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Archive for the ‘Merzbow’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

When you play them together, you get the drumless Boris with all of the glitching electronica of Merzbow sprinkled around it.  The songs are set up in a very clever way with one of Merzbow’s songs being exactly equal to two or three of the Boris songs.

I played the CD of Boris and the stream of Merzbow on Spotify.  It was cool to be able to raise and lower the volunme of one to change the intensity of Merzbow’s glitches.

Merzbow’s “Planet of the Cows” plays over the first two Boris songs “Farewell” and “Huge.”  Farewell’s quiet drone tacks on Merzbow’s squeals and glitches which fill in the gaps quite nicely.  When “Farewell” ends, the Merzbow continues until the loud gongs heavy chords of “Huge” ring out.  The Merzbow chaos sounds almost like a solo over the slow low heavy drone chords.  Atsuo’s low growling even complements the spare noises.  Both parts ends with squealing feedbacking sounds–analog from Boris and digital from Merzbow.

Merzbow’s “Goloka Pt. 1” plays over three Boris songs “Resonance” “Rainbow” and “Sometimes” (the My Bloody Valentine cover).  “Resonance” is mostly percussion–kind of randomly hit in a slow rhythm.  Merzbow’s noises sound like static in a distance echoing signal from outer space.  “Rainbow” is a piece I don’t know.  This version features Boris playing some quiet guitar and a grooving bass with Wata singing vocals. Merzbow’s electronics sounds restrained here, adding louder noises when the vocals back out  This song has some tasty soloing from Wata with the electronics almost keeping pace.  It segues into “Sometimes,” with its loud thumping echoes and eventual wall of noise.  The vocals are pretty well buried but you can hear the melody of the MBV song.

“Goloka Pt.. 2” plays over “Heavy Rain” and “Akuma No Uta.” “Heavy Rain” starts out with noisy stabs of sound–it’s actually hard to tell who is making what, but then things mellow out as Wata sings.  The guitars drone loudly and the vocals mix in with the electronics.  It ends with the noisy guitar buzzing from Boris while the noises from Merzbow continue between songs–sounds of noise and electronic bleeps.  “Akuma No Uta” starts slowly with washes of guitar build up. The glitching Merzbow adds keeps it from being purely a drone.  The drone gets louder and louder and I like the way Merzbow’s glitches seem to back off as the man riff enters the song.  As it nears the end, glitching sounds to me like a menacing voice coming through the static and heavy riffage.

The final song is Merzbow’ “Prelude to a Broken Arm” which plays over “Akirame Flower” and “Vomitself.”  It starts out with watery sounds before the big chords and vocals kick in.  Merzbow’s noise is like a screaming train underneath the slow crooning.   The main riff from Wata has some electronic percussive sounds tacked onto it.  As the final chord rings out the song segues into the musch noisier “Vomitself.”   It introduces a huge wave of low chords as Merzbow’s noise amps up to correspond with a lot of low growling percussive sounds. As the song rumbles to an end the squealing intensifies like feedback added on top of the roar with the last notes sounding like a person raging.

It’s interesting how I don’t really like the Merzbow tracks, but how they add interesting textures to the Boris songs.

[READ: February 19, 2021] Caliente

Matu Santamaria is an Argentinian illustrator and his work is really stunning.

This book has a big warning: 18+ but it’s not fully explicit.  There are drawing of naked women and sex acts, but there’s only a few things that are NSFW.

Santamaria’s work is full of clean lines and and dramatic colors.  I really enjoy looking at it, regardless of the content.

This book contains a lot of his most recent work.  It seems to be split between positive messages about sexuality, body positivity and appreciation for frontline workers during the Coronavirus.  There’s also some celebrity pictures as well.

After some definitions of the word caliente, the book opens with series of pictures of women exploring the sexuality with each other.  Interracial women kissing and a woman taking her top off with the comment–“and without realizing it, it’s poetry.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc Two: Merzbow) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

Merzbow is a real challenge for me.  I’m not really sure how anyone can listen to his music for pleasure.  It’s harsh, electronic sounds, with high pitched squeals and low staticy distortions.  As an exercise in noise, it’s fairly interesting, but never enjoyable.

This disc includes four songs.

“Planet of the Cows” is over 18 minutes long.  It’s high pitched squealing and a low distortion.  There’s a thumping that works almost like a rhythm.  After ten minutes it sounds like a space alarm is sounding.

