Merzbow – Somei (Low Impedance) 2009


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This was the first album Merzbow released in 2009, arriving from a small Greek label, Low Impedance. I suspect that had I heard this at the  time it was released and before I started receiving the 13 Japanese Birds records, my thoughts on this work may have been very different. But it was not until May of this year that I shelled out the cash for Somei  and by that stage Merzbow drumming in a free jazz style (and other styles for that matter) was no longer the novelty that it might have been when this first came out. In fact Somei is really a precursor to the whole 13 Japanese Birds thing in that it heavily features Akita doing the whole drumming thing but here it is much more restrained  than what you get on many of the 13 Birds records but had the title and art work had been any different you’d probably have thought that it is one of the recent series. To be fair, out of all of the recent Merzbow records I’ve heard barring a couple of the 13 Japanese Birds ones which have been excellent (Pt 2 for instance) my favourite (recent) Merzbow record has to be Tombo and I wonder whether this is because deep down I actually prefer his pure noise records rather than those which have some recognisable forms. I was reading a review of Oersted which appears on Amazon of all places, and the reviewer has an idea which I think has some merit: he differentiated the Merzbow records based on the harshness of the noise. So for instance he gave Pulse Demon an extreme rating, 1930 a very harsh rating, Merzbuta was given a low to moderate rating etc. As a general idea I think it is pretty good, but it become tricky when you have to start examining his latest work. There has to be more to differentiating Merzbow’s work than simply the harshness factor, and how do you in fact define harshness because my idea of harsh and your idea of harsh might be quite different. To truly make sense of  Merzbow’s work and to write a meaningful review I think a Merzbow record has to be considered on a criteria of  volume, the density of the layers, recognisable forms, repetition and rate of change  and whether when you chuck them all of them into the mix, the record actually works. And I think that might be some if the problem with his more recent works (particularly last years). The concepts by themselves are pretty good but what actually makes a Merzbow record interesting is two fold. Firstly are we hearing something new, for instance does  Merzbow’s take on an already recognisable form astonish and delight? Secondly if there are no recognisable forms,  is the way it is constructed and controlled great – does it allow me to reach some form of “noise nirvana” (I pinched that off Paul Hegarty). Basically is the record convincing as the work of someone who is at the top of his game or was it simply put together after breakfast and sent  to the latest small label to release.  Good Merzbow astonishes and delights. Is Somei good Merzbow? No not really. Is it a good noise record? As Sarah Palin would say – You betcha!

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