Review Summary: Calculated madness, courtesy of Merzbow.
Merzbow is quite an odd fellow. Considered a pioneer of Japanese noise music, he has released over 500 (!) albums. In fact, this year alone he's already released five albums; three of which are part of an upcoming 13-CD set. Compare this to bands who release one album every three or four years and it makes them look lazy.
Noise music is definately
not for everybody. It is basically loud and unsettling noises created using various mehods, including laptops, metal sheets, blocks of wood, etc. Noise tracks generally exceed eight minutes in length. I am by no means an expert on the subject though, as Merzbow is really the first noise artist I've ever listened too. This CD, however, mixes up the traditional formula by adding drumbeats behind the cacophony of sound. Not only does this make the music slightly more palatable for first-time listeners, but it adds more musically, something that noise music generally lacks. Another good thing about this album is the recording quality- you can hear every weird effect, and the drum beats and backing tracks sound great.
The album opens up with 'Promotion Man
', which is one of my favourite 'songs' on the album. It opens up with an odd sound that I remember reading somewhere is a supposed to be a chainsaw. Drums come in quickly with a simple bass-bass-snare pattern. After about forty seconds of this, noise comes in overtop; however, it still manages to sound musical because of the backing track. The sonic soundscape on this song really works, and before long the drums change in tone and pattern and the noise becomes more abrasive, digging into your skull. Some of the sound on this song are so weird that you'll say, "What the...?" The drum beat starts to do weirder patterns towards the end of the song, such as doubling.
The longest song on the album, 'Forgotten Land
', is up next. At over thirteen minutes, this song is by no means short. It starts with an actual riff, qhich is quickly bakced by a drum beat that sounds like it's swirling around your head because the volume and tone keep changing. Eventually the riff and drum bat change, and interspersed are Merzbow's noises, which disrupt the track for about a half second at a time, beofre eventually coming over top. The end of this track contains some really morphed police-siren sounding things. This song can get a bit repetitive at times, but then again, so can the whole album.
'Shadow Barbarian (Long Mix)
' is next. It starts with some faint, low noises and an electronic drum beat, and at the 3-minute mark something that sound sort of like a keyboard comes in playing a riff. Then after the keyboard stos, in come some weird noises courtesy of Mr. Merzbow. The whole track around the six minute, forty-four second mark, making way for a different drum beat, a violin (yes, a violin), and some more wierd noises. Towards the end of the song come some of Merzbow's fantastic noises. This is a loud and unsettling part of the track, but if you focus hard enough on the weird noises, you can hear that it isn't just random noises that Merzbow plastered on top of one another and stuffed on to the album- this is well thought out, calculated madness.
', the most mellow song on the album, is the penultimate track. It starts out with a long organ note, with some background sounds getting steadily louder. A new layer is added to this track every so often. While this track does contain some loud noises towards the end of the end of the song, they aren't as intimidating as some of the other sounds on the album, making this track more laid back and user-friendly than a lot of the other songs on the record.
The last song on the album is 'Looping Jane (Beat Mix)
', and this is definately the loudest and strangest song on the album. It opens up normally enough, with the drm beat and background riff that we're used to by now- then the drum beat gets louder, with some very distorted cymbal hits. Then the drums stop for a second and come back in. Then we are treated to some beeps and weird 'powering up' noises (you kinda have to hear the song to know what I mean there). Then the backing track gets fainter again, and some weird noises come in. The rest of this song sounds a lot like a rusty chainsaw rubbing against a sheet of metal, with somebody playing a backing track that can only be faintly heard in the background. If you want to freak someone out with a song from this album, then this would be the song to choose.
' is definately an interesting album that really requires repeated listens. Many people will not get the seemingly random bursts of noise, and even music fanatics can find Merzbow
's music to challenging and abrasive a listen. Really, there is so much detail on this album though that in order to get the full experience, you really have to listen to it more than once. I'm docking some points because a some of the tracks just go on for too long, and the last track ends rather abruptly. If you want to try something out there, then check this album out.