Archive for Merzbow

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 – 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.

 

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 – 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.

Merzbow – Merzbient (Solielmoon) 2010

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on November 20, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

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 ducksbattlesatan@gmail.com). 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.

Merzbow – Yoshinotsune (Clu Clux Clam) 2004

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on November 9, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

This is one of my favourite Merzbow records – truly incredible. An absolute must for Merzbow fans.  A reader of this blog, Adam from Sydney, kindly agreed to write his thoughts on it. Cheers Adam.

This is one of the more unusual Merzbow albums. It’s unusual mainly because of the first track, clocking in at 25 and a half minutes. It starts out with some pretty mean deep-end rumbling, a la Zbigniew Karkowski (with whom Akita has made a couple collaborative albums as MAZK). Soon afterwards a distinctive drum rhythm kicks in and it will go on through the entire track.  However, this is not the sampled jazz or rock drumming (as heard on Aqua Necromancer, for example) or Akita’s own drumming like on the 13 Japanese Birds series; it’s rather “tribal”. I’m not sure if he’s used similar drumming on other albums (from what I’ve heard, Dust of Dreams might be somewhat similar). Anyway, the piece starts building up slowly, more sound events start happening but the freeform noise chaos so characteristic of most Merzbow never really sets in. Mind you, the track is still a beast: at one point a sound is added that is not too dissimilar to what you’d expect giant horns to sound like (I was reminded of the Yoshi Wada album “Earth Horns with Electronic Drone” on which a couple “homemade pipehorns”  are played, with even the shortest one being at least 5 meters long). Listening to it I was trying to figure out what the track could be likened to most and I came up with this: it sounds like an unstoppable factory with all its noises compressed into a rhythm that beats the shit out of you (with a certain amount of non-rhythmic noise matter present at the same time), and this factory happens to be marching to the harsh sounds of giant horns. I know this makes no sense so in case you’re still wondering, I’ll just say this: it’s intense. Very intense.  Now with Merzbow, that’s usually an understatement, but this time it’s intense in a different, much more controlled way. Then comes the second track (all track titles are in Japanese (although in Latin letters) so I won’t bother inserting them) which starts with Akita playing the acoustic guitar like a madman. This might or might not be looped but quickly becomes a texture upon which a grinding noise loop is laid. Basically the whole track is looped and quite hypnotic.  My favourite part comes around the 12th minute mark where for a short while everything stops, leaving  an awesome electronic loop – and it’s not even distorted.  This part returns a couple minutes later and the piece ends with the same acoustic part it started with. The third and final track begins with the kind of synthesized bird chirping/electronic sounds mixture that is also the starting theme of the last track on the Puroland album. Then it’s loop territory again: this time the loop has a bit of an industrial flavour. It continues basically throughout the whole song which is the shortest on the album, almost 12 minutes. It’s the track most typical of Merzbow on the album, although the loop means there’s a strict structure.

Yoshinotsune is very rhythmic (but not at all in a way the Merz-series on Important Records is) and much more structured than most Merzbow albums. There are much less high frequency abstract noise freakouts too (for me this sound has become the “trademark” Merzbow sound). It shows (especially the first track) a fairly different and very rewarding side of Merzbow. But – and this is probably crystal clear anyway – it will still test your speakers and the endurance of anyone nearby who’s unfortunate enough not to like noise music.

 

Merzbow – Pinkream (Dirter) 1997

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on July 21, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

The mid to late 1990’s may have been Merzbow’s strongest period. I gradually come around to the view that his strongest work is pre-2000 although I’m not one of those who would  suggest that everything he did post 2000 is of little value (and there are a lot of those folks out there). For beginner noise folks those Merz records are stil the way to go before getting your hands on 1930.

Think about the quality of the albums that were released during the 1990’s; 1930, Space Metalizer, Hybrid Noisebloom, Noisembyo, Oested, Green Wheels, Amlux etc. The striking thing about this period is that most of those releases are now long our of print and except for 1930 you’d have to hunt them down and pay some silly money on Discogs to secure your copy or buy an itunes copy. Pinkream is another harsh noise cracker from the same period. I thought that this was out of print given its limited run of 500 copies but you can still pick up a copy from the Dirter website. I think it is well worth while tracking down – I’d give it an eight on the harshness scale. Its probably quite close to Oested in the industrial noise storm unleashed here. Not one for beginners but a bit of a gem for the rest of us.

Merzbow – Marmo (New Europa Cafe) 2010

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on June 14, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

The inspiration for Merzbow’s latest album is marble. The press release says that he was in Venice and liked the marble and here is the noise that resulted. It’s all pretty comical really. Those of us who have bought the Birds records and the animal rights ones have probably realised that the sound inside has no link to the title of the CD nor the particular  “inspiration” Merzbow felt before he made it. One might suggest that his homage to  a particularly memorable can of baked beans would result in a similar noise.

