Digging: Merzbow

Merzbow: Maschinenstil
Dual Plover (1998)

This CD-R is the most recent addition to my Merzbow collection and it’s also the odd one out. There’s almost a sense of whimsy in the two tracks on Maschinenstil; they skip and maschinenstiljump from idea to idea like so much red cordial. It’s as if he were testing our concentration and not just our attention spans. He doesn’t manipulate any one sound for longer than a few moments (which isn’t that long in Merzbow terms.)

Maschinenstil is also much more trebly than other Merzbow records, which might have something to do with it being recorded during his analogue days, but is more likely about his sound choices. Morse code, synthesiser stabs, power tools and minced-meat chipmunk vocals are just a few things that spring to mind, all of which reside in the upper registers. I played this loud (for a while) and it pierced my ears, but I like this side of Merzbow; one where I can almost recognise something’s form but it’s ripped away before I do. It leaves me hungry for more.

Maschinenstil is nowhere near as dense as, for example, something like Merzbear. Half way through the 34 minute second track, Shin Kawasaki a screech unwinds into a gentle hum that reminds me of a glitched-out dial-up modem. Elsewhere he allows a moment’s recuperation via a primitive low-end pulse, offset by stagnant feedback.  There’s even a few seconds of silence here and there (which seem louder than the loudest ‘noise’).

When I say that it’s not as dense, I also refer to the layers within these two compositions. All Merzbow’s work is layered, but on Maschinenstil it’s as if he has left tiny gaps between each sheet of sound, a space for individual elements to breathe. In doing this, you can almost see (or hear) each individual brick that he’s used to build these walls of noise. And upon every listen, something new pops out.

There’s something very human about this record, and the highs and lows that Merzbow attempts to take you on. And in saying that, I think this is a good place to start if you’ve never heard Merzbow before


One response to “Digging: Merzbow

  1. noisenoisenoise

    Great review evol. This moron left a comment on my blog saying that Merzbow is a one trick pony. This is one of those records that proves the opposite.

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