Merzbow Marathon: Rattus Rattus

Merzbow: Rattus Rattus
Scarcelight Recordings (2005)

When I’m compiling my thoughts on something I intend to review for this blog, I won’t usually read other reviews out there on the web. I’ll research the artist if I’m not familiar with them, but in general I don’t want other people’s reviews influencing my own. Rattus Rattus was a Merzbow record that I’d barely heard anything about before I stumbled across a second hand copy in a dingy store, and with its simple cardboard-pocket packaging I honestly thought it was some sort of Merzbow sampler or e.p. So, I scoured the interwebs and discovered it is in fact considered to be an album. There are plenty of reviews out there too, and the vast majority of them are by people not necessarily into noise who found this record rather challenging. ‘Relentless’ ‘thunderous’ ‘slap/kick in the face’ ‘monotonous’ are phrases constantly used to describe Rattus Rattus in these musings – how is it that so many people not into Merzbow have heard this particular disc?

This made me realise that I’m either weird, or officially a noise nerd because I place Rattus Rattus among the more accessible of Mr Akita’s work.

This three track disc starts with two teasers, the first of which opens with a blown-out stampede of tribal drums and explosions of fuzz that settle into a comfortable drone. Various whirs and ticks are looped underneath the slab of sound, before the heaviness gives way to a series of squeaky squelches. The following track continues the droning theme with a deep hum (like a massive air conditioning unit) offset by a series of high-end buzzes. The Zen-like drone is punctuated by jagged shrieks of hiss and spatters of silence

But these are mere previews for the 39-minute finale Rattus Rattus Suite, which traverses a significant amount of territory for the first fifteen minutes – cash register explosions, Hitchcock-like synth stabs, something that sounds like people laughing but could just as easily be Mr Akita’s beloved chickens, the regular bleep of an EEG machine, melting computers –and then settles into a reassuring drone.

What makes this record ‘accessible’ (by Merzbow standards) is that the same sounds reappear at varying points throughout. Rattus Rattus is big on the loops, which provide something to latch onto and the familiarity makes it comforting. It’s also a heavy record, there’s loads of bass. This is Merzbow doing his pulse and throb thing which really works for me.

Rattus Rattus was released during his string of ‘Merz’ themed records, arguably his most accessible work. While there are similarities with that series’ fascination with rhythm and bass Rattus Rattus stands apart as a wilder, free form beast. If you’ve dabbled in and enjoyed the ‘Merz’ series, and are looking for a gateway to his more visceral and extreme work this could be your ticket. Scarcelight doesn’t seem to exist anymore so you might have to hunt this one down on Discogs or eBay.

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One response to “Merzbow Marathon: Rattus Rattus

  1. noisenoisenoise

    I agree. One of the most criminally ignored Merzbow records.

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