“Goloka Pt. 1” is 20 minutes long.  It feels bigger and more metallic.  The noises seem to coalesce into a distant screaming sound.

“Goloka Pt. 2” is 19:30.  It’s got a slightly lower tone, with slower movement among the noises.  Although sirens and pulsing sounds are present.  Then at 12 minutes all the sirens drop out to just a quiet robotic pulsing with thumping that sound like a heartbeat.  The track ends in what sounds like mechanical breathing.

“Prelude to a Broken Arm” is the shortest song at only 16 minutes.  It is quieter with a low crunching and bug-like sounds.  At 6 and half minutes the distortion comes in really loud with a mechanical drum/broken engine sound and then a looping siren with the kind of static noise that sounds like more screaming.

It is an unsettling and challenging listen and not for the squeamish.

[READ: February 10, 2021] “Our House”

Irish writers are often known for their humorous storytelling.  But wow, can Irish writers really hit hard with the tragedy, too.

This is one of the darkest stories I’ve read in a long time.

The story begins with the narrator saying that his father always told him to never buy a house on a  corner.  But the narrator and his wife did anyway.  It was in bad shape and needed a lot of work, but they fell in love with the place and felt they were up to the task.

The story sets up the spouses as opposites in love.  She is a non-practicing Protestant with a Catholic name (Ursula) and he is a non-practicing Catholic with a Protestant name.  She thinks he is funny and he never dares to admit that she rarely gets the jokes.

The previous owner died three years ago and they are the first people to check out the place.  The more they clean the more work they see needs to get done.  Although there are some nice surprises (like the five hundred pounds in cash they find under the carpet).

But it’s the neighborhood that proves to be more hostile to them than they could ever have imagined.  Children began gathering at the corner every day.  They get up to mischief right away–ringing the doorbell and running, bouncing a ball off the house.  But there is an underlying air of menace behind all of this. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

Boris’ album is unusual in that it is re-recordings of some of the bands music as well as a couple of new tracks and a cover.  The unusual part is that there are no drums.  There are percussive elements, especially on one track, but there’s no regular drum beat to any of these tracks.

“Farewell” (from Pink) is a simple two note guitar melody with washes of sound behind it.  New notes expand that repeating motif. After two minutes a roaring chord comes in and holds while the vocals sing an uplifting melody.  The chord progression is very very slow with chords that drone. When the melody shifts to a higher note it feels like the whole song is elevated.  There’s a pretty little guitar solo in the middle and even a gong hit.  It’s one of Boris’ prettier songs and it fades softly into the noise that is “Huge.”

“Huge” (from Amplifier Worship) is two feedbacking guitars introducing distorted chords and lots of gong hits.  They’re followed by a ponderous drone-fueled six chord progression.  At around five minutes the vocals–a growl really–starts up.  At 8 minutes a new pattern emerges.  Two chugging chords and then a roaring low note–practically trademark Boris.

“Resonance” was a new song for Boris.  It is only echoed percussion–randomly and slowly hit.  The title makes sense as these sounds echo and resonate for a long time after they are sounded.  It’s not particularly interesting by itself but it works well with the Merzbow track tacked on.

“Rainbow” comes from the album Rainbow, a collaboration with Michio Kurihara.  I don’t know this record, but if this is any indication of that release, it sounds like a string record.  This is a quiet, pretty song–a sliding bass and a quietly echoing guitar riff as the song whispers along.  Then Wata starts singing quietly as the bass slinks around.  After three minutes a fuzzy guitar solo comes in drawing all attention to itself.  It rips through and ends in a wall of noise before the vocals start again.  This sounds very much like a Sonic Youth song.

Pulsing electronic noses open up “Sometimes” (a My Bloody Valentine cover).  After a minute, feedback and chords come in.  The vocals are nicely buried an you can clearly hear this is Boris’ take on MBV.  It’s a slow drone wall rather than a wall of different sounds.

It segues into “Heavy Rain” (from Noise) which opens as just a series of electronic rumbles and feedback jamming until a pretty echoing chord comes in and Wata sings very quietly.   After a minute and a half big droning chords ring out.  Then its back to the quiet–whispered vocals and gentle echoing notes over a slow meandering bass.   It soars quietly like this until the last 44 seconds which returns to the noise of the opening.

