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Merzbow - Metallic(CD Boxset) [Slowdown Records - 2019]

Metallic is a six-CD boxset bringing together a selection of Merzbow recordings from the 1990's- the set features stand-alone albums, compilations, and a live album. With the material moving nicely from creative & at times moody harsh noise, dense loop-based material, and more noise jam-like material.

This recent boxset appears on Japan's Slowdown Records and its part of a series of recent Merzbow CD boxset & single disc releases- which have seen the Japanese king of noise digging back through his huge archive of rare/ unreleased material. Each of the six CD's come in a dull silver slip sleeve, and inside this we get a plain white card slip sleeve that holds the CD. The front covers each feature a different pattern/shape against the sliver backdrop- on the back of each; we get minimal white text detailing the release, its tracklisting & release details. These all come packaged in a glossy card box- featuring the silver effect on the lid, and black gloss on the inside box. Not sure how ltd the boxset is, but I can't imagine it been huge- though I think you still may be able to buy some of the discs separately- but I'd advise picking up the whole set, as it's certainly a nicely varied & intriguing box digging into the largely unreleased side of this classic Merz period.

The disc kicking off the set is Bluedelic+, this is an unreleased album from 1993, and as with all the material it's been given a recent remastering by Merzbow at Munemihouse. The albums a three-track affair with a total runtime of fifty-seven minutes, and starting off proceedings we have "Bluedelic 1" this takes in the lion share of the releases runtime at just shy of the thirty-nine-minute mark. The track opens with this stabbing loop which seems to saying 'killer' over & over in an electro modified way, fairly soon in kicks the snaking & swirling lines of noise matter- moving from searing & grating pitch stretches, though to twisting & baying junk noise, onto shifting layers of differently grained noise textures. Ever so often one can make out juddering & shifting loops underneath the shifting soundscape, and from time-to-time we shift off into sudden, though fleeting back snaping rhythmic passages. The tracks wonderfully inventive & shifting, and like the best of Merz work it really improves with repeated listen, as what initially seemed like shift chaos is clearly multi-faceted & skillfully crafted noise composition that will keep you coming back for more. At times we also get some whistling & waving atmospheric touches moving into the track, which nicely adds a feeling of brooding futurism to the mix.
Next is "Bluedic 2"- this comes in at the 7.40 mark, and it begins with a blend of reeling & spiraling loops. As the track moves on we get sudden-yet-fleeting high end pulls, but really this track is about creating a feeling of rapid & dynamic texture based looping- and it makes for a nicely more focused center track for the album.
Lastly, we have "Bluedic 3"- this slides in just under the eleven-minute mark, and is a blend of slamming 'n' fuzzing loops, which shift in & out of been rhythmic. Baying & shift lines of harsh noise texturing, and this wonderful moody harmonic marching loop, which keeps rising up in the dense soundscape giving the whole thing a wonderful brooding & dramatic futuristic warlike vibe- you can almost see in one's mind's eye robot armies marching & crushing mankind under stark grey skies.
All in all, this is a great, creative, and at times memorable Merz album from the 1990's- and is one of the early highlights of this set.

Moving onto the second disc and have the wonderful entitled Phillo Jazz, this album dates from 1994 and takes in three tracks- with total album runtime of fifty-six minutes.
Opening the album up we have "Phillo Jazz March" this slides in at just past the fifteen-minute mark, and is a wonderful example of Merz shifting, eventful, and rewarding noise craft. It starts off alternating between this atmospheric Volin 'n' simplistic tick-tock electronics, and all-out barrages of ripped up noise attacks. As we move through the track we go from screaming & baying noise 'n' boiling loop pile-ups, swirling & swooping psychedelic noise work-outs, pare backs to more minimal matter be it set noise grain, throbbing synth craft, spinning & stretching loops, or more harmonic/playful fare- it's a great head ripping & mind-warping opening track. Next, we have "Phillo Jazz June(Electronica)" this nears the nineteen-minute mark, and starts off a lot denser, moodily baying & layered- with swarming & chopping  electronics that at times become more settled rhythmic/ banging in places, sour pitch stretches, and swims of junk metal form. As we move on we get shifts into scrawling & painful twanging Merzgiutar scapes, rushing masses of textural pileCup, and weird collages of gurgling/choking sounds fed into speed-up loops, searingly wail merzguitar improv, and feasting electro noise hazes.
The album finishes with the track "Phillo Jazz July"- and this is the longest track on the album sliding just over the twenty-two-minute mark. This begins fairly dense & roasting- yet somehow majestic as we get pulled out swoops of wailing merzguitar, long sustained forking feedback, and grating noise swirls. As the track moves on it maintains it's dense, almost noise jam-like quilty- with at times the whole thing coming across like loose jam rock & drone rock feed into the prism of extreme scorching harsh noise. Sure it's not as eventful/ shifting as the other tracks, but it's a thick and at times atmospheric end to the album.

