søndag den 2. december 2018

Merzbow part I. 

Written by Kristian Robert Carter

As a long-term Merzbow fan and avid collector, I'm often asked what are my favourite albums of his, or what I'd recommend as an entry point to his vast catalogue of work. To understand Merzbow and to begin to analyse his output it is best to divide the material up into 4 sections.

Firstly his initial Musique Concrete experiments from the early '80s, then the Japanese noise period of the nineties, the laptop era in the first decade of the new century and his more recent return to analogue since around 2010. With 40 years of music and close to 500 releases it is a gargantuan task to leap into his discography.

I was asked to name my ten favourite albums by Merzbow but I found that too daunting so what I've done is choose my top three from each of the four separate distinct phases in his artistic Career.
Firstly I will deal with his early experimental works, or his Musique Concrete years from the 1980s.

These were Masami's first forays into recording and much of it is very lo-fi and sparse compared to his later slabs of obliterating sound. Owing a debt to Nurse With Wound & The New Blockaders as well as free jazz practitioners much of this early work was on limited cassettes and is extremely hard to track down.

Luckily a lot of it has been released in a restored form on the Merzbox ( heavily edited ) and more recently as full releases by Italian label Menstrual Recordings.

So here I chose my three personal favourites from the early years.

1) " I'm Proud By The Rank Of The Workers- Live In The USSR "

Limited vinyl album released by ZSF in 1988, documenting two live shows in the Soviet Union. Side one is a beautiful chunk of concrete abrasion whilst side two is more ' melodic ' and has Masami on drums. An almost jazz-like freeform jam. Sheffield Jazz core abusers Aufghoben obviously drew heavily on this release for inspiration for their nightmarish jazz pummellings. The tale is that Soviet authorities were not happy with the noisier experimental sounds of the first night and told Merzbow to make it more musical on the following performance the night after. Hence the quite disparate sides of vinyl.

2) " 抜刀隊 With Memorial Gadgets " 

A staple choice with most long-term Merz fans. Originally released in 1986 as a double vinyl album this album has it all. Scrapes, clatter, clutter, junk metal abuse, dada-inspired randomness, tape manipulation, splicing and a general sense of absurdist mayhem. This album manages to be threatening, ridiculous, humorous and queasy all at once. Which makes it at once pretty gruelling and at the same time also rather inviting. Merzbow is often portrayed as Mr Poker Face but this album is maybe his most absurdist humorous adventure. Still sounds fresh and challenging today.

3) " Lowest Music "

One of the earliest Merzbow tapes. Released in 1982. Recently reissued as a vinyl by Italian label Urashima. A stomach-churning grind and scrape of junk electronics, found sounds, tape loops and analogue audio garbage. At times it sounds like a jazz band whose instruments have been replaced with claw hammers and band saws. 

Next post. The Japanese noise period.