All About Jazz

Home » Articles » We Travel the Spaceways

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

4

Merzbow Brings The Noise

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Merzbow

Merzbient

Soleilmoon Recordings 2012

Are you of the mind, that in the big scheme of things, the really big scheme of things, there are no accidents? That everything happens for a purpose? Call it synchronicity or a Shirley MacLaine cake recipe, and I'm sure Kevin Bacon would agree, that fate or destiny plays a role in everyone's life, even a music critic.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about kismet. The revelation, that just as I was about to begin a meditation practice, this huge 18-LP boxset from the Japanese noise artist Merzbow, aka Masami Akita arrived at my door.

Why are these two related? Some background is necessary. Masami Akita is perhaps the greatest exponent of "noise-music" on the planet. That seemingly oxymoronic word raises the question (which we will leave to the scholars) how can noise be music? I'm not talking about when you lived with your parents and your mom would yell up to your room to "turn that bloody noise down." Merzbow and artists such as K.K. Null, Z'EV, James Plotkin, Kevin Drumm, The Haters and Boredoms continue a tradition of sound generation that began with The Futurists, John Cage, and runs through Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane's late work. They each strip (or build) sound, so that the listening experience surpasses the aural. But, more about that later.

I found that the best way to "listen" to this noise was to repeat the experience I've had with prior Merzbow recordings during my athletic training, specifically endurance training for bicycle racing. I often listen to music while training, and a two hour bike ride often includes intervals (a twenty to thirty minute period of intense exertion). One day, with my iPod on shuffle, Merzbow's Merzbuddha (Important, 2005) came up. That sound, fit the activity perfectly. Merzbow's churning waves of noise fell perfectly in line with my 20 minutes of high heart rate, powered-up suffering. I was transfixed, this was the soundtrack to my effort, a sort of machine-meets-animal growl that matched my primordial effort to wrestle my machine. With Merzbow I could direct my focus without being distracted by melody, soloing, lyric or rhyme. Each pedal stroke, required both continued concentration and a detachment from the pain. I had to turn off the part of my brain that was urging me to quit, saying "look at that gorgeous grove of trees, and those cows. Stop and look. Hey, let's go get a cup of coffee." Instead, I had to devote myself to the task at hand. Entering the "zone" as it is referred to by athletes. Deep concentration, an attentiveness to the task at hand.

Like athletic training, digesting a large collection of music, a complete boxset or live session, takes a bit of discipline. I once devoured the 22 hours of trumpeter Dave Douglas' Quintet and Keystone bands from New York's Jazz Standard, with a full immersion of sound. This would be different. Masami Akita's sound is often difficult, room-clearing turbulence. Thus, the idea of meditation or brain-training concentration occurred to me. Meditation can be a mantra, silent nothingness or focus on the breath. I chose to practice my meditation around Merzbow's music. That's what it is. Practice. As they say, "there ain't no perfection" in meditation.

I have been engaged with Masami Akita since his early days (the 1980s). I adopted the moniker FaGaGaGa after the dada artist Max Ernst term Fatagaga ("Fabrication de tableaux garantis gazométriques") and he, Merzbow, from Kurt Schwitters "Merzbau." Back then, bands like Fugazi, The Tape Beatles and G.X. Jupiter Larsen's Haters traded (pre-internet) cassettes and art by way of the postal system. Mail Art, a branch of Fluxus art, is a direct descendent of Dada and Surrealism.

Merzbow has since evolved beyond this fringe art scene to become the leading proponent of noise music today. He has released hundreds of recordings over multiple labels, including the 13-disc Japanese Birds (Important, 2009) series, the 10-disc releases Merzmorphosis and Merzphysics (Youth, inc., 2012) and the mind numbing 50-disc Merzbox (Extreme, 2000). It is improbable that one listener could consume his entire oeuvre. Then, such immoderation is part-and-parcel of his art. The sound is but one component of his domain. His animal rights activism is a large presence in his current output, as is his Fluxus roots, evident in the detailed packaging for each release, with elaborate hand painted boxes, wooden CD cases, LPs, stickers, posters and t-shirts, all produced to, in effect, package his sounds in an anti-art, yet art-consuming fashion.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
In Pictures
Live Reviews
In Pictures
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Emanon

Emanon

Blue Note Records
2018

buy
Adam's Apple

Adam's Apple

Music Matters
2017

buy
The Blue Note Albums

The Blue Note Albums

Blue Note Records
2015

buy
 

Odyssey Of Iska

Spirit One Records
2014

buy
 

Multiple Set Of 3...

Spirit One Records
2013

buy
Wayne Shorter Quartet: Without a Net

Wayne Shorter...

Blue Note Records
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, and the Buddha walk in to a bar... We Travel the Spaceways
Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, and the Buddha walk in to a...
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 8, 2017
Read Pete Mills: The Anatomy Of A Jazz Release We Travel the Spaceways
Pete Mills: The Anatomy Of A Jazz Release
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 28, 2014
Read The Dude Abides We Travel the Spaceways
The Dude Abides
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 4, 2013
Read Taking stock, a year half over We Travel the Spaceways
Taking stock, a year half over
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 20, 2013
Read Art Strike! We Travel the Spaceways
Art Strike!
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 22, 2013
Read Jazz: A Blessed Obsession We Travel the Spaceways
Jazz: A Blessed Obsession
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 2, 2013
Read "Frank Woeste: Reversing Ravel" Catching Up With Frank Woeste: Reversing Ravel
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: February 7, 2018
Read "Bokani Dyer: African Piano" Interviews Bokani Dyer: African Piano
by Seton Hawkins
Published: June 7, 2018
Read "Bob James Trio at Nighttown" Live Reviews Bob James Trio at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: June 29, 2018
Read "Thelonious Monk Inside Out: A Fresh Perspective On His Music" The Art and Science of Jazz Thelonious Monk Inside Out: A Fresh Perspective On His Music
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 26, 2018
Read "AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia" Live Reviews AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia
by Mark Holston
Published: October 13, 2017