Rock music has become louder and more aggressive over the years, but it’s still got a long way to go before reaching the heights of sheer sonic violence scaled by members of Japan’s noise underground: acts like Masonna, Solmania, and Hijokaidan have made the punishing scream of ear-splitting feedback and gushing white noise the sole focus of their work. Formed in Tokyo in 1981, Merzbow–the nom de noise of Masami Akita–is in many ways the mother of all Japanese noise. While on a superficial level the bulk of Merzbow’s 170 releases sound pretty much the same–loud, loud, loud–there’s a definite aesthetic and genuine craft behind the relentless din. At times, the crashing gates of feedback, overamplified electronic devices, scraped metals, and heavily manipulated tapes achieve an almost symphonic depth and richness. While the new Pulse Demon (Release) suggests that Merzbow can manufacture an attack as harsh and painful as any extant noiseniks, its nuances become apparent on the recent Rainbow Electronics 2 (Dexter’s Cigar). Attentive listening reveals an ever-shifting landscape of frequently changing densities, intensities, tones, and volumes. There’s nothing linear about it and melody couldn’t be less of a concern, but for those interested in pure sound Merzbow occupies the extreme with stunning conviction. Earplugs are a must. Gastr del Sol headlines. Thursday, October 17, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Merzobw photo.