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Richard Pinhas / Merzbow: Keio Line

Nic Jones By

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Both guitarist Richard Pinhas and musician/artist Merzbow (Masami Akita) have been working at their craft since the '70s, and this meeting of minds is in essence a microcosm of their work. As pioneers in the field of noise as music they've produced work that hasn't been co-opted by a broadening mainstream and that in itself perhaps says something of the societies of which that mainstream is representative.

Summit meeting as this may be then, the results are often as tranquil as they are subversive. For all of the detail of "Merzdon / Helbow Kills Animal Killers," it's music that ends in seemingly arbitrary fashion, as if the performers, conscious of the limited tonal and rhythmic palette they've fashioned for themselves, are conscious of letting things peter out before repetition becomes an end in itself.

They also make music steeped in precedents, and the following "Chaos Line" is a case in point, where the spirits of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno haunt the margins in benign fashion. The swells and ebbs of this one are, however, entirely the performers' own, and the same might be said of the undercurrent of deep white noise that could be the ultimate manifestation of blank—if the contentious issue of the lack of incident in the music is disregarded.

The very incident-free nature of the music might at times be an end in itself, a token act of subversion with the intention of undermining established tropes, and while that might be an admirable end in itself it doesn't alter the fact that the end results, as far as many are concerned, might be curiously uninvolving. On the other hand such a judgment could be indicative only of a singular outlook. Certainly the fuzzy logic of the opening "Tokyo Electric Guerilla" has the air of intrigue about it, with blank sounds occupying some resonant soundspace where the human is in thrall to the electronic and even the pulse itself is arbitrary, maintained in its place for as long as it takes the performers to get bored with it.

Where the operation is more modest, as it is on the lengthy "Shibuya AKS," a combination of two very different rhythmic configurations addresses the issue of tension and release quite nicely, although anything as relatively trite as the latter is meticulously avoided, not so much by overt intent as it is by stealth. Again, the arbitrary plays a role stronger than it would in any more overtly human music, but the order that implies is subverted from within by the old standby that is straightforward human rage.

Visit Richard Pinhas and Merzbow on the web.


Track Listing: CD1: Tokyo Electric Guerilla; Ikebukuro: Tout le Monde Descend!; Shibuya AKS. CD2: Merzdon/Helzdow Kills Animal Killers; Chaos Line; Fuck the Power (and Fuck Global Players).

Personnel: Merzbow: EMS Synthi A and all noises; Richard Pinhas: guitar and loop system.

Title: Keio Line | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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