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.

 

Consumer Electronics/Merzbow – Horn Of The Goat (Freek) 1995

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise, Whitehouse on August 30, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Now here is a Merzbow collaboration I was keen to hear. To be fair I had never really looked at the cover in any detail so the whole lady/goat kissing thing passed me by but this is Consumer Electronics, home of Pete Best from Whitehouse, Matthew Bower from Skullflower, Hototogisu and Sunroof! and Gary Mundy from Ramleh. In fact the aristocracy of British transgressive power electronics are all lined up here. So when you combine that line up with Merzbow at the height of his powers what would you expect to hear? The hardest, most brutal thing ever transferred to disc perhaps? Not quite. This is not a Whitehouse-style bludgeoning of the  senses but a remarkably varied noise record that Merzbow dominates. Is it still harsh in places? It is, but it also surprises with its experimentation.

This is a record that benefits from high volume. It is only then that the nuances of the noise can be plucked out. The first two track are great examples of Merzbow style industrial noise. There are some of those space age phazer sounds that appear on Space Metalizer. There is also a four second section which has Merzbeat style business going on. The third track is where all preconceptions  are buried. Think trumpets, drums, a lopping ambient oscillation with  the constant threat of an ever present industrial noise enveloping the whole thing. Track 4 sees the return of Merzbow harsh noise punctuated with a Nurse with Wound style looping female yelp. The real treat is the final 18 minutes bookend with its bastardisation of (I think) a Handel minuet which begins as the most twee track of any noise record you’d be likely to hear. Its saccharine start melts into a what essentially amount to a great noise track.

Horn of the Goat may be a different record than I was expecting but I quite like it. Not too harsh and a fair bit to discover between the layers and the blips.  It is a record that comes up cheaply on Amazon from time to time. Not bad.

Merzbow – Scene (Waystyx) 2005

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on August 6, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Sorry for my absence. In the past few weeks I’ve been coming to terms with a veritable avalanche of CD’s that have hit Chez Ducks Battle Satan. Much of this avalanche has been the result of Brisbane’s last remaining indie record store closing down and then somehow staying open. They had a 50% of everything sale and a wonderful $2 table which I pillaged (Francisco Lopez for $2.00, Rice Corpse for $5.00; happy days for me – sad days for them). The second  reason is due to my renewed interest in Merzbow. I’ve joined a Merzbow message board or whatever the name is and through a fellow member have managed to plug some of the holes I though existed in my collection. So between the helpful fellow traveller and discogs and even amazon, Noizhead, Spiral Honey, Horn of the Goat, Merzdub, Noisembryo, Partikel, Mercurated, Akasha Gulva, Merzbow vs Tamarin, Tamago, Artificial Invagination, 24 Hours – A Day of Seals and Scene have all made their way to me. Many of the records span the essential 1995 – 1999 period but some of them populate his later  work.  So although most of those records may be better know to the average Merzbow tragic, it is actually this four track beauty from 2005 which has sparked my imagination.

Some of the best Merzbow seems to either appear on obscure eastern european labels or via some random collaboration. I’ve known of Scene’s existence since I started my Merzbow fixation in 2007 yet had never bothered to pick it up. It is extraordinary and has moved itself in to my favourite Merzbow records. If it came out on a better known label it would be treated with the same reverence as 1930 or Pulse Demon or Day of Seals. Things start of with a 90 second interpretation of carnival music before the real business begins. Part 2 is 35 minutes of sinister throb and clatter which is as threatening as anything he has ever done although it would only rate a 3 on the harshness scale. It is not until 10 minutes in that the squealing guitar-like textures make an appearance but even then they are restrained and make way again for the beat and throb. The relative calm of Part 2 gives way to a more blistering track which at times reminded me of the processed hail and storms of Daniel Menche’s Feral (a record which I am starting to think might be the best of the year so far). Yet as it continues it reveals itself to be a rare example of Merzbow exploring the micro rather than his usual layers of noise approach. If you were trying to fool a Merzbow tragic you couldn’t go far past this one. Track 4 is a far noisier affair. It’s all industrial clatter combined with a more dance orientated throb – a bit like an epilogue to Part 2.

This cost me all of 3 euros. That is insane. Discogs have a bunch of them on sale and you could make far worse decisions with your cash than nabbing this one.

 

Merzbow – Yaho-Niwa (Nuun) 2011

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on July 3, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

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.

Merzbow – Kamadhenu (Hypnagogia) 2011

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise on June 11, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Alrighty then. This is the  first Merzbow I’ve dabbled  with since Merzbient and I suppose it is his first proper album since Marmo. Merzbow’s recent output has been sketchy to say the least. I think Ouroborous was great and I still stand by the second volume of the Japanese Birds series as another example when he gets it right. Marmo was meh and I didn’t bother with the collaboration with Z’ev. If I was to be truly honest the two albums that were amazing in the last three years are Another Merbow Records and Merzbient but considering they are both compilations or old material they probably don’t count.

