Archive for the Merzbow Category

Merzbow – Takahe Collage (Handmade Birds) 2013

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , on November 13, 2014 by noisenoisenoise

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Look, when you neglect a blog as much as I have in the past few years it can be easy to forget what I’ve posted on and what I haven’t. For some reason I was under the impression that my thoughts on Takahe Collage  had been published. Nup – found it sitting in draft form consisting of a number of mean references to Merzbow’s  13 Japanese Birds. Screw that review I thought – time to listen to this again with fresh ( although increasingly degraded) ears.

Merzbow has seemed to go a bit quiet in 2014.  He’s released a few bits and bobs but nothing like the pace he has set in the  past. I’m actually a bit sad about that fact because  Merzbow, ever since the end of the 13 Japanese  Birds Series, has been releasing some of the  records of his career. I’d go so far to say that you can’t really go wrong with any of them. I think most of  CD’s he released in the past four or so years are covered on this site except for the mighty Kibako that I also found in draft form (and which I’ll publish soon).

Takahe Collage is a great example of prime Merzbow. Three lengthy tracks (32, 29 and 12 minutes respectively are on offer. The first track is indeed a bit of a collage, degraded beats give the entire track a post-industrial feel. The second track is my favourite – it starts as one of those Merzbow pieces that create layers from scree, static and noise to form a brutal soup of sound in which no recognisable instruments or form can be detected. I actually forget how much I love it when he just lets loose.  The beats come back with a vengence for the final track. It starts off as a trance track for the damned and never really lets up. It’s great and one of the rare moments where I’ve started bobbing my head to a Merzbow track.

All in all a great Merzbow record and an extremely good noise record full stop. Noise nerds won’t be disappointed.

Merzbow – Merzphysics (Youth Inc) 2012

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise on June 11, 2012 by noisenoisenoise

The days of forking out a fortune for these sorts of releases may be coming to an end. This wonderful 10 CD boxset of previously unreleased tracks from 1994 cost me an absolute fucking fortune and I have kids for fuck’s sake. I shouldn’t be spending my children’s school fees on obnoxious noise.

The years 1994-1996 were an incredible time for Merzbow records. Think about records like Pulse Demon, Venerology, Mercurated, Oested, Noise Embryo, Green Wheels, Noizhead, Spiral Honey – all are amazing and among the best work Merzbow ever produced. The purchase of Merzphysics also coincided with me finally seeing Merzbow live. That must rate as one of the best shows I’ve witnesses. The wonderful Lawrence English from Room 40 took advantage of Merzbow being brought out by a festival in another state and organised a free show at the excellent Judith Wright Centre. For an hour Merzbow wore some noise making contraption as a guitar and rubbed it with various implements (my favourite was a plastic spaghetti ladle). It created a continual bombardment of fuzz and feedback , the noise pulsed, chugged, zoomed and threatened. Around the forty minute mark my friends ran for it. It was simply too much for them. I stayed but in those last fifteen minutes things got dark. The noise just became so amazingly oppressive. The floor of the theatre started to feel liquid. It stopped the hipsters who were trying to mosh and dance, dead in  their racks. It was the most extreme sound experience I have ever had. The whole vibe of the room changed, blackened. It just became  gobsmackingly evil. After that experience, listening to Merzphysics is an absolute doddle.

The ten discs that make up Merzphysics are similar in form to those albums that I listed above. These are the types of Merzbow records that I really like getting stuck into. The tracks eschew the recognisable forms of his later work and embrace the multilayered pure noise that pretty much defines the genre. The pleasure in records like Merzphysics is to get amongst the layers to tease out the sounds, to squeeze below the levels of aggression to find its beating heart. The tracks are probably a bit less harsh than those on Venerology and Pulse Demon but this is not a box set for the uninitiated. In many ways I prefer this to Merzbow’s last great boxset Merzbient. Although Merzphysics as a physical package isn’t particularly impressive compared to Merzbinet (and it is much more expensive), the tracks are more the sort of things that I look for in great Merzbow tracks. I just wish it was more affordable so people can hear it. If you can afford it, buy it. The only way of getting hold of it is to buy it off the Merzbow website.

Merzbow – Green Wheels (Self Abuse Records) 1995

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on February 28, 2012 by noisenoisenoise

Green Wheels is one of those Merzbow records that has  a special place for a Merzbow tragic like myself. The packaging is wonderfully mid-1990’s with the CD and a 5′ vinyl record being housed in a cheap plastic video case. It’s another one of Merzbow’s fetish objects and now ridiculously difficult to find. Every now and then they pop up on ebay and I think this is where I tracked this one down.

