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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Merzbow - Metalvelodrome [Urashima - 2019]

Originally released in 1993 on legendary Japanese noise label Alchemy Metalvelodrome is a four-CD box set from Merzbow- the set highlights his versatility as a noise artists with material moving from playful and quirkier looped based compositions, searing ‘n’ spiralling harsh noise work-outs, noised-up industrial-like moments, and general creative/ varied noise making. From Italian label, Urashima here’s a much needed recent reissue of this classic 1990’s Merz-boxset- coming in an edition of 500 copies.

The four CD’s each feature there own glossy colour card sleeves- these come in a silver sprayed wooden box( similar to other recent Urashima box set releases) with laser engraving of the original artwork cover on the front and inside, and the Urashima logo on the back. Also in the box is a fold-out glossy mini poster- with art on one side, and track listing on the other. And lastly a numbered certificate.
I can’t imagine these 500 copies will hang around too long- as there is great interest in Merzbow’s 90’s output- so if you want to get hold of this act sooner than later, to avoid crazy eBay prices.
 
The set offers up all the original box set tracks- except for two live tracks, which are here replaced with previously unreleased live tracks from the same period- so you do get some new/ exclusive content here.  The first disc takes in eight tracks, and these have run times between just over a minute, fourteen minutes- with a disc total runtime of sixty-three minutes. Kicking the disc off is “Armless”- which is a nicely cascading & shifting blend of shrill & forking highs, sweeping static bound mids, and cluttering low-end- it’s nicely active junk metal seared start to the box set, and certainly make sure your awake & ready for Merz. After the shorter track “Retro”- we move into our first ten minute plus composition “G-Pot In Odd Meter”- this sees starts with stabbing lines of electro pulse lined with shrill-to-cluttering static, as we move on we find a blend of accelerating racing car-like drags of noise, these are blurred by chugging hazes of sear- and at times we almost move towards almost a groove type feel- yet never fully get there. Along its length the track nicely thins back, then rushers back in giving one a feeling of travelling along with some kind of tunnel as you move from sparse tracking to more dense build-ups of glowing ‘n’ shifting sound. The longest track here is  number six “Bluelick”- this opens with a chugging rhythmic loop- but fairly soon it's engulfed by smarting ‘n’ wailing twists of highs & mids- the rhythmic elements keeps trying to get a proper foothold, but Merz keeps slicing ‘n’ twisting out a blend of hacking static, baying clutter, and swirling junk chop. The first disc is finished off by “Scarping Metal Fetus No1” which is a shot of early loop-based Merz- which brings together locked easy listening & tape stretch loops, roast oriental synth snippets, with later blends of sourly baying highs, radio wave sweeps, and compressed-yet-galloping Muzak loops.
 
The second disc takes in another eight tracks- and these have runtime between one & eleven minutes. The material moves from the moody & stuck music loops, cascading psychedelic noise, and sudden dada bays of the second track “Traveling”. Onto the cluttering & snaking junk percussion descents meets forking roast ‘n’ static chopping gallop of “HGL Made a race for the last Brain”. Through to snapping-to- echoed percussion & Mez guitar bays of “Pink Nitro Surf”. Finishing off with throbbing drone purr & vaguely jive noise guitar meets- skittering maze of junk noise matter that is “Hitchhike to Kill”. Again another varied disc
 
 
The third disc takes in just three tracks- though we have a disc runtime of sixty-eight minutes. Proceedings start off with epic forty-six minutes of “Die Fruchtbareit in der Ehe / Another Crash for High Tide”- this opens in a fairly playful manner with bouncing ‘charge of the light brigade” horn sample & clip-clopping percussion- which is sudden piled up by slurred & slowed vocal samples & sweeps of noise. As we move through the track things nicely alter and shift as we get sped-up cartoon elements, aircraft like sounds, melted & noised up Muzak, darting jazz percussion fills, clashing big band loops, swirls of  shrill-to-baying noise, weird oriental string swoons & hammering-to-tapping electro percussion, and more. It is a great, eventful & highly enjoyable long-form Merz track.
The second track is “Outtakes 1” which brings together skittering & hacking electro noise sweeps, with snippets of almost jiving Merz guitar, and clashing junk textures. This disc is finished off by "Scarping Metal Fetus No2”- here we find a  flowing mixture cluttering-at-times speed up easy listening samples, smarting cascades of guitar bay, and swarming-to- twisting noise matter.
 
 
The forth & final disc features six tracks- these run between four & twenty-four-minute mark, with a total disc runtime of sixty-five minutes. We move from the bleak electro-industrial chop meets stabbing & searing noise tone work out of “Zero In The Scream”. Through to ear scraping noise highs meets  stop-start junk metal percussion of “Necrogrinder”. Finishing off with lop-sided & lose “Untitled Mix 1”- with it’s shifting soundscape of pounding guitar throb, twisting & fiery cascading noise matter, and darting junk hits. Again another nicely varied & creative disc.
 
So in summing up Metalvelodrome- it’s a very worthy four-disc set from the king of Japanese noise.  It’s a set that highlights his sonic versatility creating material that moves from seriously intense & psychedelic roasting, through to more playful & dada influenced. Great to see Urashima reissue classic 1990’s Merz material like this, and let's hope there are more Merz releases in the pipeline from this period- be they boxset or single disc releases- as this is the material that helped cement Merzbow as one of the world’s greatest noisemakers.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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