08 novembro 1996

[EN] Merzbow - (2002) Merzbeat


The perfect soundtrack to the most fucked up party ever.

(Clique aqui para ler em português!)

This album is very hated. That's the impression I got after reading several reviews, both in RYM and all around the Internet. And I don't get why. No, let me try that again: I get exactly why it is hated yet I'm in eternal disagreement.

Merzbeat is the most accessible album from the crazy long-haired man. Don't take that as "oh, finally some Merzbow I can show to my friends!", because it'll still make them discreetly sneak away from you after your confession.

Merzbeat is the Merzbow's work most fully packed with rhythm, beats and musical elements. Show it to a hardcore fan of harsh noise or HNW that is sexually attracted to having their auditory system slowly destroyed  and he'll spit in your face. "Rhythm? IN MY MUSIC? HAHAHAHAHA!"

And that's where the problem resides. Too noisy and dissonant for mainstream tastes; too musical and harmonious for a noiseboy (I promise to never use that word again). Maybe only 1999's Door Open At 8 Am comes close to Merzbeat's musicality.

I almost certainly have no authority to say this, since I've only heard about ten Merzbow's records so far, but this is one of his best works yet.

The beats are always simple and bland loops that repeat throughout the song. Instead of rendering the experience repetitive, the beats burn in your memory and only make the modifications done to them more fascinating.

The noise here, in its majority, is created by the beats' own heavy distortion. Almost all tracks here are built of two rhythms being abused in different ways as time goes by (in turns at first, then more simultaneously). The execution gets a bit formulaic, yes, that's a weakness of this album, but there's still lots of room for some diversity. Sometimes the distortion gets so intense that the beat changes entirely, complementing the second beat in innovative ways.

Another high in Merzbeat is its mixing. Unlike monstrosities such as Pulse Demon, the average loudness of the tracks here isn't inexorably deafening. It's still pretty high, but pales in comparison to the harsher works of this Japanese gentleman. I know some people would say that this is a bad thing, that the ridiculous volume levels are an essential part of the full experience but I'll disagree till death. If you want everyone around you to think that your headphones are irreparably damaged, then turn up the volume yourself. Maybe my hate for the so called "Loudness War" is weighting in now, but anyway...

I gotta give kudos to Merzbow in this album too for not being extremely uniform, to the point of getting tiresome, in the chaos and loudness department, like many of his works do. Here there are many moments of somewhat tranquility amidst the mountains and valleys of noise. A very welcomed variety that ends up amplifying the noisier segments by proxy.

Good stuff from other Merzbow's adventures are also found here. Various bizarre and otherworldly sounds are sprinkled in the songs and often make you question "Are those bells? Or is it a frying pan being scraped against the mic? How the fuck was this sound created?"

In the end, Merzbeat is a hell of an experience. Certainly an album that guarantees multiple listenings. The only weak aspects I found were the obsession with high-pitched sounds (a matter of taste. Maybe the reason why I don't enjoy Merzbow so much), some segments that repeated for way too long, with no progression whatsoever and ended up being boring...  and finally (how could I not talk about it) the dumbest and most impractical way to add a bonus track: after the fifth song,there are 58 tracks of four seconds and one track of six seconds, all containing nothing more than silence, to only then include the bonus track. I could list various reasons why this is disgusting, but I don't wanna waste my time. In all seriousness, this is almost insignificant, but it messes with my OCD so much, I thought it was worth mentioning.

I'd love to see Merzbow experimenting more in the future with rhythms and melodies soaked in noise or vice-versa.

Album cover: 6/10

What even is this? Looks like a brown seal showing its tongue. I read in some place that there's a samurai in the cover somewhere. On the background, Japanese architecture with an unpleasant pink filter. Extra point for the strange silliness that emanates from the art.

Track analysis:

1. Promotion Man 7/10

We start with an electric guitar and drums in a simple and memorable loop that's quickly penetrated by high-pitched shots at full speed. The percussion stays immutable for some time while the electric guitar is destroyed with effects. After a while the formula is inverted. The distortion is so intense that at times you'll forget what was originally there. At 5:43 a climax and after that a bit of a pause, leaving the beat alone for some time. More toying with effects until the abrupt end. A simplistic formula that'll be used for most of the album but with dozens of interesting textures along the way.

2. Forgotten Land 8/10

What sounds like a ukulele and then a simple drum beat. Merzbeat's most impressive distortions are used on the latter. There's something really addicting about the way the bass turns to treble with the increasing loudness and other effects. Various quieter moments here. Nice. The track's just a bit long.

3. Shadow Barbarian (Long Mix) 8/10

The most low-pitched track so far. Beautiful bassy "kicks" and a beat full of grainy noise. An annoying rhythm is introduced in some parts, something that sounds like a broken toy's shitty tune. After a while that sound's distorted and gets more interesting. Paradoxically, at the end, we are attacked by nuclear bombs of bright high-pitched noises.

4. Tadpole 6/10

A shorter and less noisy track in general,kinda ambient. Nothing much to grab your attention but it's a nice pause.

5. Looping Jane (Beat Mix) 5/10

Here we have the same drum beat from track 2. Forgotten Land used again, what a disappointment. This album didn't need any more repetition at all. The distortions applied to the drums here are much more dissonant and powerful but the electric guitar... Sounds like a boring white noise. It changes sometimes, but doesn't save itself.

6-64 [silence] 0/10

4 seconds of silence in each of these identical tracks. Wow. I know they're here to hide the bonus track, but this gimmick worked better in the CD's era. Had to delete them as to not fuck up my last.fm stats.

65. [silence] 0/10

This one's different! 6 seconds of silence?! A very welcomed innovation that really surprises us and... Let's get to the bonus track already.

66. Amlux (Remixed by Jack Dangers) (2nd Version) 8/10

Wow, who would have thought? It was worth the wait (didn't even wait). What a fascinating song. It stands out - a lot - from the rest of the album, being much quieter, more ambient. Intriguing sounds, strange cracks that could have come from a fire, but very isolated. Then comes a wave of noise that follows an incessant, almost incomprehensible rhythm. At moments the track even sounds atmospheric. Sporadic bursts of loud high-pitched noises are almost jump scares. Recalled me of Wolf Eyes, which makes the track good by definition. Since it's a remix by other artist, we shouldn't be surprised by the change in style, but its very welcomed anyway. I should check other works from this Jack Dangers.

Final score:


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