When I first played Kamadhenu I was disappointed. Actually I was a little pissed. It struck me as mediocre and a little samey. Now eight listens later and the damn thing has grown on me. There is something wonderfully hypnotic about the surging, down tempo scree and throb of this record especially on the first track. Weaving in an out of the layers is a high pitched squeal which at times has an almost middle eastern flavour to it. It is a sound that returns to all three tracks  and sounds almost like a call to prayer. At other times it sounded like a snake charmer coaxing a dance out of a reluctant reptile. The first track  is a slow and unambiguously deliberate. Shards of industrial clatter are sparingly used and if I was to go out on a limb, I would say that this might be more ambient than much of what I heard on Merzbient.

The second track I suspect  has hidden sounds of tabla and Merzbow also adds some of his celestial space vibe. It’s a much noisier track than the first and towards the end sounds like a tape being run backwards at speed. By the time the third track starts Merzbow has managed to coax a sub-bass effect that fucked around with the pressure in my ears. It is much more recognisably Merzbow if you know what I mean.

This is not a record for a casual listener. It is a record that the more I listened the more compelling it became. I might be the only nerd that has spent eight hours of my life trying to process it but I think it was worthwhile.  People are going to hate this but If you commit yourself to it then it might be one of the more enjoyable noise experiences you’ll have this year.

Government Alpha – Quaint Putrid Slag (Xerxes) 2008

Posted in Government Alpha, Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on May 22, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Government Alpha is the name of the harsh noise Project of Yasutoshi Yoshida. In the past couple of months I’ve been trying to explore other Japanese noise artists besides Merzbow. The problem with this is that I keep wanting to reference Merzbow when I think about what I’m going to say about those records. On the face of it Government Alpha create a noise very much like Merzbow but I have listened to Quaint Putrid Slag  a bunch of times and I hadn’t been able to put my finger on why this is different to Merzbow until today.

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of William Burroughs “cut-up” technique. He spent a good deal of his career literally cutting up his written text and then rearranging it and fixing up the punctuation. I think the theory was that great art often comes about through accident and randomness. What it often did was made everything he subjected to the technique not make any sense but hey, what the fuck would I know. With Quaint Putrid Slag what it sounds like is Yoshida getting the basic building blocks of a Merzbow harsh, noise  record, deconstructing the layers and then having a chop at cutting it up and assembling it again. What it means for you as a listener is a slightly left field take on Merzbow-style noise. Still as brutal and harsh as hell but I think he adds something new to the genre. It is one of those records that gets better the more I listened. One of those great noise records that you can explore and always hear new things.  I’m going to track down a few more Government Alpha records and see where they take me – should be an interesting ride.

Merzbow – Space Metalizer (Alien 8) 1997

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise on May 7, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

If you frequent Merzbow and noise forums on even a casual basis you will most likely find Space Metalizer in a lot or people’s Top 5 Merzbow records. A reader from Brooklyn got me onto this and it has fast become a favourite of mine. The difficulty I have is where to place it in the contest of Merzbow’s discography. I know that Merzbow has said that his titles have no relation to the actual noise he releases but there is something psychedelic, metallic and vaguely futurist about the squall and scree he unleashes on us with this one. If I compare it  to the albums that he released around the same period such as Oersted, Pulse Demon and Venerology I think it is fair to say that Space Metalizer is a little friendlier on the ears. I’m not sure whether it is because it feels less dense or whether I have a greater comfort level because there are smatterings of things that some of us might recognise as instruments (I won’t go as far as to say music). It’s hard to say really. What is important is to tell you that many of the tracks display the same brutality but  for whatever reason it is a lot more listenable than some of the other records he produced around the same time. In between the brutal assaults there are some quite gothic bubble-pulse moments like the first couple of minutes of Son of Zechen but like all good Merzbow he obliterates that light with layers of what sounds like a very loud faulty phaser. If you are going to delve into Merzbow’s back catalogue then you probably need to add this one. Like everything else he has released on Alien 8, Space Metalizer is very good Merzbow indeed.

Merzbow – Vibractance (E(r)ostrate) 1998

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise on April 22, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Here is another review from Adam. I agree with him. An extraordinary album. Cheers Adam.

Vibractance is the most unusual Merzbow album from 1990 onwards that I know. Needless to say, there’s heaps of albums from that period (too) that I haven’t heard, so there may be more albums that are as different from the big majority of his output as this one.

