Another Merzbow Records
, March 22nd, 2010 12:11
One of experimental music's most famous figureheads, with thirty-plus years of music under his belt, Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) remains as intense as he is prolific. With over 300 releases to his name, many of which have been irritatingly limited eitions, it's become impossible to either pin him down or keep up. With all this music sloshing around, many people have fallen into shorthand thinking: Merzbow must be shitting this stuff out.
Always loud and dynamic, and invariably extreme, Merzbow is constantly progressing through cycles of influence and style – be it bizarro percussion sampling, bondage visuals, rhythm work or his favourite topic, animal rights. The only attempt at a retrospective of his career to date was a 50-disc art object/box – the infamous Merzbox – and even that contained 20 discs of unreleased material. There's a space out there for some kind of toe-in-the-water taster; but while a sensibly sized retrospective is definitely due, this isn't it.
Another Merzbow Records is a three disc round-up of rare and out-of-print 90s tracks, a vaguely chronological collection of energetic, exploratory post post-industrial electronics/noise. What's represented here, and what Merzbow has always managed unlike many other artists lumped into the noise bracket, is the investment of energy within the vast breadth of his music. Whether in fractious squalls or deep surges of powerline hum, or something a little more explosive, this collection provides a definition of heaviness that doesn't need anger as energy.
The record's target audience is the pretty much a niche within a niche, and very unlikely to consist of anything more than Merzbow completists. It's a thoroughly commendable effort though, saving a pretty penny for collectors and rapping the knuckles of the breed known as 'online marketplace profiteering scum'. As a sampler for those unfamiliar with Merzbow, Another Merzbow Records is not ideal, missing as it does whole decades of his analogue journeys (79-90) and laptop digital construction/destruction (the 00s). While it undeniably gives a heavy flavour of certain defining aspects of Merzbow - the rhythmic pulses, boiling-fluid oscillator work and the static scree of proton particle throwers (those neon firing sticks from Ghostbusters™) - there are whole other territories in his music elsewhere.
A glance at the record labels these tracks are rescued from makes it clear that Merzbow has always been well represented/respected internationally. There aren't many still-relevant artists that can boast appearances on Whitehouse's Susan Lawly imprint, Blast First, Jojo Hiroshige's Alchemy and the Australian label Extreme throughout the 90s. When the 'best of' does finally surface, it will face the unenviable challenge of representating the nine circles of his musical palette: not easy, when dealing for an artist who has the prodigious work rate of Burzum's bile ducts. There's always been a danger in pausing to look back or to take stock of Merzbow in that you can get cut out of the loop. Is it enough to fish an occasional item out of his stream of releases? Or to really understand the man do you need to just submerge yourself into the deluge? With an artist like Merzbow, one album is never going to be enough.