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Merzbow - Go Vegan(CD Boxset) [Slowdown Records - 2020]

From October 2020 Go Vegan is a six-CD boxset focusing on the early 2000’s output of Japanese legend Merzbow- it takes in both unreleased and alternative takes of released work. The set features three CD length tracks hitting around the fifty-minute mark, and a selection of largely jam-based noise workouts.

This boxset is part of a series of similar Merz-focused CD boxset by Japan's Slowdown Records, which has seen Merzbow digging back through his seemingly vast archive of rare/ unreleased material. Each of the six CD's come in their own multi-colour slip sleeve which featured abstract swirling paint art. Inside these, we get a plain white card slip sleeve that holds the CD. On the back of each sleeve, we get minimal white text detailing the release, its tracklisting & release details. These all come packaged in a glossy topped back, which features a bright red and blue abstract swirled cover, much like the individual sleeves.

First up in the set we have Pig AY- this is a three-track CD, taking in material from March 2001. It begins with “Voice Of Pig For ID Part 1”- this rolls in at the twenty-one-minute mark and is a fairly shifting, if decidedly episodic track that moves from woozy electro meets junk spin ‘n’ sweeps, lightly noised wrapped pig field recordings, muffled machine loops and textural drags, sudden darts of bird song field recording, and churning noise groove like work-outs with more lightly morphed pig grunts on top. Up next we have the twelve and a half minutes of "Voice Of Pig For ID Part 2"- this starts with a fairly parred back selection of eerier static and cicadas like texturing. In time the layers building up, as we get the addition of churning rips, pulled out-to-cascading judders, and high end pulls ‘n’ swirls- all making for a worth example atmosphere unfed noise making. The disc is finished off with the nearing twenty-eight minutes of “AY.....AY”- this opens with a rough ‘n’ ready almost rhythmic chugging texture, this is soon added to by a sustained noise shear. As we progress the background texturing become more choppy and cluttering- with Merz throwing out more scrabbing and seared washes, with a very blunt and hazed harmonic groove just at the edged of things, making it’ self felt more ever so often with moments where this becomes the lead focuses before we once more shift layers/ pile -up noise textures occurring once more. An eventful and rewarding track to end this first disc on.

Next is Material For Structure I- and this features a single fifty-minute track from September 2002. It kicks off with a blend of looped static hacks, spins, and churnings- which start taking on a more even rhythmic and darting groove undercarriage, with shifting selection of mid-to-higher pitched swirls and swipes been added to the proceedings as the track carries on. Around the mid-way point the set beat/ groove dispensers for a selection of pulled out sears, hisses, and drags- with the slight addition of higher-pitched squiggles. At just past the half an hour mark a more baying guitar like groove and buried smarting beats start to come into play, but it’s piled with layers of swirl, sear, whipping bay, and rapid high pitched electro tone streaming- which at points hints at harmonic sensibilities. In time we drift away from the setback, for more shifting layers of texturally and searing noise craft. On the whole, this is a good and rewarding example of Merz long-form noise composition, and I enjoy the groove/ looped rhythmic elements as he effectively brings them back in-then drops them down the line.

On disc three and we have a single 57.21 track entitled “Yoshinotsune Metamo – Abhunter”, and this is from September 2003. I guess you’d initially describe this as an almost krautrock inspired noise jam- we kick off with a locked marching drum beat, this is joined by a locked billow ‘n’ wail horn-like tone. As we progress, we get lightly smarting and repetitive cymbal hits added to the mix, and fairly soon we have layers of swarming ‘n’ swimming hiss and overloaded guitar like buzz brought into the fore too- all creating a very dense and smarting march procession of sound. At a point the sneering horn-tone drops out, and we’re left will the almost completely engulfed march drum patterns- which is now hazed in sear ‘n’ hiss. As we move on things turn a bit more muffled and industrial noise bound in its feel, with some nice effective swirls ‘n’ swipes of grating noise shifting coming into play. And as this progresses we get these really neat almost organ-like tone sustains growing in the mix giving a feeling of sinister dread. Fairly soon the original beat pattern drops out before fairly soon been replaced by a blend of slowly oscillating bass buzz, cymbal sear, and a few punch a box-like drum hits- before we once more pick up the pace and more persistently pushing vibe, with great loop honking and grinding layers coming into play….before moving off on another few rewarding and moody shifts. All in all, this is a wonderful urgent, yet all-engulfing track that goes through some great/ rewarding shifts builds and dips over its length- all making it one of the highlights of this boxset.

On disc number four we have SCSI Duck – and this is a three-track affair with the material from May 2003. We start off with the nearing fifteen and a half minutes worth of “Duck 03531522”- here we choppy machine loops been overrun by/ at points almost blurred out all manner of wow-wowed noise sears, boiling and beaded pulses, swirling bays and rushes. At one point this wavering & high pitched almost harmonic organ dart ‘n’ haze appearing ever so often, giving a moody atmospheric quality to the chopping ‘n’ searing chaos. Next, we have the rhythmic chop and sear of “Duck 03530859”- this nearing nine-minute track blends roasting ‘n’ choppy grained noise washes, with distant machine loops, and darts of noise hack and static pulses. The disc is finished off with the just over twenty-six minutes of “Duck 03532619”- here we find flowing static haze, wow-wowed noise tones, meeting cluttering ‘n’ searing noise. As this very jam-based noise track move on we have sudden dips for high pitched dwell, dense blends of distant machine choppiness, loop break downs with slowly roasting static tops, and more shifts. The tracks ok, but really lacks enough formal structure/ long-lasting rewarding elements to keep one hooked over the tracks near half an hour runtime.

Up next on disc five we have 3rd Of May Vol.1- and this features just a single track "Tubular Waves 4548", which slides in just over the forty-five-minute mark. And this is a loop and beat layered track- with Merzbow very much in a more electro noise/ meets shift noised up electronica mindset. It starts out been underfed by a constant grimy bass purr, and shifting layers/ beats. The whole track retains both shifting structure, tense flow and rewarding textural/ loop pattern shift, meaning you remained locked in throughout the track. And I really like the production on this track, as the shifting ‘n’ swirling layers of noise have a good feel of clarity and definition, with none of the elements ever losing their identity. This disc is another rewarding track on the set.

Finally, in the set on disc six, we find 3rd Of May Vol 2- and this takes in two tracks. We kick off with the longer of the two “Action 3246” which slides in at just over the twenty-nine minutes mark. It starts out with a blend of weathered noise haze, and on/off marching percussion, which tends to blur / haze. As we move along the fairly pared back/ one or two elements set up retains, with stuck alarm loops, slowed noise swirls, rapidly feasting electro tone dwells, and thinner jam elements. I really like the start of this track, but later on, it feels like it loses its original noise hazed ‘n’ lightly seared focus, which is a pity. Last up on the disc/ this set is the just under fifteen minutes of “Action 1526”- here we find flowing noise haze, choppy loops, and searing high sweeps- it’s ok, but nothing to write home about, as once again after it’s interesting to start it loses it way somewhat.

It’s great Slowdown Records continuing with these boxsets of rare/ unheard Merzbow material- and on the whole Go Vegan is a worthy addition to the series, with some really interesting work on display here, sure it’s a little mixed in places, but what do you expect with this type of thing. All in all, if you’re a long term Merz freak, you need to be tracking this down, and to do just that head directly to Slowdown Records here.

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

Roger Batty
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