A Sensory Overload
Masami Akita, better known by his stage name Merzbow, boasts an impressive discography that spans over three decades and encompasses over 400 individual recordings. During his long and prolific career, Merzbow has worked to carve a niche for himself within the realm of experimental electronic music, and there is perhaps no better word to describe his music than ‘experimental’. Merzbow’s harsh blend of electronic textures truly tests the limits of one’s auditory senses, as he crafts scintillatingly dense soundscapes. While this noise-centric compositional approach may deter some – if not many – listeners, Merzbow’s impressive ability to layer electronic sounds has always instilled his music with a certain sense of intrigue and wonder; one that has captivated a devout following.
Merzbow’s latest album, Atsusaku, adds yet another abrasive sonic experimentation to his extensive catalog. With the help of bass clarinetist Gareth Davis, Merzbow captures a provocative assortment of deafening electronic textures, thus one should expect a highly esoteric listening experience. The opening track “Haihan,” bombards the listener with an unrelentingly aggressive wall of electric sound. “Kyouhan” on the other hand offers a calmer, more spacious – yet still blaring – blend of digital swells.
Atsusaku’s two massive atmospheric works challenge the listener to embrace Merzbow’s eccentric approach to sound and music. In the spirit of free jazz, they evolve organically whilst blatantly rejecting harmonious musical conventions. However, the timbres are harsh and crude, with every layer of sound subtly augmenting the dazzlingly discordant soundscape. The piercing shrieks of electricity paired with Davis’s eclectic and digitally-affected clarinet flourishes make Atsusaku a spellbindingly unique listening experience.
While Merzbow’s brand of noise art is undoubtedly an exceptional feat in experimental music and sound engineering, the heightened level of sonic activity can certainly become exhausting at times. For the vast majority of listeners, Merzbow’s work is probably better enjoyed in moderation as to avoid sensory overload. Fortunately, running at a reasonable thirty-seven minutes, Atsusaku offers a comprehensible and compelling glimpse into the window of the mind of this noise legend. For those who find its harsh noise-manipulation appealing, be sure to check out more of Merzbow’s vast output. You may find yourself mesmerized by his work.