“Akuma No Uta” (from Akuma No Uta) is full of washes of notes, drones and gongs.  Over the course of the 11 and a half minutes of this song, it morphs into loud distorted chords drones ending with a slow heavy two note riff that fades with gongs.

“Akirame Flower” (originally from Golden Dance Classics a split EP with 9dw that I don’t know) opens with watery noises and electronic beat before raw guitar and vocals come in.  This is a softer drone with a pretty guitar solo on top of the fuzz.  The last note rings out and segues into the distorted bent chords of “Vomitself.”

“Vomitself” is the heaviest thing here–heavily distorted chords pummel along while growled vocals creak though.  It’s remarkable how heavy it is with no drums.

[READ: February 5, 2021] “Jamaica”

In this story, a man who is not allowed to go to his wife’s book club, finds a way to be a part of it

Everett is the narrator and he tells us about his family.  His daughter Theresa is dating a man much older than her (of whom Everett disapproves highly); Thomas his son who was born blind.  TJ their dachshund is as much a part of the story as anyone else.  His wife, Jillian, hosts the The Gorgon Book Club.

The attendees are Theresa, Dorry Smith a semi-professional archer–right down to carrying a bow and arrow with her wherever she goes, Luce Winningham who has “a Peter Pan haircut and a perky disdain for wearing a brassiere.”  There’s also Gwen Kirkle who loves animals more than anything (and often brings conversations to a halt when she talks about them).  The final attendee is Abigail Van Roost.

Everett and Abigail dated in high school. Then she had a terrible accident.  Everett (out of cowardice) broke up with her and started dating Jillian.  Amazingly, Abby (who is in a wheelchair) is fine with the arrangement,  She is happily married herself now and treats young Thomas like a prince. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS WITH MERZBOW-Rock Dream (2007).

Rock Dream was recorded live in November 2006 at Tokyo’s Earthdom festival.  It is a mix of the heaviness of Boris and the noise of Merzbow.  And it is lauded as a spectacular live document.

The Austin Chronicle discussed the album in their overview of Boris’ career, declaring it “definitive live document, an impossibly dense double album that touches down on nearly every point of their career, from Dronevil to Smile’s contorted stairway to heaven (“Flower Sun Rain”), with Merzbow’s electronic manipulations stitching it all together like connective scar tissue.”
In a retrospective review Tiny Mix Tapes, declared Rock Dream to be “not just the best album Boris ever made, but also one of the finest live albums I’ve ever heard.” and that “It’s incredible then that someone recorded Boris and Merzbow that night, because for two hours they got to be the best band on the planet.”

And what live show that opens with a 35 minute song wouldn’t be fantastic?  “Feedbacker” starts quietly with just guitar and Merzbow’s effects.  It has an almost spaghetti western feel to it with all the reverb.  Unsurprisingly, there’s moments throughout the 35 minutes where things dramatically change.  At 6 minutes there’s loud ringing guitars.  At 9 minutes things slow down and then slowly build back up with swells of music from the guitars, keys and effects. At 20 minutes, muted vocals come in and then grow louder.  It feels like it’s building to an end but it turns into faster guitars and a lot of noise.  By 31 minutes things have slowed down heading towards an ending which is primarily Merzbow’s pulsing sounds.  (And there’s so much more going on in that half an hour).

These sounds segue into “Blackout” full of thrashing guitars, crashing cymbals and Merzbow’s noise.  This segues into a song that I gather is only heard here: “Evil Stack” which features a lot of Merzbow’s knob twiddling and noise making and a lot of feedback as well.

This all segues into “Rainbow,”  a far more mellow song that opens with bass harmonics and simple drum beat with Wata’s quiet vocals.  It’s a slinky cool song with a mellow guitar solo.  Merzbow throws in some interesting sounds and and mild noises throughout.

If Disc one showcased their more expansive sound, Disc two opens with a bunch of really short fast loud songs all from Pink.

First off is the raging punk blast of “Pink.”  It is all-out thrash with a lot of yelling from Atsuo and wailing solos from Wata.  It’s followed by the 2 and a half minute rager “Woman on the Screen” with a great punk riff, lots of Atsuo’s screams and of course Merzbow putting a wall of distorrted noise over the top.  The trio concludes with the two minute  “Nothing Special.”  The punky blasts continue with “Ibitsu.”   It’s not from Pink but it’s just as fast.

