Merzbow - Escape Mask [Other Voices Records - 2017]Escape Mask, either in CD or Vinyl format, is a rather intriguing & sonically unexpected reissue of a very early Merzbow release. It sees the noise legend offering up four tracks that blend together psychedelic ‘n’ spiralling guitar/ violin scaping, electro drum beats, industrial textures, the odd sample, & even buried vocals. But the most interesting & surprising thing here is a lot of the tracks have often fairly harmonic moments, as well as periods of almost groove like dwells.
This four track album was recorded back in 1983, and originally released on cassette by Merzbow’s own label ZSF Products. The album got a digital remix in 2012, and here in 2017 we get a much deserved reissue of this most distinctive, and rather different of Merz albums. I’m reviewing the CD version of the album, and this comes in a glossy four panel digital- which looks arty enough, though is rather sparse on details. Numbers wise the editions are 300 for the CD and 150 for the vinyl…and I can’t imagine these hanging around too long.
Each of the four tracks runs between eight & nearing fifteen minutes. And they are simply titled Escape Mask I- IV. "Part I" starts in fairly expected early Merz fashion with a clamouring ‘n’ melting blend atonal guitar sourness, sampled breathing, and lo-fi noise haze. But just when you think it’s going to go where you expect, this roughly thumbed-yet-tuneful punk like strumming comes into place, as the scrubbing guitar elements, violin saws, ect sail around. Fairly soon the track shifts off from said guitar element, & we move into to this erratically jittering, wonky grooving electro beat, which is surrounded by swarming ’n’ baying violin & guitar strings.
Over the remaining three tracks we get this blend of expected early Merz(i.e. scrubbing atonal guitars, screeching violin sails, haphazard noise elements, and floating radio/etc samples). With often hazard grooving blends of wonky electro beats, throbbing & harmonic guitar lines, and a keen sense of fun. And that’s the big thing about this release Fun- yes it’s still sits squarely in the noise/ industrial genre, but it feels so playful & often buoyant in it’s all over feel.
All in all Escape Mask is a really intriguing & worthy part of Merzbow’s truly huge discography-clearly signposting to early 2000’s albums like Merzbeat, but with a more haphazard & fun feel. As I mentioned early the release (over both CD & vinyl) has an edition of just 450 copies- so I advise fairly quick action, if you want to score a copy of this distinctive & this fairly unique of Merzbow releases.