From Lawrence English
I think the first time I heard Merzbow must have been in 1994. I was a compulsive cassette trader back then and I was sent a tape from a fanzine editor I traded with in the USA. It had two long form pieces on it that just said Merzbow//Noise.
I remember at the time not really knowing what to make of it. It was effortlessly deep and aggressive, but also very emotive and almost lyrical in the way the waves of sound would erupt and decay. In those days it wasn’t so easy to discover information about artists, but within a few months I had learned as much as I could about this prolific musician from Japan.
In the mid 2000s, I had the chance to meet Masami Akita, aka Merzbow and present him live when I was co-producing the Brisbane leg of the What Is Music? Festival. It was a pretty special event, in fact the first (sonic) meeting of Merzbow and Keiji Haino took place here in Brisbane. For me, Merzbow’s solo performance was as transformative an experience as hearing his music for the first time. Following a switch to digital electronics, in the early 2000s, his powerbook performance was literally like having someone run a razor blade across your eardrum, whilst pummelling your body. An exquisite, and beautiful, unease.
MONOAkuma is a live recording made in Brisbane in 2012 at the Institute Of Modern Art. This was the second time I had the pleasure to present him live in Australia. To me, this performance epitomises the physiology of Merzbow’s sound work. He creates in absolutes; sonically he generates a tidal wave of frequency that sweeps across the spectra with tireless frenzy. Merzbow’s capacity to conjure a massive swirling mesh of analog and digital sources is without comparison. His work is one of physiological and psychological intensity; a seething, psychedelic and utterly visceral noise-ocean.
What MONOAkuma represents is a resolution of Merzbow’s performative work across both analog and digital noise mediums. Here, he brings together his formidable pulsing analog noise (which exploded in the mid 1990s and subsequently forged the interests of countless artists creating music in his wake) and his more digital approach to noise. On MONOAkuma he resolves these two modes of operation into an ontology of noise in the absolute.
What I recall most about this performance is the sense of utter euphoria that was shared by everyone present. It is captured in the recording too. Not many people tend to dwell on this affective capacity of Merzbow’s work, but there is no question - this is about the body and the ears being overwhelmed. In those moments of being wholly consumed comes an incredible bodily sense of euphoria that is a truly unique and profound experience. MONOAkuma captures this affect in exacting detail.
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the commencement of Merzbow. This recording, which epitomises Merzbow's 40 years as arguably the most important noise musicians of our time, demonstrates the intense and complex audio world Merzbow has created. It’s the perfect starting point from which to wade into the noise ocean that is Merzbow’s vast output.
released November 30, 2018
Please note: All proceeds from MONOAkuma will be used to fund research and preservation attempts for the Tasmanian Devil; which in recent years has suffered greatly due to effects of a transmissible facial cancer.