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Merzbow + Kim Cascone - Rondo / 7Phases / Blowback

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Artist: Merzbow + Kim Cascone

Album: Rondo / 7Phases / Blowback

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Nov. 4, 2004

This newest collaboration between noisecore-master Merzbow and microtonal composer Kim Cascone had its genesis in a remix project based on Amlux, an earlier and very influential Merzbow release. Cascone’s manipulation of Amlux material became “Blowback” which, seemingly, provided material for “Rondo” and “7Phases.”

“Rondo” shows the most readily identifiable Merzbow influence. Similar in scope to the 30-plus minute pieces from 24 hours or Frog, it is typical of latter-day Merzbow, in that juxtaposed digital loops form a labyrinthine network of slow fade oscillations. Despite some moments planned to split even the thickest skull, Merzbow’s sound pallet is fairly sedate, harsh distortions replaced here by low rumbles and high-frequency chatter.

The “7Phases” are refreshingly vibrant and varied character pieces, ranging from sine-wave drones to turntable-driven experiments similar to those of Philip Jeck or Christian Marclay. Here however, no sound is immediately recognizable, and even the familiar sound of needle on vinyl becomes an abstraction. Several of these vignettes have discernable beats, but they result from the merging of melodic and textural layers; they too function more as abstract entities rather than as points of reference or rhetoric.

“Blowback” is the briefest offering here, but it’s also the most intense. Like Naked City or Lumpy Gravy-era Frank Zappa, sound fragments whiz by at an alarming rate. Some are recognizable from what has already transpired, but the distillation process is so controlled and complete that all context is erased. It is the culmination of a gradual rhythmic quickening through the course of the disc that speaks to both intellectual rigor and an uncanny sense of temporal manipulation. The plan demonstrates intuitive and craftsman-like skill on the part of both composers.

By Marc Medwin

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