Merzbow – Merzbient (Solielmoon) 2010

Before I get too my own thoughts on Merzbient  – this is how Solielmoon explain where this comes from.

Merzbient” is a twelve CD collection of Merzbow’s previously unreleased ambient recordings. The music was recorded in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, at a time when Masamik Akita (Merzbow) was becoming famous for his live performances, which featured some of the harshest sounds ever heard. The records he released mirrored these peformances, and helped establish his reputation as the prime mover in the Japanese noise scene. The electronics he used for his recordings were the same ones he used for live shows. Out of necessity he toured with gear that was small, simple and portable. But all the while he was secretly recording quieter, more atmospheric music, and using a wide variety of acoustic instruments including an impractical monstrosity he describes as a “big handmade junk instrument made from a metal box with piano wires”, which he played with a violin bow. He made hours and hours of recordings, but kept them private and never released them, until they were eventually set aside and forgotten. He recently rediscovered the multi-track mastertapes in a box and remastered them for release on CD.

As  you trawl the interwebs you might notice that there is a defined sense of elitism when it comes to Merzbow. Have a look at some of the stuff on Lastfm for instance. There are the people who question Merzbow’s relevance, the “I don’t listen to anything after 2000/1998/1994 (take your pick) crowds, the analogue purists, the anything softer than Verenology is crap mob, the Masonna are better club. The absolutism of many of these views is something that surprises me. I’ve said it before but if you are undertaking a journey in to the world of noise, or Merzbow specifically, then that journey is going to be a very private one. You are going to hear things in the sound that no one else will. Your relationship with it will always be unique to everyone elses. So when I review Merzbow the only things that are going to be relevant to anyone else is a general overview of the sound. In the past I’ve relied on a definition of harshness, the presence or absence of recognisable forms and whether it has a beat, the style (big-beat, industrial, pure noise). Four years ago I wrote about my experience with Merzbear, a decidedly easy hopping on point for anyone new to Merzbow or noise, then onto Merzzow, Amlux, Tauromachine and the one that really blew me away 1930. Last year I was inspired by a reader in New York to explore the really harsh stuff of the mid-1990’s and realised I didn’t need to hang on to those recognisable forms anymore.

The sound on Merzbient covers a period from from 1988 to 1990 and in a noise sense covers a huge amount of ground. Before we got too much further, the first thing I wrestled with when hearing this was my definition of ambient. I’ve always defined it in the context of Eno’s Music for Airports. If you do the same then Merzbient is sure as shit not ambient. This is Merzbow after all, the King of Noise and Merzbient is a decidedly noisy affair. Even when the tracks are flooded with light such as the music on Disc 1 there is a distinct ominous vibe. As I trawl through each of the discs I’ve been struck with how some of Merzbient  sounds like that creeping dread that you might hear on quieter Wolf Eyes tracks. In fact, there is a real sense on some of these discs of the rust-belt decay of the Michigan noise scene. I could pick out bits and pieces of the tracks and tell you that this bit sounds a little like this record or that. I could tell you on Disc 2 that the use of sample animal recordings made me think of Nurse With Wound before some decidedly No-Neck Blues Band style acoustic guitar and drum vibe shattered that illusion – but to pick out all the bits that worked for me over these 12 discs would require me starting a separate blog that I would suspect would defeat the purpose of why I started this blog in the first place by referencing the obscure with even more obscure comparisons.

I encourage anyone with a Merzbow interest to buy this. I know that many of you have got it already and I’d love to hear your thoughts about  it in the comments (or send me an email I think that in the scheme of noise, Merzbient is, dare I say it, extremely important. When the next scholar writes on noise I think that Merzbient will be considered one of it’s seminal works.


2 Responses to “Merzbow – Merzbient (Solielmoon) 2010”

  1. I’m really impressed by how this post reflects my will to look for an ambient-oriented noise release at this exact moment. Now “Merzbient” is on my wish list, along with Nurse With Wound’s “Soliloquy for Lilith”.

    Thank you, Dave. 🙂

    – Giuseppe

  2. Excellent writing! I’m not that much of Merzbow fan myself, but this sounds very intriguing.

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