Richard Pinhas and Merzbow – Rhizome (2011)

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credit: Cuneiform Records

Last fall, we saluted the arrival of a new Richard Pinhas CD, Metal/Crystal, one that supplemented his trio with fellow experimentalist warriors Merzbow and Wolf Eyes. Those sessions made the Japanese noise music legend Merzbow and the French electronic rock legend Pinhas realize the need to fully follow up on their one co-led collaboration, Keio Line (2008). That opportunity came last September during the experimental music Sonic Circuits Festival about midway between Japan and France in Washington, D.C. at the French Embassy’s La Maison Française.

Five pieces were composed (likely on the spot) by the two pioneers of fringe music, with the rapport of the two as the driving force behind this album: Pinhas’ mammoth sonic washes that are at once lymphatic and diabolical, and Merzbow’s electronic arsenal of chirps, sine waves, buzzes and bleeps provide the relief to Pinhas’ smooth terrain. It’s more than a meeting of the minds, it’s a melding of the minds. The live recording dispels an notion that this highly electronic kind of music can only be played after much contemplation an in a sterile studio environment. Played before an audience with nothing in between the players and the concertgoers, the two together move hulking glaciers of noise in an evolutionary manner, and freed up from any semblance of timekeeping, they pace these artificially created tones with an organic stride and cadence.

For this first pressing of Rhizome only, Cuneiform Records is tossing in two more performances: one is a DVD containing concert footage (excerpt below) of that Washington, D.C. show, and another is a digital release of a concert Pinhas and Merzbow performed in Paris in 2008. Witnessing a laptop specialist like Merbow or a loop wizard like Pinhas conducting their craft isn’t exactly like watching Freddie Mercury prance around on a colorful, bright stage. Amidst a jungle of cables and portable mixing equipment, the two weave these strange sounds in a dimly lit stage. As Merzbow studious tends to his two Macbook Pros and Pinhas adjusts knobs, presses on pedals, and yes, strategically strum on his guitar, sheets of industrial noise cascade down on the auditorium.

When I stop and think about the end results of the tremendous noise they wring out, I realize that the visually unspectacular way it’s done means nothing. Instead I can wonder how Merzbow paints such a remarkable piece of sonic abstract art using Pinhas’ washes as a canvas, or how live looping techniques have only very recently been adopted widespread by other musicians, but Pinhas himself remains light years ahead of them in the depth, breadth and creativity he puts into it, as he has long mastered sustain and delay techniques in tandem with the looping. He remains a man among sperm in that department.

The aforementioned live chronicle of the Paris concert, Paris 2008, offers more of the same kind of aural explorations, in three tracks over a period of about 40 minutes time. The Rhizome album contains a download code by which you can obtain a digital copy, otherwise, it’s available on vinyl only.

As two of the more celebrated figures in electronic experimental music since the 70s, Richard Pinahs and Merzbow always seek new avenues to probe in order to keep their craft fresh and relevant. By combining their art into something new that draws from the strength of each, the duo succeed in making recordings that give fans and curious neophytes alike a reason to keep them interested and engaged.

Rhizome, from Cuneiform Records, was released on May 31.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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