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Merzbow - MONOakuma [Room 40 - 2018]

It is difficult to think of a more famous noise artist than Japanese musician Masami Akita. He is one of the founders of the style of experimental music, called Japanoise – an often chaotic and harsh take on the noise form. His project Merzbow, which has existed since the late 1970s, has become so legendary that when the genre of noise is mentioned, the project is the first to be mentioned. Merzbow has released a truly huge number of albums. According to Discogs - the total number of albums in projects discography is 433 releases- but I’m sure they are more. For 40 years now, Merzbow has maintained its position as a leader in the global noise scene, releasing at least several albums per year.

At the end of 2018, Australian label Room 40 released MONOakuma. A Limited Edition CD, as well as the digital version of the album, is available for order on the label's website and on its Bandcamp page. It should be noted that all the money received from the sales of this album will go to charity - for the study and preservation of the population of the Tasmanian devil. More than a noble goal, given that Masami Akita is a well-known environmental activist and a staunch vegan.

The album cover features a black background, in the middle of which there is a vertical rectangular black and white photo of some blurred texture or pattern, most likely of organic origin. On the cover, there is no project name or album name. The album consists of one long track lasting fifty minutes and seven seconds- which is self-titled


Any listener familiar with the work of Merzbow pretty much knows what to expect from each new release. Despite the fact that there are quite a few albums in the discography of this project, on which Masami Akita experiments with sound, adding elements from other musical styles or additionally uses real musical instruments, the general style and feel of the compositions remain the same. This is chaotic harsh noise improvisation, using numerous effects, multi-layered textures and unexpected sound changes. On the album MONOakuma all these elements are present. Sadly it’s often very difficult to make out what's going on.

This album's a recording of a live performance of Merzbow at the Institute Of Modern Art in the Australian city of Brisbane in 2012. But seemingly the recording was not done via the Soundboard, but instead via micro-phoned portable recorder. Accordingly, the quality of the recording is far from perfect. There is almost no stereo. Perhaps that is why the prefix MONO is highlighted in the title of the album. The whole flow of effects and changes in textures and sounds reproduced by Merzbow are lost in the rather rich buzz that is present throughout the album. It seems that the recorder was quite far from the sound monitors at the time of recording. Of course, in this sound mess, all the frequencies become mixed and the sound became extremely blurry, despite the sound engineer’s obvious attempt to process the recording before release.

Honestly, while listening to the album, I had a desire several times to turn it off. I believe that Masami Akita played his set perfectly. I am sure that this was done professionally, energetically and sincerely. I am sure that the recording of this set was well-meaning, given the charitable nature connected with it. But in this case, two positives resulted in a negative result... With the undeniable professionalism of the musician, everything spoiled by the quality of the recording. In former times, live albums of this quality were called bootlegs and were released unofficially. Well, we will regard this album, simply as a historical document. With all due respect and love for Masami Akita and the Tasmanian devils.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Sergey Pakhomov
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