After walking away from huge hype and a major label deal in 1999, disappearing completely, UK's Merz (Conrad Lambert to his mum) returned in 2005 with his 2nd album, the critically lauded, Loveheart (released by UK indie Gronland Records). His third album, Moi et Mon Camion (released by Gronland in March 2008), produced the same kind of acclaim from all corners with its mixture of beautiful balladeering, heartfelt tunes, intricate production and a display of Merz's multi-instrumental talents.
Since Loveheart was released, Merz has been touring Europe with The Earlies, playing all over the world at festivals as diverse as Green Man, Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland and SXSW. More acclaim followed in the US, where the track ?Dangerous Heady Love Scheme' was iTunes Single of the Week, and ?Postcard From A Darkstar' was also Single of the Week with influential LA radio station KCRW.
The recording of the album also happened on the move, in numerous different locations. From Peter Gabriel's Real World studios just outside Bath, to the Rockfield Studios in Wales, the Yorkshire Moors and even outside in the woods. ?On one of the verses of ?No Bells Left To Chime' I recorded on a small machine while walking in the woods near Bath. This was inspired in part by roaming TV presenters on shows about the Coast or History of Britain. We chose to record in unusual locations to try and evoke more of the spirit of each particular song?.
Conrad was joined by a few notable musicians for this record. Charlie Jones, some time bass player with Robert Plant & Jimmy Page and Goldfrapp helped out, as did Clive Deamer, drummer for Portishead and Roni Size. The Earlies also join Conrad for a guest spot, singing backing vocals on ?Call Me', dropping in on their way back from playing at Glastonbury Festival.
Also guesting on the album is Orbital's Paul Hartnoll, who helped out with songwriting duties on ?Malcolm' and the multi-layered wonder that is ?Shun'. ?I was trying to re-dress the balance of acoustic sounds to electronic sounds on the record and I had the idea to ask Paul if he would like collaborate on a few songs, which he did. I knew what I did with him would fit on a Merz record because there are already threads in what I do that lead back to Orbital.?
Conrad admits with the drafting in of Paul Hartnoll, he wanted Moi et Mon Camion to be a very English album. ?I think it's English in all sorts of ways; the lyrics, the sounds, the spirit. One of the things I always enjoyed about Orbital was how much their music evoked Englishness.? And so it is with ?Malcolm', a hymn to West Yorkshire, telling the story of an eccentric philosopher whose thoughts drift in and out of reality. They even hired champion flugal horn player John Doyle, who plays for The Black Dyke Mills Band, the pre-eminent brass band in the country (he claims he was head hunted by The Grimethorpe Collery Band, the band that appeared in the film Brassed Off) you don't get much more English than that!
Where Loveheart was a more solitary and lonely affair, Moi et Mon Camion puts its arms around Loveheart and says everything's alright. That's the spirit of the record; it contains themes of displacement with detached resignation, humanity and commonality.
?A likely candidate for album of the year. It's that special.? 5/5 Sunday Times Pop CD Of The Week
"Conrad Lambert displays the kind of talent that pop award judges shouldn't be allowed to ignore" 5/5 Independent Album of the Week
"Lambert is a singular talent... an album of subtle enchantments" The Observer
"Lovely" 4/5, Independent Information
"Moi et Mon Camion is Sunday morning comfort music with an imaginative edge"
Observer Music Monthly
?Had Thom Yorke penned anything as moving as ?Silver Moon Ladders' or ?Presume Too Much' for his solo effort, the applause would still be ringing? 4/5 Uncut
?Intricate, melodious songs that blend electronica and folk? understated, heartfelt stuff? 4/5 Q
?As English as wet grass, this wholesome record hums with the promise of the coming Spring? Word Magazine
?His lacing of guitars and electronica serve up a range that sees him bounce from quasi-Elizabethan balladeer to junk rocker? It is the beautiful ?First And Last Waltz' that hints Lambert's forthcoming album will be something to savour? 4/5 The Guardian
?Ten striking, thoughtful songs? 4/5 The Times
?A delicate, sweetly sung tour de force? 4/5 The Sun
?Unsettlingly good? 7/10 NME
?Moi et Mon Camion is a mellow melodic marvel? Clash
?Fans of Coldplay (themselves Merz enthusiasts)? would do well to pay attention now, although it's Merz's instrumentation ? mandolin, accordion, ukelele and Wurlitzer piano alongside synths, guitars and drum machine ? that marks out his vital difference. Don't let him slip away again? Time Out