Merzbow/Pandi/Gustafsson with Thurston Moore – Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper (2015)

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Back in 2013, Japanese noise king Merzbow teamed up with Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi and Swedish reedman and electronics specialist Mats Gustafsson to make a fierce experimental album together, Cuts, on Rare Noise Records. It was an experience satisfying enough to go at it again, and just a couple of years later the trio returned for album #2. But this time, the beautifully brutal music became even more so with the key addition of Sonic Youth screech guitar icon Thurston Moore.

Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper (Rare Noise Records), therefore, is a skronk summit meeting posited on a very high summit, and, to use an overworked phrases because it’s true this time, lives up to the billing. Moore isn’t brought into this project to bring star power to it; a renowned master at wringing strange and singular timbres, static and drones, Moore does with a guitar what Merzbow does to a laptop.

Four songs splattered out across eighty-two minutes and two CD discs, Cuts of Guilt… is challenging and requires some open mindedness to appreciate, but if you were already drawn in my any of these names, here is music on the very edge in full glory.

“Replaced By Shame – Only Two Left” is a swirling mass of cacophony that ignores the timekeeping, and Gustafsson’s sax squeals like a pig missing his slop. Moore’s dense guitar clatter melded with Merzbow’s nervous circuitry forms a unitized, unbreakable wall of noise. In contrast to, say, the metallic smooth industrial noises of Richard Pinhas — another recent Merzbow foil — Moore’s guitar is all rough-hewn and prickly. At some point, Pandi can be heard wrecking an open cymbal while Moore reaches for scarier and scarier sounds.

“Divided By Steel. Falling Gracefully” is marked by a seemingly endless squall from Moore, the stormy terrain upon which Pandi improvises. Merzbow finds the drones that combine perfectly with the feedback. It discreetly evolves — as all of these twenty-minute performances do — with Merzbow adding and removing layers as he sees fit.

The “ballad” of the bunch is “Too Late, Too Sharp – It Is Over,” where Moore’s banjo-like guitar evokes Charley Patton on LSD. Meanwhile, Merzbow’s patented shrill shards of noise break up the weird serenity of Moore’s bent notes and Pandi’s tom fills. Merzbow ratchets up the commotion and Pandi responds with more fills and cymbal splashes but otherwise stays on course. Eventually most of the sounds depart, leaving a large void of space in its wake.

And lastly, “All His Teeth in Hand, Asking Her Once More” qualifies as the death metal tone poem of the bunch, only missing the Cookie Monster vocal. Although, Merzbow’s bag of sonic tricks makes for a fantastic substitute. As things gets more explicitly ‘metal’ over course of song, Pandi is laying down the thunder. Gustafsson comes out of nowhere around the twelve minute mark to add his freight train horn of a baritone sax, then goes off on the high end of the register and doesn’t quit until the pummeling mercifully lets up some ten minutes later.

This ain’t pop music, ladies and gentleman. Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper is a party of noise.

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