Like much of his mid-1990’s period Green Wheels is an uncompromising cascade of brutal noise. Somewhere between Oested and Pulse Demon. It’s extremely good and if you ever see a copy I recommend you consider nabbing it.

When I first started ducksbattlesatan (or noisenoisenoise as it then was) my focus was to try to write sensibly about my interactions with more experimental music and describe the sounds from an outsider’s perspective. As I started to listen to more difficult and noisier records I became interested in coming to terms with other people’s reflections and writings on noise but those excursions have all been disappointing. Listening to a record like Green Wheels after a decent break from Merzbow had me reflecting on a quote from Alain De Botton who said that ugliness is the the material manifestation of a crooked soul. So if the quote is correct I’m scared to follow the reasoning to analyse noise as a genre. If noise is the most ugliest of sounds what does it say about the souls of those who enjoy it. Am I a deeply crooked or abhorrent soul?  I suppose it highlights in some way, that writing about noise as a musical genre and it development over the years always has some problems. Every essay or analysis I read on noise seems to miss a fundamental point. If noise itself is left over sound or valueless then where does the aspect of pleasure in noise come from. It can’t be simply an appreciation for the transgressive and it surely can’t be a reflection on my nature. I think it reveals that noise has value – that to say that it is left over sound misses the point.  Or maybe what gives noise value is the context. For instance a 30 minute recording of a jack hammer has no value but that same recording of a jack hammer when covered with layers of fuzz and other sound may be a highly meditative experience which I as a listener give value to. So intrinsically the sound may have no value but with context it’s worth is secured. And this is how records like Green Wheels have worth and how people like me  derive pleasure from them.

Merzbow – Lop Lop (Rustblade) 2011

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on January 21, 2012 by noisenoisenoise

A theme through a fair bit of the press last year was the death of noise. The American scene which had been dominated by the Wolf Eyes axis has morphed away from the transgressive metal scrape to more meditative forms. Well known noise players such as Nate Young, John Olsen, Jon Wiese, Gerritt, Daniel Menche,  C Spencer Yeh and Mike Connolly have grown their sound. Pete Swanson (ex-Yellow Swans) went techno for fuck’s sake. Are the latest records by Daniel Menche and Mike Connolly easy listens. Of course not. All of those artists are still making great records that challenge and confuse. I suppose what I’m wrestling with is that I don’t know what noise is anymore. If I look at what I actually bought last year, my listening was dominated by the experimental artists on Type like Black to Comm, Rene Hell, Mokira and Richard Skelton. Noise in a pure sense was limited to following Merzbow.

So I suppose in many ways Merzbow is one of the  last artists still doing proper noise records. There is still a European noise presence but it has been a bit quiet in recent times. The great thing about Merzbow is that 2011 was an absolutely cracking year and emphasised, at least to me, that noise, when done well, provides some moments of pure pleasure.

There are three versions of Lop Lop. A super limited three CD fancy edition, the two DC deluxe edition and the single CD version. I went for the two CD version which came with some postcards and a bird pendant in a DVD case. I’m not really interested in the packaging and the extra $40 for the third CD seemed difficult to justify.

Lop Lop is a fantastic Merzbow record and when you consider that this was the sixth solo release from 2011 the lean years which have come to be defined by the mediocre Thirteen Japanese Birds series have been truly forgotten. Lop Lop starts with a sense of urgency. Canaanda reveals  an almost perfect juxtaposition between inanimate electronic throb, analogue roars and what at times, what  sounds like the jettisoning of  a thousands saucepans down a long flight of stirs. He also manages to play with the stripping back of layers to rudely flood the tracks with light when least expected. Yet by the second track, My Voice At The Pace of Drifting Clouds, things take a decidedly more mellow approach (at least in a Merzbow sense), but is a fine example of one of Merzbow’s more kinetic pieces. The final track on the first disc, simply called EQ, begins as a thumping industrial track coated in fuzz and by the time the layers get added it has a meditative sway to it all before it all starts to consume itself.

The second disc also  has three tracks and it is just as strong as the first disc. This is where I get a bit annoyed at record companies. There is a reason why consumers get pissed. By limiting the availability of the second disc, the label is inviting downloading. The idea, I suppose, was to tempt fans with the pendant and the past card. Really? Why not just make it a double disc or split it into two separate records? Get the two disc version if you can the extra money is worth it. I think Lop Lop is the other essential solo Merzbow  release along with Dead Zone of 2011. Merzbow manages to show that noise is still relevant and can still excite.

