Merk is the solo project of songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Perkins, which began when he recorded 2016’s Swordfish (winner of Best Debut at the Taite Music Prize). His debut album showcased a knack for melody, based around guitars strummed to catchy perfection. While Swordfish introduced many of the qualities that Merk continues to cultivate, it’s on Infinite Youth that he comes fully into his own. “In the past it felt like I was hiding, but now I’m trying to wear my heart on my sleeve a little more,” Perkins muses. He has an understated, commanding presence, a playful intensity, as well as an ability to simply let go. Lyrically, this album treads a line between earnest, vulnerable, and knowingly tongue in cheek: songs that began in irony mutated into sincerity, and vice versa.
This feeling, of a simplicity that opens up into a great depth, is refracted through every aspect of Infinite Youth: sonically, it was essential that this album leave behind the guitars that Perkins had strummed incessantly while touring the world as a member of Tom Lark and Fazerdaze, in favour of a palette that captures time and space in its intimacy and immensity. Merk credits producer and key collaborator Johan Carøe opening up Infinite Youth's space: “He was so good at seeing where I was hiding”. The album’s approach to balance and contour was inspired as much by the American minimalists and those who followed them (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arthur Russell), as it was by pop songs that transcend the basic, disregard the complex, and zero in on the simple: Infinite Youth seeks to find where ABBA, The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, the Japanese City Pop of the late 70s and 80s, and those American minimalists might meet.
Infinite Youth is an album that is on its most basic level homemade: iPhone voice memos abound, Perkins' aunt’s voice lingers in the background of one track, a crappy USB interface and borrowed gear make up so much of the work’s foundation. However, even on first glance, the expanse it takes in is clear as the listener moves below the album’s surface.
An album that will capture you on first listen and then reward your every repetition, Infinite Youth reintroduces Merk and invites you, warmly, into his orbit.
Release: April 9th, 2021, Humblebrag Records/AWAL
Words: Our Golden Friend