Merzbow, Gustafsson, Pandi ‘Cuts’ (Rare Noise Records)
(Possibly) album number 363 to bear the Merzbow moniker; and no doubt by the time you finish reading this review that number will have swollen to 365 such is the prodigious output of Japanese noise purveyor Masami Akita (aka Merzbow)
There will be many who vehemently argue that the recordings Merzbow releases are not in fact music, suggesting that he is in some way, and has been since 1979 hoodwinking those who buy his records – granted Merzbow is never any easy listen; even for those with more liberal tastes, music cannot get much more extreme than this . I would however suggest that listening to Merzbow is a more engaging experience, one that is not confined to mere aural stimulation. Allow the sounds to envelope you, to permeate your pores and then within the reams of electronic noise you will discover patterns, rhythms that act as a catalyst, triggering emotions, forcing physical reaction, and stimulating the imagination.
For ‘Cuts’ Akita collaborated with Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi and Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustasfsson. Pandi has propelled such other experimental bands as Venetian Snares, Blood of Heroes, Worm Skull, Zu and two other groups from the Rare Noise roster – Obake, and Metallic Taste of Blood (both of whom featured in the LTW Top 200 2012), whilst Gustafsson is a member of the Peter Brotzman Tentet, and The Thing and has worked with free jazz musicians, the Italian experimental band Zu; he claims Little Richard, The Cramps and Entombed as early inspirations in his musical development. Akita himself was originally attracted to rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed and Robert Fripp, and cites influence from free jazz icons Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and Frank Wright as well as electronic music pioneers like Karlheinz Stockhausen.
“Then I found the forum for mixing these influences into pure electronic noise,” he has previously been quoted by way of an introduction
So having completed the appropriate pre-listening preparations; suggest to family members they go out, place cat in safe quiet environment, warn neighbours etc I placed the CD in the player, the mechanised whirr perhaps a tiny foretaste of what was to come moments later, and yes the result of the collaboration is quite frankly the sound of shock and awe; but with a twist on the more traditional Merzbow sound; the influence of Pandi and Gustasfsson has (temporarily) repositioned Merzbow’s focus from pure sound, from unadulterated high pitched static – the most distinct difference being the presence of a lower bass range and recognisable drum patterns; the sound remains an intensely brutal assault, a frenetic mash-up of power electronics and free-jazz drumming, whilst Gustasfsson literally tortures his sax – it’s a mind blowing mix of styles that somehow coalesce into a definable pattern that by sheer volume has hypnotic qualities further drawing you in, delving deeper into the maelstrom. To differentiate between the tracks is largely academic, the variations come in the form of time changes, warped rhythmic pulses and switches in pitch, which in turn dictate the pace of the drum patterns; the tracks tear through your mind literally exploding your consciousness; real raw face shredding power. Three of these tracks clock in at approximately minutes each, as such within each piece you notice the varying patterns, the leanings, the waves of noise ebb and flow; it’s entirely instrumental, though Gustasfsson’s aggressive use of both sax and clarinet substitute for vocals.
Merzbow always forces his audience to contemplate music in a different way; this tripartite collaboration will yet again challenge his own core audience; this is not a pure noise release, it is certainly not a pure free-jazz release, but a successful and respectful alignment of each genre; each is allowed the space to breath, to develop and it’s this demonstration of the artists understanding of such complex musical notation that I believe will engage equally those previously alienated by noise, and those more accustomed to the trauma of a Merzbow release.
A loud and cathartic experience…and now that it’s over I can let the family back in.
1. Evil Knives. Lines
2. Deep Lines. Cuts
3. The Fear Too. Invisible
4. Like Razor Blades In The Dark
5. Like Me. Like You
Masami Akita – Noise electronics
Mats Gustaffson – Baritone sax,clarinet,live electronics
Balazs Pandi – Drums, percussion