This was actually one of the very first Merzbows I got, back in early 2000 I think. Back then I had only heard maybe 5 of his CDs. I remember I sent cash to the label that released it [E(r)ostrate, a small French label that’s now defunct I believe], well hidden in an envelope – this was a time way before Paypal and I remember ordering quite a few CDs like this (not having a credit card of my own). Not that I miss this payment method (once or twice my money got lost in the post), but looking back it had its special atmosphere, especially as it was part of my discovering noise – mainly Merzbow, I admit. But enough rambling: you might ask, how is this album different? Well, it’s a lot less noisy and a lot more subtle. There’s more of a composed feel to it and there are a lot of differences in volume and the kinds of sounds. I know Merzbow has some laptop albums that are more varied than his ‘90s work (especially his mid ‘90s stuff), but this one is different from them, not the least because it’s analogue.

It starts with a droning sound (which returns a couple times in the piece) and I suggest you listen to this album either on headphones or really loud on speakers or else you won’t hear the subtle sound events happening in the background here and there. In a couple minutes things get noisier and from then on it’s a ride through sounds varying in volume, harshness, dimension and atmosphere. There’s a strong electroacoustic feel to the album: if you know classic electroacoustic music created in state-funded electronic music labs (often within universities) in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you’ll recognize its influence on Vibractance. Somewhere I have read someone saying electroacoustic music is “cinema for the ears” (I think it was Keith Rowe of AMM) and, in a way, this applies to this album as well. It’s got a peculiar atmosphere that I haven’t experienced with other Merzbow albums (yet). The defining quality isn’t harshness but an almost playful variety on a larger scale than what we are used to from Merzbow. Most likely it’s still unlistenable to those not into more radical experimental music, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.

If anyone can suggest other Merzbows that are this different from the rest, I’d love to hear from them. I heard the Decomposition double CD that came with a limited number of Merzboxes is similar – anyone heard that one?

Merzbow – Tentacle (Alchemy) 1999

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on March 8, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Has anyone else noticed how the absolute arse has fallen out of the CD market? Stuff that I thought I’d never get the chance to own has become infinitely affordable. I won’t brag about the $14.00 copy of Green Wheels I tracked down last week (yet) but Merzbow’s back catalogue, which had been shockingly expensive has now come within reach.

Last year a reader tipped me off to a guy on Discogs who was offloading his Merzbow collection pretty cheaply. I really wanted Sha Mo 3000 and Vibractance (Adam – do you want to review that one?) but I also picked up Tentacle for shits and giggles. Tentacle is one of Merzbow’s laptop recordings and in many ways it has a lot in common with the uncompromising harshness of the mid-1990’s output like Oersted and Pulse Demon. Some  of the tracks are pretty short by Merzbow standards and for what is essentially a harsh noise record, pretty varied.

The two tracks that worked best for me are Stormy Tuesday and Stormy Monday. Stormy Tuesday is a style of noise that I can hear reflected in the work of Russell Haswell and is a track that reveals the level of control required to make great noise. The second Stormy track is the pick of the record. What starts out like the Kakadu field recordings of KK Null’s Fertile morphs into  pop Merzbow, speed metal Merzbow and all points in-between. It’s like the entirety of 1930 and Space Metalizer crammed into 26 minutes. If you find this in your travels pick it up. Another great Merzbow record. About a 7.5 on the harshness scale I reckon.

Masonna – Inner Mind Mystique (Release) 1996

Posted in Masonna, Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , , on January 29, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Masonna is the name used by Japanese noise artist Yamakazi Maso – he seems to have been a bit dormant this decade but readers tell me that his releases from the mid-1990’s are some of the best noise you’ll hear. I’ve stayed away from Masonna until now because I assumed he was a fair bit like Merzbow. I was wrong.

I read an interview with Whitehouse’s William Bennet in which he was saying that in the early days of his labels such as Come Organisation, the majority of their product was sent to Japan where there was a huge market for it. Late last year I decided to increase my exposure to Japanese noise and weirdness past Merzbow and Boredoms and onto Government Alpha, Incapacitants, Masonna, Solar Anus and Guilty Connector. My earlier exposure to Japanese noise was limited to Merzbow and there isn’t great deal of relevance to the transgressive power electronics of Whitehouse and Ramleh etc In Mr Akita’s work. On Inner Mind Mystique the  seven tracks drip with the fetid ugliness of Mr Bennet and Mr Best. I am partial to a bit of Whitehouse. The lyrics (when I can understand them ) are usually disgusting   but the sound is one I really enjoy. Masonna works for me on the same level and the real joy is that I can’t understand a single thing he is yelping so I have guilt free power electronics pleasure for the first time in my life. This record is  my first experience with Masonna, I think  I need to hear more.