Things slow down somewhat with “A Bao A Qu.”  It is 4 and a half minute with a lot of squealing feedback and thunderous drumming.  The final four songs return to that epic style–they are alternately 13 minutes or 8 minute long.

“The Evilone Which Sobs” slows things down with more of that reverbed spaghetti-western style guitar.  There’s squeals of feedback, slow plucked guitar and Merzow as this 13 minute song gets under way.  After three minutes the loudest guitar and bass imaginable come crashing through the melody.  The rest of the song is full on loud drone and feedback.  It all slows down for their surprisingly catchy of cover of Pyg’s “Flower Sun Rain,” which sounds just as good live as on record–including Wata’s wailing solo.

The final two songs return to Pink.  “Just Abandoned My-self” runs over 13 minutes and opens with a scream from Atsuo, wailing guitars from Wata and vocals from Takeshi.  The song barely lets up for seven minutes, and when it finally changes pace, it’s more for the guitars to do some e-bow working while Atsuo continues to pound away.  The last four minute are those droning chords with Merzbow making some really interesting sounds while the band plays on.  Merzbow ends the song with a kind of looping siren that leads into the show ending with a great version of “Farewell.”

Unlike the one from Crossing Waltz, Merzbow’s presence make a pretty big difference in the dynamic of “Farewell.”  The band sounds terrific and it’s a fantastic take on this by now iconic song.

For sure this live set isn’t for everyone–it’s loud, there’s some uncomfortable moments–but it really captures a band at full power.  And as with most Boris releases, it had a different cover in Japan.

Disc one   Total length:       49:58
“Feedbacker” (Originally from Boris at Last: -Feedbacker-) 35:05
“Blackout” (Originally from Pink) 5:19
“Evil Stack” 5:04
“Rainbow” (Originally from Rainbow) 4:30
Disc two  Total length:       60:32
“Pink” (Originally from Pink) 4:14
“Woman on the Screen” (Originally from Pink) 2:37
“Nothing Special” (Originally from Pink) 2:14
“Ibitsu” (Originally from Akuma no Uta) 3:35
“A Bao A Qu” (Originally from Sound Track from Film “Mabuta no Ura”) 4:35
“The Evilone Which Sobs” (Originally from Dronevil) 13:41
“Flower Sun Rain” (PYG cover, later released on Smile) 8:04
“Just Abandoned My-self” (Originally from Pink) 13:21
“Farewell” (Originally from Pink) 8:11

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Mrs Crasthorpe”

This story revealed itself slowly and in interesting ways.

We meet Mrs Crasthorpe in the first paragraph.  She is humiliated because her husband’s funeral has just been poorly attended.  It was also, by his own design, in a small, unassuming, frankly embarrassing cemetery.  Mrs Crasthorpe is 59.  Her husband was 72.  Yes, she had married him for money and yet it didn’t really make her a more fulfilled person.  She had cheated on her husband, but he didn’t seem to mind or care.

She had felt herself to be always a rosebud, claiming to be 45 when she was late nearly 60.  She also told no one she had a son.

Then we shift to following Etheridge, a man whose wife is near death.  He is tender to her, caring, but she doesn’t have long to live. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUNN O)))-Flight of the Behemoth (2002).

I hadn’t really heard Sunn O))) until this record (which may not be typical as they collaborated with Merzbow on this one).  I knew that Sunn O))) played loud droney “music.”  And so it is here.  On “Mocking Solemnity” (9 minutes) and “Death Becomes You” (13 minutes) (which meld into each other seamlessly), the songs are mostly slow drones on electric guitar.  The chords are heavy and heavily distorted and they ring out for a few bars–not until the chords die naturally, there is a kind of pacing involved, but for a few bars until the chords are played again (often the same chord).  This is for those who thought Metal Machine Music was too complicated.

On paper this sounds unimpressive (or downright awful, depending) but in reality it is a very physical experience (if played loud enough).

The staticy noise of “Death” melds into track 3 “O))) Bow 1” which adds what sounds like radically modified piano playing a kind of melody.  It’s about 6 minutes and it really changes the tone of the record to suddenly add an atonal racket to the almost calming drone of the bass.  But by the middle of the song, the piano becomes what sounds like a chainsaw.  Merzbow mixed that track and  “O))) Bow 2” which is 13 minutes of the same slow pulsating noise.  It’s not exactly soothing.

