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Merzbow - Amlux

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Artist: Merzbow

Album: Amlux

Label: Important

Review date: Jan. 12, 2003

Another superb Merzbow release

Back with his latest and greatest is Masami Akita, a.k.a. Merzbow. During his twenty-year-plus career as the world's foremost noiseist, Akita has released more albums than he can count, and in fact does not even have a definitive discography. But what's undeniable is his willingness to change and evolve, which keeps his work interesting where many other purveyors of noise have fallen victim to a stubborn refusal to explore new ways. Listen to this followed by early works like Batztoutai or Material Action and it becomes clear that Merzbow has changed with the times. Fortunately, this change has clearly come as a result of Akita's interest in exploring new things, not due to external pressures or a desire to cater to trends. While there are new ways of approaching his work, this album is certainly no less harrowing than Merzbow releases of old.

We have here four tracks, recorded and mixed in Akita's Tokyo bedroom during 2000 and 2001. Two of the pieces here are short, two are very long. The first, "Takemitsu," is presumably named after composer Toru Takemitsu, but I couldn't tell you why. It's is one of the two shorter tracks here at around five minutes. It sports impressive crackling noises atop percussion-like rattles and metallic violence. Grinding, whirring sounds travel about on top, then suddenly halfway through everything gets submerged in a massive sonic tornado and comes out the other end stretched and damaged beyond recognition.

"Looping Jane" is sixteen minutes that progresses through a number of separate 'movements,' building from a field of slow-moving deep drones into full-out roaring noise, then evolving into mechanical overlapping droning sounds that buzz and move in a hypnotic way. Later the track gets pared down a bit more, leaving a bed of repeating low-end drones over which Akita throws a variety of other sounds, twisting and stretching instances of static and synthetic high-end sound sources into pricks and stabs of noise.

The other short piece, "Cow Cow," zips by in a four-minute blaze of heavy noise whizz-bang with some almost wacky blips and whirrs. It's a fine piece, but almost seems like an afterthought amidst the rest of the album. It's too full to be considered an interlude, but it nonetheless is a bit overwhelmed by the other tracks here.

The remaining twenty-two minute balance of the album is occupied by the humorously-titled "Luxurious Automobile (Krokodil Texas Mix)." Trance-inducing rhythms formed from waves of synthetic dronestuff make this one very repetitive. It's easy to start the trance, but Akita switches things up often enough to keep you off balance; for example, about halfway through. a new loop starts up and suddenly begins veering back and forth in the stereo field. With headphones on it'll make you tip over if you're not careful. Some of the passages in this track allow things to get really quiet, with just a single looping rhythm or minimal rumbling static. The dynamic changes offer some real suspense, since you know that it's only a matter of time before things get hairy again. Overall, “Luxurious Automobile” is the least harsh of the album, instead opting for a quieter approach that conveys slow decay. The way the track ends, slowly fading out from minimal crackling static into a deep, almost inaudible rumble, is intriguing, since many artists would instead opt to end with heavy noise.

Masami Akita continues to have a way of creating noise that cannot be ignored, whether it's harsh or quietly menacing. A lot of noise work risks either fading into the background or being unlistenably repetitive and one-dimensional. While like anyone who releases so much, not every Merzbow release is essential, the sounds here demand attention, due to both their constant change and careful composition. The myriad of ways in which Akita destroys, demolishes, and alters these sounds makes it clear that his many years of dedication to experimental audio work has taught him a lot of worthy lessons. We can all be glad of our continued opportunities to enjoy the results. This is another superb addition to the Merzbow catalog.

By Mason Jones

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