Pulse Demon has a reputation. Apparently one of the most over compressed recordings ever, specifically engineered for extreme intensity. Yowzer! Pulse Demon is like a forbidden fruit.
I’ve had this record on my shelf for more than twelve months now, and the idea of listening to it has always filled me with dread. I assumed it was going to be a real slog to listen to. I’d bought into the fucked up mythology. But what better time to give it a crack than the tail end of my month long Merzbow Marathon, while my brain is a pile of miscellaneous sludge and I‘m starting to yearn for a listening experience outside of Mr Akita’s formless world. The time seemed right.
However, as Public Enemy once said “Don’t believe the hype”. Pulse Demon isn’t the terrifying monster it’s often painted as. Sure, it’s relentless and loud, so fucking loud, and it has few bearing points but it’s also a crystal clear recording, a high definition digital bloom rather than a gassy cloud of pollution. And with five of its eight tracks coming in under the six minute mark (and only one extending past eleven minutes) it’s also fairly easy to digest. I like it when Merzbow gives me easily digestible chunks. I’m piss weak like that.
Maybe I enjoy Pulse Demon because I’ve heard so much Merzbow this month that my ear has become better attuned to his intricacies. Maybe it’s because I realised that there’s little to understand about Merzbow; when his stars align all you need to do is relax and go along for the ride.
This record is 70+ minutes long, but I’m yet to notice this when listening to it. That’s possibly because of the easily digestible chunks I mentioned above. But it also has to do with the playfulness it exudes, like the trip-hoppy rhythm that holds Tokyo Times Ten together, or the Kevin Drumm inspired drone that veers from left to right speaker on Worms Plastic Earthbound and then decays into bleak fuzz. Or Spiral Blast, one of the best Merzbow tracks I’ve heard yet, based on a bottomed-out buzz that sounds like an engine revving itself up and changing gears over and over until it folds in on itself and then jams like a CD stammering on a deep scratch.
The moral of this story is don’t judge a book by its Op Art cover.