Various Artists - Creative Destruction [Hypnagogia - 2011]A compilation of Japanese harsh noise is probably one of the best presents anyone could give me, so I’m very happy to review this double CD released in an edition of 300 copies by the great U.K. label Hypnagogia.
The artwork is a weird, psychedelic and colourful collage by Yasutoshi Yoshida (Government Alpha), and "Creative Destruction" is a good mix of veterans and new/newish artists from the actual Japanese extreme noise scene.
The compilation starts with three tracks from Kazuma Kubota (also The Cracked Mirror, ex Bloody Letter,etc.) who delivers some of the best and strongest harsh noise I heard in a while. The tracks are made up of long bursts of excellent junk metal devastation punctuated by lurking moments of quasi-delicate, undistorted a-la-musique concrete manipulation of the same metal and even bits of silence. Mr. Kubota gives us a great variation in distortion tones, a perfect balance of "empty" and "full" sounds and just plain fucking good fist-pumping harsh noise. I believe that if he releases a handful of full lengths with material of this quality he will jump right on top of the list of the masters of the genre. Anyway his tracks are definitely the highlight of the compilation in my opinion.
Next up we have Government Alpha's who offers up two tracks that are heavy on high pitch feedback, processed with what sounds like two or three Kaoss Pads. It sounds very "modern", high tech and it's ear-piercing like hell. The sounds go from high frequencies that would make most people gnash their teeth to murky electronic lows paired with the synth-y swooshing and fractured signal typical of Korg's instrument. Very good for my taste, but not for everybody.
The Lords of noise Incapacitants are even more futuristic. Their first track sounds like a huge computer's processor farting, closer to modern academic electronic music than to harsh noise. Some microphone feedback is audible, but digital weird chatter and sputter reign supreme. It's totally disorienting, which is a good thing of course. Second track, while still very much dominated by Kaoss Pad-like sounds, is a more traditional chunk of aggressive noise, in the typical stream-of-consciousness style of Incapacitants.
After this is three tracks from Defektro; who I remember more for their self-made instruments and pedals than for their music, and I believe this compilation is actually the first physical release I own with tracks by this duo. What we have here are three tracks of very variegated noise: white noise and buzzing sounds with weird synth/feedback undertones; percussive sounds of metal machinery accompanied by droning feedbacks - reminiscent of some broken contemporary Varèse-like, timbre-driven classical music; a scary and dark feedback drone piece that gets quite dull and pointless after a while. Their noise track is not the best of the bunch and the drone piece is just ok, but the extra weird machine clacking, rattling and banging of "Bite And Spit" is great and it makes me long for more like this.
The second CD starts with Thirdorgan, who is the only real disappointment of the compilation. His digital noise is not too bad, but some (possibly) unwanted computer distortions and some ridiculous sounds make it the lowest point of the "Creative Destruction" set. I expected more from this veteran. Anyway his three tracks are a mix of full-on white noise blast, rhythmic loops and bits of silence.
Next up is two tracks from K2's, their tracks are more crude than usual, again full of digital-sounding effects (but this is coming from Japan, so what else should we expect?), very aggressive, with a fast, spastic pace and good balance in the variation of sounds. Not his best material, and maybe second-worst on this compilation, but I’m sure some people will like it.
After this is three tracks from Astro- the first track starts with his usual piercing synth sounds, maybe dirtier than expected. His trademark pulsating and uncomfortable synth slowly rises to total noise mess. The second track is a live recording from a gig in Shanghai, and it might come as a surprise to people who didn't see Astro live in the last few years. It seems that Mr. Hasegawa left his synths home for his trip in China, preferring to play full-on-blasting harsh noise in a very raw and brutal style full of feedback and filth. It's one of my favourite tracks on the compilation! His last track is quite close to a studio rendition of the brutal Shanghai live set, being almost wallish static noise coupled with delayed guttural screaming. Excellent stuff.
The honour of closing track is given to Guilty C. (the artist formerly known as Guilty Connector?). His "Black Nights, Muddy Confusions" is the softest moment of the compilation. It's a creepy mix of delicate droning and low frequency buzzing sounds that slowly build up to a noisy momentum that soon fades away to give space to peaceful night cricket sounds and a low drone. The mix comes out as very psychedelic because of the structure of the track and the extensive use of delay effects in its noisiest part. Interesting, well thought and well done, but fans of Guilty Connector's more "classic" harsh noise production will be disappointed.
In conclusion I loved this compilation. The highs and lows are inevitable in this kind of project, and some tracks sound louder than others, but in the end it doesn't matter. "Creative Destruction" will not become legendary like the old "Come Again II", "Noise Forest" or "Extreme Music From Japan", but it's a valid document of the current state of harsh noise in Japan. What more could you ask for?