Merzbow – Sha Mo 3000 (Essence) 2003

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on January 26, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

The beauty about writing about music and noise in particular is that my readers let me know of records I need to hear. This 2003 offering from Merzbow is one of those ones that often comes up in conversation and when I have read the Merzbow forums it became apparent that Sha Mo 300 is considered with some affection by Merzbow fans. After listening to this repeatedly over the past week I can understand why.

Sha Mo 3000 is one of two records that Merzbow has released through the Brazilian Essence music label (the other being Camouflage) and to be honest you won’t find two more diverse offerings by the same artists. If Camouflage is a trip back to the harsh, uncompromising days of the mid- 1990’s then Sha Mo 3000 is a continuation of his wickedly playful side.  Sha Mo 3000 is one of those great, fun Merzbow records where harsh noise meets beats and rhythm, where guitar psychedelia meets doom laden distortion and  mutated field recording death-disco makes an appearance. To give you an idea of just how diverse this sounds on the fourth track, the 22 minute Dreaming K-Dog, a cuckoo sings, an alarm clock starts ringing, chicken noises are looped, guitars that sound like they have been recorded backwards play  and electrical menace overlays the whole thing – and that is the first two minutes.

Sha Mo 3000 is a thoroughly accessible noise record. It all sounds so completely effortless but it is one of those terrific Merzbow records that you can play again and again and hear new things. If you like you Merzbow in an ear bleeding kind of way then you’ll need to track down something like Pulse Demon – Sha Mo 3000 is not the record you’re looking for. It is a record that explores all sides of Merzbow’s sound interests – psychedelia, harsh noise, percussive beats, drumming, field recordings and animal noise.  It is one of the easiest hopping on points for anyone thinking of exploring the world of Merzbow. On a harshness scale this is  somewhere down near 2 out of 10. Don’t listen to the Merzbow tragics who dismiss everything he’s released after 2000. This is one of his best.

Merzbow – SCSI Duck (Fourth Dimension) 2003

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on January 8, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

When I first started listening to Merzbow I wondered whether there would be  a point where  I could differentiate between good Merzbow records and ones that were less than essential. I think I am probably beyond that point now and my ears are tuned in to an extent where a Merzbow either excites me, has some moments of greatness or is simply dull.  I wasn’t a fan of his drumming records and I think that sentiment goes for a lot of noise nerds out there.  The trick when writing about Merzbow is to try and figure out why a record like SCSI Duck is an exciting record even though many of the sound forms are instantly recognisable.  I gotta tell you I think I got nothing sensible. But for what it’s worth there is some great noise textures in this record, the rate of change in the scree, blast and hiss are all good, there is even some quasi-industrial goodness at times but to borrow from some outdated slang I think on this record Merzbow “got his shit tight”. This is a record you rarely see being written about and I think that is a shame. It’s not in my top five Merzbow records but it is definitely in my Top 15. It also proves that those Merzbow purists who reckon everything he did post 2000 is crap are wrong – very, very wrong. There seems to be a massive amount of these being sold at the moment cheap on ebay and discogs. I advise you to pick on up.

Daniel Menche – Terre Paroxysm (Utech) 2010

Posted in Daniel Menche, Drone, Merzbow, Music with tags , , , on January 8, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Terre means Earth inFrench and a Paroxysm is a violent outburst. The name makes a lot of sense when you hear this new set of processed field recordings.

I’ve spent a fair bit of the year listening to Menche. The percussive explorations of the past few years have given way to recordings such as the almighty Kataract that capture the violence of nature in extreme drone recordings. Terre Paroxysm is a follow on from that work and a very different beast to Ordardek. What Menche does on Terre Paroxysm is record storms and other violent weather events which happened at his home in Oregon. He then processes the sounds to create a drone laden set of field recordings which somehow create a creeping tension whilst the primary sounds are still recognisable. Never before have I heard water drips, sleet hitting windows and torrential downpours sound just so damn evil,. I love this sort of stuff and he was good enough to include the Blood of the Land mini Cd when I ordered this from him which is just as good. If you only buy one Menche record from 2010 you won’t go far wrong with this one.

Merzbow / Carlos Giffoni – Synth Destruction (Important) 2007

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise on December 16, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

This is a blast. Seriously, as a noise nerd looking for an hour of non-stop sonic bastardry this is worth while tracking down. Those of you looking for a reflection of Giffoni’s sonic- physical extreme minimalism can find nothing here. This is Merzbow’s show and Giffoni is maintaining pace whilst exploring sounds they I last heard on his Welcome Home album rather than the sublime sonic architecture of Arrogance. Synth Destruction is harsh noise heaven and another example of why Merzbow’s collaborations rank with some of his finest solo work.

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