Merzbow – Yaho-Niwa (Nuun) 2011


This is Merzbow’s first release on Nuun Records. Yaho-Niwa just happens to be the first release in their Climax series. I’m not sure what this means in the greater scheme of things or how Yaho-Niwa will fit in with the series as a whole, but it looks interesting and you should head over to their website to check it out.

As a stand alone Merzbow record I think Yaho-Niwa is excellent. Over the past couple of releases I’ve heard, he seems to have toned down the harshness factor without making any of those albums any easier to listen to. The identifiable noises and forms you may hear on the last few records might seem like a safe refuge in the sea of oscillations and noise, but those identifiable bits and pieces often sit within the tracks with little context to the rest of it. Yaho-Niwa like other records of the last few years such as Tombo or Kamadhenu are pretty difficult listens – they are not the type of Merzbow records that you just plunge yourself into and somehow get a buzz from the violence and ferocity of what is on offer. Nor do they offer something refreshingly tangible like his excursions through big beat, digital electronica, folk, jazz or grindcore.

These recent albums have had me  scratching my head but at the same time I’ve felt strangely compelled to come to terms with them – to classify them somewhere in my Merz -journery which is now over 100 discs long. My first impression of Yaho-Niwa is that there is a frightful melancholy on display here. Other Merzbow albums display anger, or a sense of humour or even an artistic intensity – Yaho-Nowa on the other hand is bleak. This bleakness is most acute on  the first and third tracks. The third track has that windswept tundra sound that may as well have come off Sunn O)))’s Black One. These are my two favourite tracks on the album which I think is a weird way of putting it when you consider that Yaho-Niwa was mixed after the horror of March’s tsunami. Is it any wonder that sadness has crept into his sound?

The second track seems to be the odd one out. This in itself not a particularly remarkable thing for a Merzbow record because more often that not there is no identifiable theme that links all of the tracks. The second track displays the effects are coming more and more common in his recent work. They are those 1950’s incidental science fiction bleeps and what not. I quite like them. What relationship this has to the  rather handsome poultry on the disc’s cover is anyone’s guess – unless of course they’re some sort of retro-alien chicken.

The fourth track feels quite emotional to me – I can’t help but feel sad because in the relentlessness of the noise and what sounds like metal rubbing and twisting together, all I can see is the video of  those huge waves roaring through that seaside town where massive buildings are just picked up and smashed into others.

Yaho-Niwa is a challenging listen but isn’t that the point of Merzbow in many ways? I reckon one of the tasks of noise is to make the listener define their own experience with the record. The intent and purpose of the artist is always up for interpretation but isn’t that so much better than being spoon fed? This one is worth tracking down, it just might take a little time to connect with.

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