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Merope – Salos Review

Lithuanian folk tales given a worldly folk reimagining.

Sounds like…

A crossover of European choirs and Eastern folk music.

The review

I love it when worlds collide and Merope have done just that. The Belgian trio create an alluring mystical folk experience by merging together three different worlds – each with their own instrument. As a result, there is nothing else quite like it out there. There is also little else as peaceful to listen to in this world released in 2021 either. Put simply, Merope creates lush audio heaven.

Merope

So the three worlds then – what are they? The first revolves around the Bansuri. This is an Indian flute, often of bamboo, that has a soothing and enchanting texture to its soft sounds. This, along with guest vocalists, gives Merope an Eastern edge. The second world revolves around an instrument called a Kanklės. This is a Lithuanian plucked psaltery (lap harp) and has lush glissandos and rich full-bodied strings. Throughout the album, it is played in a variety of ways but it feels ancient, harmonic and very mystical. The first element is a good old Lithuanian choir. As each of the songs on the album is an old Lithuanian folk song, they bring a regal and gentile element of humanity to the music.

What impressed me most is how each of these worlds is woven together in single tracks. Opener ‘Ei Dvipa’ starts off like a gentle Euro-folk track before turning East and then emerging as a layered choir echo chamber. All of this happens through nifty synth transitions that are barely noticeable. The keyboards give gentle new age drones that mask the shifts so you don’t notice the transitions. It is expertly crafted and often lets subtle organ sounds take over for unusual solos. ‘Oi toli’ does this perfectly like a Bjork track circa ‘Vespertine’ via ‘Biophilia’. Indeed, the album fits in between those two Bjork albums nicely.

Whether its the rustic wooden knocks of ‘Vilnia’, the celestial voices of ‘Sakale’ or the subtle drones of ‘Leliumoj’ – Merope nails the mood perfectly. This is a calm majesty that runs from start to end that relaxes the listener at all times. Yet not once does any track sit still, rest or fail to enchant you. This is absolutely one of the hidden gems of 2021 in my purchases. Give it a whirl – you’ll love it.

Recommended track: El Dvipa

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Merope - Salos

9.5

9.5/10

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