Review by Bobby Green

“Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”

When spoken word is used in music the results can be varied. I won’t list the mistakes because at the end of the day it’s all a matter of taste. But when it works the results can sometimes be outstanding and uplifting. I remember first hearing Alabama 3’s Mau Tse Tung said with its Jim Jones spoken word rhetoric. I’d heard spoken word in music before but when put across in such a way my mind was blown.

“The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.”

The trick really isn’t to just find the right sample but to bring that sample to life, give it a depth beyond the original or at the very least try to put across the emotions the original sample first stirred within you.
“To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..”
So when I hear spoken word in music I’m always delighted when it works, and with Spotless (The Protecting Veil) using Charlie Chaplin’s speech from The Great Dictator I was blown away by its power and added ferocity. I’ve heard it a few times before with ambient soundscapes and they are equally as meaningful but I loved the power The Grey Merchant give this superb and still relevant speech.

“Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!”

The Grey Merchant is the collaborative recording project of Cork based Indie trio Neon Atlas’ bassist Enda O’Flaherty and a collection of friends and fellow musicians. Drawing comparisons with classic noise and stoner rock, influences like Kyuss and Fu Manchu can be heard.

“In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”

Recorded with friends in kitchens and abandoned buildings, mixing at Cork’s Whitewell Studios, and Studio Silo, Stöðvarfjörð, the result is some noisy mood-rock that combines guitars, bass, and drums with a vein of political irritation; the old-fashioned way.

“Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!”

The world is pretty fucked up. And with the release date of Spotless (The Protecting Veil) being November 8th the same day as America decides their fate between an alleged war mongering terror funding tyrant or an alleged misogynistic egotistical narcissistic sex pest these words are so sadly still ringing true today.

“Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

Spotless (The Protecting Veil) is a wonderfully powerful tune and if this is the taste of things to come then The Grey Merchant will be worth looking out for in 2017

Spotless (The Protecting Veil) will be released November 8th