Important Records (2007)
For a long time now I’ve been scared to investigate the world of Japanese noise merchant Merzbow. I had no idea where to start in a back catalogue that spans hundreds of releases, and I was also nervous about what I would find. His aura is such that the world of Merzbow seems impenetrable.
I recently stumbled onto Noise Noise Noise, where Dave has been nurturing an obsession with Merzbow. Feeling encouraged, I decided to dive in.
Of the four records I’ve heard so far, it’s kinda weird that Merzbear is the one I’ve had on repeat for the last few weeks. It’s dense and unrelenting, everything that I was afraid of when considering Merzbow. Compared to the other albums, which all offer more in the way of rhythm and dynamics, each of the four tracks on Merzbear is a constant wall of sound. White noise that vibrates at different frequencies and constantly changes density. Sometimes you feel stifled, at others you feel hypnotised. The intensity is almost blinding.
Other noise artists, Wolf Eyes for example, concern themselves with creating abstract atmospheres, usually of menace. Merzbow is interested in the noise itself, and fucking with our traditional understanding of what constitutes music. He’s probably testing the limits of our endurance too.
The sounds that Merzbow manipulates on this record are completely electronic (he toys with analogue on other albums). He plays the far reaches of a computer, making it bounce, whistle and scream against its will. The pay off is in the subtlety. It takes a few listens to realise that underneath the monotonous, electronic squall Merzbow is moulding a microcosm of intricate sounds that buzz, hiss, chirp, bang and whir. There’s never any rhythm as such, but occasionally there’s a pulse or repetitive motif that you can hang onto for the ride. And despite the synthetic nature of the sound there’s something warm about being wrapped in so much noise. It feels safe, even.