Merzbow – Surabhi (Hypnagogia) 2011

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on November 27, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

2011 has been a very interesting year for Merzbow. None of his recent albums have been particularly easy listens but I think it is because of their difficulty that I have enjoyed them more. I think it is always  better to be difficult than boring.  Some of my favourite “difficult” Merzbow records have been when the unrelenting brutality of his noise squall becomes a transcendent meditative mind fuck. The key to reaching that transcendence is to be totally submissive to the noise Merzbow makes.  Without that submission those records become pointless.

Records like Surabhi are the exact opposite of unrelenting noise records such as Tombo or Camouflage. In order to achieve some relationship with it, the listener has to be actively engaged with the sound. This is not a record that welcomes a passive listening experience.

As the second instalment of his Merzcow trilogy, Surabhi has some  things in common with the first Merzcow record, Kamadhenu. The sub bass and sci fi electronic doodling all make an appearance on the first track Vanamali and Shravan. The track is an absolute cracker and as good as anything on Kamdhenu. The second track Balaram features Merzbow’s version of celestial space music. What starts of as one of the weaker Merzbow tracks of recent times thankfully becomes more interesting when bass throbs and a bit of guitar shredding makes an appearance but on balance it is a bit of a disappointment. The third track unfortunately extends that disappointment. All  of the elements are there for a great Merzbow track but it is only when the track is eight minutes in that he starts bringing things together and the sound resembles an electronic firework display.

The problem with Surabhi is two fold. The first is that after the excellent Kamdhenu and Dead Zone, it feels that in some ways he has returned to generic Merzbow. The second is that for all of the active listening that is required on a record like this, there is only marginal return to the listener. His weakest of 2011. For completists only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merzbow – Dead Zone (Quasi Pop) 2011

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on October 15, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

 

2011 has been a very good vintage for Merzbow. His last release that I picked up ,Yaho-Niwa, was a complex record that I ended up really connecting with although initially I found was a bit overwhelming. I had no such problems with Dead Zone. It has an immediacy that is both compelling and if I were to make a prediction, it is probably one of the finest records he’s released in the  past four years.

Dead Zone is dedicated to the anti-nuclear movement. It was mixed the day after the nuclear catastrophe in Japan.  The photo’s in the booklet are interior shots of the deserted cities surrounding Chernobyl. They are both chilling yet rather beautiful. The tracks themselves are taunt and wonderfully diverse. Many of his noise themes from the past year or so are present. Fax machine blips, tortured whale song, 1950’s sci fi effects are all here. What makes Dead Zone so special is the little everyday sounds he manages to sneak in that hint of the  isolation of the cover art. For instance at the beginning of the third track The Wandering lights, Merzbow uses a sound that reminds me of that  tone you hear in American movies when a telephone is disconnected. On the first track some haunting flute (yes flute) weaves in and out of the layers. It is in fact  a meticulously constructed record. For instance the first half our long track may be the most significant single Merzbow piece for years. A track which defines the joy and power of noise as a muscial form.

If you only buy on Merzbow record this year (and I know there are more coming) let it be this one. It is accessible without being obvious and harsh without being alienating. One of Merzbow’s finest moments and I think if he manages to keep achieving records this great I am gong to go broke.

Merzbow – Noisembryo (The Releasing Eskimo) 1994

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on September 1, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

I feel a bit nervous about writing on Noisembryo. I’m actually a little late to the  party. I finally found someone willing to sell mea copy for a reasonable price in the last two months and it is only now that I’ve been able to spend some time with it. Noisembryo is one of those key records for Merzbow nerds. David Keenan named it Merzbow’s most essential release, a view that I know is shared by many of you. So here are my thoughts.

Noisembryo much like most of his mid-1990’s output is difficult to define. It is certainly uncompromising and although in many ways they are very different records my interactions with Noisembryo is much like the one I have with 1930. The only way I can consume Noisembryo is to totally give myself over to it. Stick the headphones on, close my eyes and concentrate. It is only then that the real hidden depths of it are revealed and Merzbow’s playfulness becomes apparent. Initially I though Noisembryo was overwhelmingly intense, but Merzbow manages to sneak in some surprises. I also know that what I hear is not necessarily what you will hear. I find that idea completely awesome. In fact that is one of the joys of noise as a genre. For me it is not about the transgressiveness, the supposed eroticism nor its brutality but more in the fact that  a noise artist can never tell the listener what they are hearing and how to interact with it. As a  musical form it is completely anarchic in terms of its consumption and appreciation  The way that much of this noise is made is often a compete mystery and I couldn’t give two fucks whether this is analogue, digital or how many ES synths were used. I just don’t care. It is not important how the record was made but what I hear. And what I hear on Noisembryo I really like. It was well worth the hut and deserves its reputation.

 

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