Merzbow - Merzbient(boxset) [Soleilmoon Recordings - 2010]
"Merzbient" is a twelve disc box set which offers up a look at a mostly unknown and undiscovered side of Japans king of noise- his more quite, subtle and soundscape basedside. I hate to use the word ambient to describe what's on offer here, as this is often still quite noisy and industrial ribbed in it' s feeling, but it's certainly more stripped, musical and varied than the real noise based material that Merzbow is most know for.
As one would hope and expected with a collection as large as this one the packaging is something rather special. Each of the twelve discs come in individual full-colour cardboard sleeves which feature a photograph on either side, when arranged together they form a larger picture of two Japanese gardens. Also inside the box is a die-cast metal medallion with the Japanese text on which means "Animal liberation". The discs, medallion and basic inlay card are all packed inside a sturdy hardcover box which on the inside follows on the Japanese garden theme with a beautiful picture of a purple blossom hang garden walkway, and on the outside features a beautiful colour picture a building-less Japanese mountain and forests scape. The outside of the box also features nice red foil block printing for it's main big lettering. So all in all a very nice and well thought-out bit of packaging, the only thing that is a little bit of a let down is there's no inlay booklet- all we here have is a single piece of glossy card, listing the a basic track order and there date origin. It would have been nice to have some background to the set, and essays about this huge collection.
The twelve discs worth of material is culled from a recently rediscovered collection of tapes that Merzbow had all but forgotten about- the material comes from between the years 1987 to 1990. The first two discs in the set RBA 1A & RBA 1B both from 1989 (RBA means Right Brain Audile- a term used by Merzbow in the late 80's/early 90's) are very varied, shifting and active in their scope and attack. Disc one features a single forty five minute track which moves from wavering electro harmonics meets subtle junk elements, to junk metal meets junk string scuttles, groans, and bows. Onto spacey and wonky meetings of drunken and melted harmonic string saws and electro texturing, through to sinister and unwell ritual meets industrial electro simmers and dwells with subtle percussive detail.
Disc two features two tracks; "RBA 1B" which hits just short of the forty five minute mark, and "untitled" which comes in at just under the thirteen minute mark. "RBA 1B" moves eerier and muffled slow down electro clunking and drone scapes, through to chirpy yet creepy striped electroincia and organic beat dwells that are underfeed unsettling field recording collages, onto junk tribal workouts meets dada baying and groaning. Through to sawing violin scapes meets quirky low-grade percussive and junk texturing and beyond. "Untitled" moves from noisy dada electronics accelerations, through to quirky tone rubs meets speed up easy listening samples and eerier tone droneand billows.
Disc three features another forty five minute track in the form of "RBA 2B" which once more comes from 1989. And this stays a bit more in one place with it's dense, swirling and darkly psychedelic mixture of atmospheric echoed and reverb electro textures/ sounds, and shredding yet atmospheric guitar texturing. Later on a semi-groove appears in the track as some subtle and atmospheric live drum runs are melted under the surface of the track.
Disc Four finds a forty six minute track from 1990 entitled "RBA/Capsule Cologne Maxell" which offers up a dense and enjoyable mixture of junk metal textures, noisy gong circling and dwells. Latter on spacey guitar textures appearing in electro peddle texturing that¡¯s still underfed by more consistent and rhythmic junk metal dwell.
Disc Five features "RBA 8B" from 1990 which is another forty six minute track. The track builds up a great unsettling landscape that finds creepy and wonky electronic sitar string twangs meeting slowly clamouring junk metal background and slowly piercing drone sustains and ghostly drags. Later the junk percussive becomes more ritual based with tolling guitar textures taking place of the eastern twang, before ending off in slowed music box wonkiness meets rudimentary Gamelan runs.
On disc six we have "RBA 8A" which is again from 1990 and comes in just over the forty six minute mark. The first twelve or so minutes are built around a constant and slightly flickering higher pitched drone that's under-fed by subdued junk textures and metallic grates. Then we drop into slow drifts of high pitched sustains and fade-outs, that are meet by spread-out and atmospheric junk chugs and distant string groans. The track finishers off with a series of weird jilltered and wonky electronic percussive runs and textures.
