Merzbow Merzbear

[Important; 2007]

Styles: noise, ummm noise
Others: Zbigniew Karkowski, KK Null, Masonna

“Physicality in sound” is a phrase that goes some distance in the description of the work of Masami Akita. As Merzbow, he has mangled sound and invaded the consciousness and physical being for so many years that I can barely imagine a time without him being mentioned by some friend or acquaintance. Though many would disagree, everyone should own at least one Merzbow record. To engage in a dialogue with a sound that is so raw and consuming is necessary, and places in perspective what one defines as ‘experimental.’ The communication is consuming to the point of oppression, removing one fully from any musical familiarity and exhausting the mental and physical limitations.

As I have read prior to listening to the disc, Akita has been moving away from his laptop, returning to his analog roots. This is all well and good, but hey, ultimately Merzbow is Merzbow, and he can engage effectively with any medium. I actually tend to favor some of his works during this laptop period, but where fault might be found is in comparing them, for example, to the work of an artist like Florian Hecker. Hecker is so absolute in his research of computer-based sound that his focus eclipses many of the other artists who pursue this discipline without the same commitment, arguably even in the instance of Akita. It is at best only an argument, however, because Akita's strength is not confined to his current sound, but extends to his expansive and profoundly singular oeuvre.

The merging of the two practices of digital and analog manipulation that is present on Merzbear reveals an urgency in his vocabulary that, once again, without question, evidences an unparalleled artist. His dialogue may not be as savage and unrelenting as on other works from his lengthy discography, but the interplay between the individual characters is ceaseless within the duration of each of the disc’s four parts. Feedback flares and throbbing low-end are met with the defiance of a seething discharge of squeals, forcing them to recede until regaining might, transcending all boundaries and absorbing the full sum of their surroundings. Cyclical pulsations give way to sonic squalls radiating outwards with hostile movement, actualizing a field of audio wreckage, ravaging all in its path. It is the audio equivalent of the energy in an Otto Zitko site-specific work, and the energy never relents on Merzbear, even in its most restrained state.

Honestly, to go at length in describing Akita’s sound is unnecessary. Adjectives and descriptors devalue the significance of this facet of his art. One really needs to engage in his work, approaching it with openness, as its undeniable necessity reveals itself to the listener. Once acceptance is found here, at the most fundamental level, the process of understanding begins, and the research into the full range of his activities will follow. His influences and points of reference are equally engaging, as are his social and political stances and the works of his many collaborators.

Merzbear positions itself as another fragment of the proverbial puzzle, and an expressive and equally important one at that. All you can really do now is look forward to the next 200 or so releases, consider the possibilities that Akita has yet to explore, and accept that your bank account balance will be significantly smaller.

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