Merzbow – 1930 (Tzadik) 1998


In my post on Merzbear I posted on my trepidation about approaching Merzbow’s vast back catalogue. With well over 200 releases I mean, fuck, where do you start? After that post I managed to come across a copy of Merzzow secondhand at my local rip-off alt-record store. That purchase I think is pretty indicative of the sheer size of his back catalogue. All Music Guide don’t even list it and that site is usually not a bad start in doing some background research on some of these artists. Using AMG as my oracle I decided that next purchase would be 1930.

So here it is and I’ve come to the conclusion that posting on records such as 1930 is completely pointless. Half the reviews I read speak to the physical reaction that the reviewer had to the music. Ears bleeding etc etc. Now I just think that that kind of description is essentially lazy (yes I know I’ve used exactly the same words in this very blog in the past). The necessity of most reviews to link Merzbow’s music to physical pain or physical reaction is merely a way for many of us to emphasise just how extreme, and at times unpleasant, noise as a genre can be. If it is causing physical pain then can I suggest that you turn it down a bit? Look, any music can cause physical pain if it’s turned up too loud. I had a very nasty experience with a Shins record a couple of days ago. The live experience of Merzbow may be very different to his records, the extreme volume causing those physical sensations that the majority of reviewers seem to suggest. The other reason for the emphasis on physical reactions is because writing about a noise record, and in particular a Merzbow record, is really hard. I admit I fucking struggle. It’s really easy to pump out a couple of hundred words if you focus on melodrama. Is Merzbow all pulses, unrelenting beats, noise loops, frequency/tonal blasts and layered distortion? Yep. The thing is, noise records are very personal things. They’re not the kind of thing you unleash at a party or play in the car with your family. Interactions with noise records are solitary moments. The shear hugeness of what’s coming out of the speakers or headphones actually alienates the listener from the world. And this is why posting on record like 1930 is pointless. My interaction with this record is going to be very different to yours.

But this is a blog about records so here goes. The thing about 1930 is that it is a record that that constantly suprises and astonishes. I think there is a sense of humour at work here. A playfulness that seems a contradiction to the extremity of the noise being produced. Take the title track for instance. It starts off as a vaguely industrial track before being eaten alive by layers of frequencies and distortion. Somehow it does not descend into the obliterating, apocalyptic noise that you would normally expect. The noise turns in on itself, stops, pauses, runs, giggles, throws it’s hands in the air before slapping you in the face (drat! Lazy lazy lazy). The joy of this album is the sheer randomness of it, a suprise after every high pitched frequency pulse and distorted noise blast. It’s like a game of acute hide-and-go-seek.

If I was to suggest just one record to someone who seeks to dabble in noise as a genre as opposed to say drone or dark ambient then I’d happily put them on to this. For me, though, part of the fun of wrestling with this record is the expectation of where to head next in this astonishing artists back catalogue.

4 Responses to “Merzbow – 1930 (Tzadik) 1998”

  1. Excellent review. I’m a huge Merzbow fan, and especially of this one LP.
    And I’ve gotta hand it to you for being one of the few people who steer away from their physical experience with the noise genre and delving into a more metaphysical, psychological journey that noise listeners experience.

  2. his cycles album is a blockbuster!

  3. The Japanese often listen to noise at low volumes–so as not to offend neighbors but also to allow the surrounding sounds to contribute.

    Once the listener comes to the understanding that Masami Akita, Lasse Marhaug, Francisco Lopez and their colleagues are working with sound, as architects, rather than as composers writing out scores on a palimpsest, they will overcome the barriers of simple prejudice. 1930 is among the best works of Merzbow.

  4. Rascaduanok Says:

    I remember the first time I heard 1930 (I’d bought it) was late at night in a small room, the sound bouncing off the walls. The opening track, innocently entitled ‘Intro’, had me gibbering at the godliness of Merzbow. The rest of the album caused it to become my favourite, surpassing even Space Metalizer.

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