an even more daunting task than that of inventorying The Merricks’ releases. The list is endless; Pop, Jazz, Rock, Ambient, Industrial, Techno, etc. Often his projects employ all of the above simultaneously. Despite his voluminous creative output, the Swiss artist remains a mysterious figure. And he undoubtedly likes it that way.
“Confusion” is one of The Merricks’ latest releases and it comes with all of his signature multi-disciplinary experimentation and cryptic, esoteric storytelling. Although the record is instrumental it has a linear narrative. However, the nature and detail of that narrative is completely open to interpretation. Each of the album’s 34 tracks clocks in at under 2:00 and works as a personalized, snapshot in time profile of a character in the story
3 characters, Jill, Joan and Jack. 2 women and a man. Each theme expresses their feelings and behaviours. Now that you have the people, up to you to find out what their relationships are. Listen to the album and write your own story.Marc-Emmanuel Ackermann (The Merricks)
So that was my task, to write my own story. I began of course by listening. With titles like “Jack Three” and “Jill Nine,” identifying the individuals was easy. I definitely found some recurring themes. Jack’s music is funkier and more upbeat than that of the ladies. He is also the only character whose storyline includes guitar. There is a lot of motion in his music. I began to envision a happy, maybe somewhat dim man strolling and stumbling obliviously down the street. As the record progresses his theme gets a bit more complex, but never strays far from this groovy premise.
Jill’s music is more industrial. She is all business. Electronic and analog machine sounds and vocal samples give an impression of toiling work and a tough persona to match. I began to envision Jill as the Yin to Jack’s Yang. As he strolls around, looking for and finding fun, Jill (probably his wife) is home, keeping it together. Neither appreciates, (and probably resents) the other.
Joan became the de facto “other woman.” Her music is gritty and sexy. Like Jill’s story, Joan’s is told with percussive electronic music and frequent use of non-verbal vocal samples. However, the voices in Joan’s theme are guttural and passionate as opposed to Jill’s groans of hard work and struggle. At first I wasn’t sure with which of the other two characters Joan may be philandering. But considering Jack was having a lot more fun than Jill, I surmised that he was the cheat and his wife was the cheated upon.
Jill’s final piece ends in uncharacteristic calm. For her sake, I hope that does not mean she somehow met her end. For his part, Jack takes a brief dramatic turn once Jill is gone but then quickly returns to the funk after a final visit with Joan. Even then though, there is a dissonance in his dance which may suggest regret. Or maybe guilt?
Is that the actual story? I have no idea. I suppose it is for me. Once it is complete, art no longer belongs to the artist. It exists solely for the consumption and enjoyment of the audience. So, consume and enjoy “Confusion.” And as the artist said, “write your own story.”