Of course that is not to say that the noise on many of these records is not fantastic. Marmo is not quite up to the standard of Ouroboros but is a pretty sound noise record none the less. In many of my posts on Merzbow’s work I have used the word”scree”. Scree is the small rocks that lie on a mountain slope and it is a word that makes sense when listening to Marmo. Those looking for the cool elegance of marble may need to look elsewhere. What Merzbow adds to the mix of layers on this one is a sound that reminded me of some of the incidental music of the classic French animation Les Planetes Sauvage, particularly the neo-futurist minimalist beeping and bleeping. To get what I mean check out the clip below for around ten seconds at the 102 second mark. And if you haven’t seen that movie you should check it out. One of the strangest things you’ll ever see. Marmo isn’t a great Merzbow record but it still works in a vaguely psychedelic way.

Merzbow – Electric Salad (Etherworld) 1995

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on May 31, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

After I received my copy of Ouroboros I decided to have a bit of a browse through the Soleil Moon webshop and fuck me if they didn’t find a couple of this long out of print title in the depths of their storeroom.

I struggle to come up with anything new to say when reviewing a Merzbow record. All of his standard bag of tricks are on display here and used to great effect. There are three tracks in all with the first short track Prologue getting the ears ready before the sheer noise fuckery of the mammoth second track, Electric Salad, kicks off for the best part of an hour.

Initially I thought this was kind of similar to 1930 in many ways. The playful high end bubble pulses and whips were everywhere. Merzbow displaying his sense of humour and a lightness of touch if you like. But at around the 26 minute mark I realised that this is a very different beast. Shit got weird basically. Merzbow chucks in cuts ups of  movie dialogue, traffic noise  and 1960’s film music into the middle of his noise maelstrom. Does it work? Yeah I think it does,but after the complete noise-fests of Ouroboros and Higanbana, its gave me a bit of a jolt to hear Merzbow at his playful, media cut up best. The final track is also a bit of a gem  but I suspect that by the time many listeners come to terms with”the Salad” noise exhaustion may have set in.

Merzbow – Ouroboros ( Soleil Moon) 2010

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on May 23, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

I’ve listened to this three times now and each time I hear new and exciting things. This latest fresh slice of Merzbow goodness is a 56 minute long track which is like  Tauromachine, Pulse Demon and 1930 have been put in a blender. It is probably the finest Merzbow solo CD since 2007.

Why is it so good? This is the type of Merzbow record that first blew me away over three years ago. The sort of record that astonishes and surprises me. The type of record that every time I listen to it I hear something new. The type of record where there is this strange balance between the harshest of noise, oppressive drones and cheeky bubbling flourishes. The type of record that I know my experience will be totally different to yours. The best type of Merzbow record. There will only be 500 of these. Be quick.

Merzbow – Higabana (Vivo Records) 2006

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on May 18, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

I was chatting to someone on Lastfm recently who told me that he wasn’t interested in anything Merzbow did after 2000. I’m not sure whether this is some form of snobby elitism or a genuine love for the visceral noise of the mid-1990’s but a narrow focus on Merzbow’s massive back catalogue means that you miss some great records like this one.  The Polish label Vivo is responsible for some of the finest Merzbow records in recent  years, Hodosan and Coma Berenices being the other two I’ve heard. What makes Higanbana a different record to the other two is a complete lack of recognisable forms. This is a full on noise assault. The rock and metal forms of Coma Berenices and Boredoms like spazzfest of Hodosan are now here to be seen. Higanbana is unrelenting, dense clouds of noise that morph and change as layers are added, collapse and supercede. This is the type of Merzbow record I’m enjoying more and more. It’s almost an ultimate distillation of Merzbow’s pure noise.

Merzbow – Another Merzbow Records (Dirter) 2010

Posted in Merzbow, Music, noise with tags , , on April 2, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

The music over these three discs is some of the finest Merzbow you’ll hear. The tracks contained here are from limited releases, compilation appearances and stuff like that. It covers a pretty decent period of time from  1991 to  2000 and for the most part contains  pretty full on noise tracks although those looking for recognisable forms will find some stuff to love as well. When I first started listening to Merzbow I wouldn’t have thought I’d be the owner of so much of his back catalogue but here I am three years later spending a Friday night listening to 19 obscure Merzbow tracks.  My taste in Merzbow has changed over those years  and I’ve gone from those accessible records like the Merz series to embracing his less structured full on noise assaults.  Most  of the tracks coming from the mid-1990’s,   a period which I think may reflect some of Merzbow’s best work. There are a couple of tracks each from Whitehouse’s Susan Lawley label (Extreme Music From Japan), the Scumtron compilation on Blast First and three tracks from the French compilation Switching Rhetorics.  A lot of those albums from the mid-1990’s are impossible  to track down so if you are interested in the period you may be wise to get this before it sells out  (its limited to 1000 copies). The cheapest option is to buy it straight from Dirter.

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