Merzbow - Kakapo [Oaken Palace Records - 2016]Merzbow these days seems to be met with equal parts praise and derision. He is undoubtedly one of thee most prolific artists ever to toil in the noise spectrum. I dare say his output dwarfs just about any comparable act that has as much longevity and profile.
Of course, having such a coveted status brings with it a certain amount of disdain, and not necessarily unwarranted. For some, they tire of Merzbow being seen as the be-all end-all of noise music, especially with a constant new breed of noise artists killing in basements and shithole clubs, who will never attain anywhere near the same recognition. For others, Merzbow lost his potency once he started abandoning analog noise for a more digital approach. For me Pulse Demon, 1930, and his collaborations with John Wiese and Genesis P-Orridge remain essential albums in my discovery of noise music and seeing Merzbow live was a near religious experience. That said, while I’ve never ceased liking Merzbow, I kind of stopped seeking out his material (though I’ve been privy to some of his newer works through Musique Machine reviews).
So what do I think about Kakapo, a newish 12” vinyl release on Oaken Palace Records? First off, In case you are wondering, kakapos are a flightless parrot found in New Zealand, whose numbers have dwindled to around 200. Ever the animal rights advocate, Merzbow dedicates this album to those birds, and the profits will be donated to recovery efforts. So kudos for that. So onto the noise.
Kakapo offers 2 side long slabs of harsh noise sterilization and to be honest they’re quite good. Listening to both tracks, “Kakapo Pt.1” & “Kakapo Pt. 2” it appears that this was a single track that was split to fit 2 sides of a record, but no qualms there. Think dense, layered noise. Both pieces utilize a thick blanket of atmospheric drone as the foundation if you will. Within that thick mass is a maelstrom harsh electronics running the gamut from laser-like synth blasts to crushing static wash, pulses, chirps, whirs, and zingers. It’s what I like to call a noise crawl, and at 33 minutes, it’s a rather meaty one.
If you haven’t listened to Merzbow in a while, this is as good a record as any of his recent works to check out.Hal Harmon