The next disc is СƷ Vol.1( in English Vignettes Vol.1), this eight-track release runs for forty-six minutes, and is best described as a collection of odds & ends- with the tracks coming from between 1993 & 1994. We start with two around six-minute tracks "Crash for High Tide 1 & 2"-these are both more paired back examples of minimal noise treatments & loops- but both fairly eventful & creative. Next, we get a series of six-minute tracks with the word sound in them, I'm guessing these must have been layers of sound/ composition that Merz must have been working to put in larger works- so we have "Arthur Sound", "Percussive Sound" and "Geometric Sound"- each of these are far from just untouched or plain sound elements, they twist turn & move- and make for rewarding shorter noise adventures. Next, we have the track "Untitled Drums"- this just over nine & half minutes is the longest track on this CD- and it's very much in vein of later more noise & drum jams Merz did around the Merzbird series of albums, but it's a lot looser and later on we get addition of wonky musak loops been added into the mix.
The Cds topped off with the short two around three-minute tracks "New TD1" & "New TD2"- these bring together bounding almost harmonic bass elements with baying noise and chugging loops- they make for short though fascinating titbits of Merz experimentation from this period. All in all   СƷ Vol.1 is a most worthy, creative, and insightful collection of tracks.

The fourth disc in the set isСƷ Vol.2- this CD slides in at the forty eight-minute mark, takes in eight tracks, and once again  is an odds & ends collection, focusing on between 1994 & 1995. We move from the churning at times just heard rhymic loop-meets- searing & roasting noise of "Phillo- Jazz Grind". Onto the crunching 'n' bouncing beats 'n' bass buzz meets rapid scrubbing and playful noise of "Freizezeithfick". Through to the throbbing electro pulse & skittering noise texturing of "Pretties For You" Ending off with the around five-minute tracks "Untitled Voice 1" and "Untitled Voice 2"- these like the three sound-tracks from the first vol are once again elements that were clearly been worked on for larger noise work- both are baying, squealing & ripping noise attacks that bring together swirling roast of textured noise & stretched tone pitch wails. Again this disc is another worthy collection of tracks.

Disc five is Live at ͬ־ѧ, and as it's title suggests this is live set disc bringing together a long-form noise jam pieces & the soundcheck from the same evening- with a total disc runtime of thirty-nine minutes. The recording is from November of 1995 at the Doshisha Univesity. The main set comes first, then the soundcheck- the main set is fairly blunt & un-nuanced in it's recording, so you don't get a lot of depth/layers to the sounds- but that said I do like the almost thick & swirling monoc feel of the set as which find thick spewing ropes of roaring 'n' baying noise. The soundcheck track only runs around five minutes, and is much clear defined in it's recording- it's based around shifting maps of rhythmic loops & gunning-to-swirling noise matter. Of the six discs, I'd say this is the lesser, as there is less depth/repeat listening here- but it's most interesting to hear a Merzbow live set from the mid-90s.

The sixth & final disc in the set is Chameleon Body- this album is from 1995. This tow track affair lasts a total of forty-six minutes- with one long track thirty-nine-minute track, and a shorter seven-minute track. The two tracks here are decidedly active and shifting in their roasting layers of sound. For the most part, both tracks have less of the  loop-based, at moments rhythmic elements of many of Merz albums - so as a result, I'd say this has a fairly noise jam-like feeling to much of the album's runtime. Featured in the album runtime is a nine-minute segment of which appeared on the Merzbox's, in particular, disc 45 Red Magnesia Pink- but the rest is unreleased,
First, off we have "Chameleon Body Part 1"- this is the longer of the two-track- it starts out with a line pop 'n' snap, fairly soon this is added to by interlocking sways of seared electro sweeps, whistling 'n' high pitched bays, and rapidly churning junk metal tones. As the track progresses it retains a sort of red hot roasting swirling quality - much like shifting banks of lava. We move from more ear grating highs, to more clamoring & slicing mids appearing, or we shifting into more angular descents of rapidly chopping 'n' and feasting junk metal tones. At moments layers strip back, and at times you think the track will strip back to banging or twitching lines of junk metal- but it never does as Merz sends more sways of ear melting noise. At other times you can make out faint touches of more playful loops appearing- but these never really make much of an impression, & instead, the focus of soundscape is twisting 'n' roasting harsh noise.
Next, we have "Chameleon Body Part 2"- and this is the shorter of the two tracks. It starts with rapidly twisting 'n' baying lines of high pitched siren tone- shortly these are joined to by rapid chucks of cut-up noise matter. We have a shifting blend of choppy waves on mid-range bays, cascading lines of static chop, and searing high tone pulls. From time-to-time, in the mass of sound, you get chopped up piano tone/ muzak- but these strands are very fleeting- really this shorter second track is all about rapidly shifting between more pared-back textural chops & bays, and denser shifting layers of sound- we do also get slightly longer moments of almost rhythmic electro fed looping going on here- though like the first track again there is a fairly loose feel to the track.
As an album Chameleon Body is an eventful, often rapid and intense example of 1990's harsh noise- at times you can make out Merz early more playful & quirky touches trying to get through- but the main focus is on creating a searing 'n' twisting slice of 1990's Japnoise.

In finishing I'd say if you,re a fan of Merzbow's 1990 output, you need to do your self a favor and pick-up this boxset. There's a nice variation in type of material, and for the most part, the quilty is good-to-great. To hear samples and find out how to buy the boxset direct follow this link to Slowdown Records here

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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