The final track is “F.W.T.B.T.” a “remake” of “Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”  I can’t hear a thing that sounds like the original, but that’s what makes a cover interesting.  Although admittedly around the four and a half minute mark there’s some faster chords (for this band anyhow) that could be Metallica-like.  There are also drums (and vocals, although I have no idea what they are saying) on this ten-minute workout.

Not for the faint of heart (or fans of melody).

[READ: November 17, 2012] How to Be Alone

I read most of the articles in this book already.  But I read them over two years ago, so I thought it would be safe to wade into the world of Franzen again.  What I find most interesting about the title of this book is just how many of these articles are about being alone, wanting to be alone or feeling like you are alone.  Obviously that is by design but it seems surprising just how apt the title proved to be, especially given the variety of subjects  his father’s brain, being a novelist, the US Postal Service, New York City.

I’m not going to go into major detail about each article this time, although I am providing a link to the earlier review–my feelings didn’t really change about the pieces (except that from time to time I got a bit exhausted at his…whininess?  No, not that exactly…maybe his persecution complex.  But I will give a line summary about each one just to keep everyone up to speed.  The four pieces that I hadn’t read before I will give a few more words about.

One overall feeling is that when Franzen isn’t writing about the state of the novel (which he is very passionate about) his articles are well researched well documented which is kind of surprising given the state of panic he seems to be in the novel articles.  It’s also kind of funny how out of touch these articles seem (some are almost 20 years old and are kind of laughably outdated), but it’s also funny to see how poorly his predictions panned out.  The death of the novel is rather overrated (just see the success of his own Freedom.

So the book contains: (more…)

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lydiaSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR8: Andre Sider Af Sonic Youth (2008).

syr8This final (so far) SYR release is another live recording and it sees the bands joined by saxophonist Mats Gustaffson and electronic wunderkind Merzbow.  This EP comes from the 2005 Roskilde Festival in Denmark (and the language is all written in Danish).  According to the SY website, the day before this, they had performed a set in support of Sonic Nurse. However, this set, “The Other Side of Sonic Youth” is an hour or so improvisation. It is basically broken down into 5 minute intervals:

1 min.  Kim (guitar) & Steve (drums) start
5 min. Thurston (guitar) joins
10 min. Lee (more guitar) joins
15 min. Jim O’ Rourke (bass/synth?) joins
20 min. Mats Gustaffson (saxophone) joins
25 min. Merzbow (laptop) joins
30 min. Kim & Steve leave
35 min. Thurston leaves
40 min. Lee leaves
45 min. Mats leaves
50 min. Merzbow finishes

All times are approximate, and even listening to the disc it’s not entirely clear when the new players come on (or when they leave). For the most part, the set is varying levels of noise and dissonance.  But it’s not just a wall of chaos. It starts fairly simply with the guitar and drums (although when Kim and Steve play it’s never really simple).  By the time Jim comes out, the band has morphed into all manner of sound scapes.

When Mats comes in and that saxophone starts squealing, it’s a whole new ballgame. I don’t find Merzbow’s entrance to be all that noteworthy, but by the end, when it’s just him and Mats (or him by himself) he’s doing some pretty amazing stuff.

It’s hard to imagine what the Roskilde people thought of this (although crowd noise seems to be positive).  This set was followed by Black Sabbath, which in and of itself is pretty funny.  Especially since the SY set seems far more dissonant.

[READ: September 6, 2009] Samuel Johnson is Indignant

This collection of Davis’ work contains fifty-six of stories.  The stories range from one sentence (!) to some twenty pages.

The book is disconcerting in that it opens with several of the one to two page stories, leading you to suspect that they will all be that length. Then, when you actually get to the longer pieces it kind of throws you.

Those first stories are I guess what you’d call flash fiction.  Except that for the most part, it’s hard to tell whether the pieces are even meant to be fiction.  They are aphoristic, often.  Talking about neighbors and friends, uncomfortable moments, and mostly, lots of thinking about everyday activities.  Some of them are funny.  Some of them are thought-provoking.  Some of them are just weird.  And some of them make you wonder why they were written at all, or more to the point, why she would name this collection Samuel Johnson is Indignant, when this story,consists of this:

“Samuel Johnson is Indignant: that Scotland has so few trees.” (more…)

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