Merbow – Dead Zone (2012)

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Music reviewing is famously described as “dancing about architecture” but dissecting Merbow’s noise music is more comparable to slicing water. For starters, the Japanese king of noise challenges and stretches the whole notion of what we call music. There are no shapes or discernible patterns to his computer-generated clicks, wheezes, beeps, bumping, buzzes, booms and other circuit-bent insanity. On his collaborations with Richard Pinhas that we’ve recently savored, Merzbow’s sharp edges were offset by Pinhas’ almost placid soundscapes. Quite a difference to experience Merbow straight up, though.

The first track “The Blade Of Oblivion” is a half hour long cacophony of what appears to be the Star Wars robot R2D2 being mercilessly tortured by The Terminator, evolving to the sound of hopelessly trying to tune a radio on the moon. It’s hard to call “The Spirit Indulges In The Sadness” a sad song, it’s more of a collision of competing sonic washes. Static, sine waves and industrial churn rule on “The Wandering Light.” And lastly, “China Glass” sets a thick, impenetrable layer of electronic clatter against a backdrop of space waves.

As clear as mud, right?

That said, you come into Merbow performances knowing what you’re getting, and what you are getting is in no way orthodox; Merzbow forces you to accept his art on its own terms. That’s not an easy thing for most to do, but when I’m ready to cleanse my brain of the sameness of rhythm, tonality, melody and timbres, this guy from Tokyo comes to the rescue.

Dead Zone was unleashed February 14 by Quasi Pop Records.

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