May 2, 2002

Ed's Underground

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If Satan listens to music, you could bet that he’s got some Merzbow in his CD changer. There couldn’t be a more perfect soundtrack to Hell than the bizarre sound collages of Japanese noise musician Masami Akita, AKA Merzbow. This hard-to-find album (it’s not currently available outside of the 50-CD retrospective The Merzbox) is a document of the uniquely harrowing aural experience that is Merzbow.

Never does this album verge into the kind of ear-splintering static that has pegged Merzbow as the target of many jokes, and often earned him the distinction of “most unlistenable music ever.” Instead, on the album’s 3 extended pieces, Akita experiments with different drum textures, at times approaching the territory mined by ’70s Krautrock groups like Can and Faust.

On this album, Merzbow approaches music as he always does: as its sworn enemy and destroyer. This destructive aesthetic is most clear on “Catabolism Variation Stereo No.1,” which features a cheerful synth melody that gets utterly ripped apart by a sudden deafening barrage of static. And yet, Merzbow allows the melody to remain after its destruction, and the interplay between melody and noise is utterly fascinating.

The biggest surprise here is “Deaf Forever