Disc seven breaks the one long track pattern with "RBA 7+2"(at thirty one minutes) and "RBA 7+1"( at twenty three minutes). The first tracks a wonderful eerier and brooding mixture of: stop/ start doomy drone elements, darting & unsettling noise textures, slowed down turntable elements, distant and sped-up violin tones and latter-on slowed and deathly shimmering junk metal attacks. The track builds in dense crescendos of sound then drops out to silence or thinning sustains which goes to make for a great atmospheric track. The second track starts off with layers of sinister, jittering, juddering and persistent synth tones that seem to drill deep into you brain. With-in the first five or so minutes higher and higher pitched noise tones start whirring and descending with the synth textures, this really ups and intensifies the atmosphere. The rest of the track almost comes off as an unsettling mixture of Arabic snake charmer music meets spacey dada electro dwell- with layers of pitch shifting synth tone, wonky drones and subtle futurist noise details meeting together.
Disc eight finds two half an hour tracks in the form of "RBA/Maxell UD II-S 90" & "Mixer/Scratch AXIA for CD" both tracks are from 1990. The first track moves into a bit more noisy territory, though it's far from all out noise. The tracks built around a drilling, slowly searing, crashing and air plane like buzzing and droning noise/ synth texture, this is underpinned by sparse junk metal and banging boxes tones. At about the mid-way point it drops to near silence, but soon it's atmospherically broken by all manner of random & sudden squeaking, whining and percussive clattering along with background turntable or tape unreeling textures. The rest of the track plays out in an edgy and eerier manner with sudden groups of sounds appearing from the silence.
The second track here still remains quite noise bound with a mixture of juddering & phasing in and out electro drones, noise roars and billows. I guess you'd call most the track caustic drone & melt based composition, through for the last nine or so minutes it drops down into slow motion and sneering mix of thinned drone matter, speed up and slowed down violin and stripped percussive samples.
Disc nine features one of the oldest track on offer here "Metal4ch" which originates from 1987 and comes in at just over the forty three minute mark. Again this track is quite noise bound and it finds Merzbow mixing swelling and grating noise textures, with juddering and jittering semi harmonic synth phase textures, and shrieking guitar texture feed-back and sear. I guess it sounds like a less controlled version of the latter noisy improv guitar based stuff he did a few years back.
Disc ten features another track form 1987- the thirty minute "Matehnas" which finds sawing and grating merzgitar/ violin textures over a mixture of bassy vocal billows plus moans and mumbling voices- which all rather bring to mind a more violent and sawing take on early NWW material. Also on this disc is "1988DECsolo" which comes from 1988, and finds Merzbow throwing together cluttering & clunking fairground electronics, buried junk textures and later on sawing & screaming merzgitar scuttles together.
Disc eleven offers up another two tracks- there's "9011" from 1990 which comes in just over the half an hour mark, this finds Merzbow mixing together rolling and clattering junk metal elements with seared and jittering merzgitar textures. Then there¡¯s "Violinsolo89" from 1989 which offers up just over fifteen minutes of circling & eerier high pitched string drones and cable & junk scuttling.
Lastly disc number twelve features the last two tracks of the set 1990's "Gasstove4-90" and 1988's "92288". The first track mixers up near on twenty minutes of constant sinister drone sustain & grate with clamouring, grating and rolling percussive junk metal elements. And the second mixers together doomy & hovering speaker feed-back drone & drift with electro dolphin like chatter & sear, and seared guitar like pitchers- this last track slides in at just under the forty minute mark.
So in summing this a very varied and mostly atmospheric based collection of tracks that nicely captures the more subtle, edgy and mood setting side of Merzbows work. This is certainly of interest to any fans of the great and highly prolific mans work, but I can also see this appealing to those who like that rather un-definable sonic state between ambience and noise. With doubt on of the box set highlights of 2010!Roger Batty