Archive for the Merzbow Category

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?

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