MONOAkuma by Merzbow

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Merzbow | MONOAkuma
Room40 (CD/DL)

MONOAkuma documents a live performance from 2012. It’s a recording of Merzbow’s ferocious attack on the ears of the audience attending the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane of that year, and celebrates the full-on immersion of his live shows. Masami Akita has had an unbelievably prolific career as the godfather of noise music. Almost impossible to keep up with his rapid output, he has traversed the sounds of homemade junk instruments, analogue electronics and digital computer music. This new record, released on the Room40 label, sees the Japanese noise maestro converge analogue and digital sources into a squirming, psychedelic sound world to great effect.

Just shy of an hour, this latest installment of the Merzbow recorded universe captures the white heat and energy that is only possible in a live situation. I’ve witnessed Akita perform live and there is a weirdly ecstatic element to it, like breaking through a pain barrier to arrive at something cathartic and euphoric. The recording reproduces this sensation and transports the home listener to that topsy turvy world where the laws of physics are disrupted by a lone performer and a table top of electronics.

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With all of his music, the listener has to submit to the deluge of cascading sound to fully appreciate it. This is body music as much as cerebral art. At the time of this recording, Akita had strayed from the laptop and returned to a more hardware set up of pedals and sound generators, the whole disc is full of analogue squeals and slippery squelches which occasionally surface from the boiling magma of noise. The digital sharpness is still present though within this live set up, and this combination adds extra layers of brain-scrambling sound to the mix.

Once the listener plunges into this long-form piece, all sense of time dissolves, as Merzbow twists and warps perceptive states. MONOAkuma takes a few minutes to gather steam, initially crunching into gear and establishing a malleable bedrock of texture. Once this has been set up, the track explodes into life, wasting no time before unleashing those analogue sparks and squalls of feedback. There’s a constant sense of movement, as the ground shifts beneath your feet. The constant adding and stripping away of frequencies here is similarly disorientating: Merzbow’s music may not be subtle, but he definitely has the ability to focus on certain frequencies to accentuate moments within the swarm. And these frequencies are pushed higher and higher towards the final section, the last ten minutes being a sustained stretch of high pitched roars. This final passage escalates to a crushing crescendo of whistling feedback before it suddenly ends and the only sound left is the ringing in the listener’s ears.

2019 will mark 40 years of activity for Merzbow, a career that has seen the artist pursue a singular vision and issue an astonishing body of work. MONOAkuma is a satisfying testament to this, showcasing Akita as an undisputable legend in his field.

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