Digging: Merzbow – Psychorazer

Merzbow: Psychorazer
Kubitsuri Tapes (2007)

I expected to pick up all manner of weird and wonderful albums while I was in Japan, however the language barrier and unusual store set-ups made scouring the racks a little difficult. I still brought home a backpack filled with records, but 13 of those ended up being Merzbow releases. I went a little crazy when I stumbled across an entire shelf of his new-ish records and second hand out of print stuff.

Midway through last year I also bought a small (much smaller) pile of Merzbow records at the one time. I made the mistake of listening to them pretty much one after the other, without allowing any of them to digest. They blurred into one giant noise fest and I doubt that I’ll ever really appreciate those records now.

I’ll take my time with these new purchases.

I’ve started with Psychorazer purely for the superficial reason that its cover art is so unlike anything I’ve seen on a Merzbow record before. There’s some weirdo Sigmund Freud shit going on there. This concept of psychos and psychotherapy seems at odds with the music on the record itself, which is among Merzbow’s most focused work.

The opening track, Psychorazer is a white-wash epic, a wall of noise and scree in the vein of Cherry Point. It’s not my favourite track, but after a few listens I realised that what sets Merzbow’s white noise apart from other acts doing the same thing is his ability to build his walls using distinct layers of sound, each with their own personality dancing out from different parts of your stereo (or headphones).

At only 56 seconds long the following track, Sugamo Rising Sun Gas Station might be the shortest Merzbow tune ever (?) and is essentially a prelude to Psychorazer’s finale and highpoint, Mangod.

It takes off with a dulled down beat, a glitchy pulse that loops over and within itself. For 35 minutes he expands the rhythm, multiplies and reduces its opacity in a way that reminds me of Autechre. Over time the rhythm crumbles away into a high-pitched squeel, which itself becomes consumed by flourishes of white noise. After a momentary crescendo the madness fizzles out with a mechanical whir.

I really like it when Merzbow tracks show this much direction and purpose. I like his experiments to take me somewhere. Psychorazer has a similar palette to Higanbana, or even Merzbear without the bass frequencies. It has the focus of both those records along with Zophurus and Ikebukuro Dada. If any of these albums are your cup of tea, Psychorazer is highly recommended.


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