Merzbow

13 Japanese Birds, Vol. 3

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To English-speaking Americans who travel, the word "yurikamome" is the name of the new 21st century Tokyo mass transit system. The truth is, however, that yurikamome is the Tokyo prefecture's official bird, a black-headed gull, which makes far more sense in the title of Merzbow's (Asami Makita) third entry in his 13 Japanese Birds series of recordings. At three tracks and just over 53 minutes long, the set is filled with a lot of what one might expect from Merzbow (power electronics, in-the-red industrial noise, distortion, and feedback), though somehow all of it is more musical -- take the kick drums and tom-toms that create the pulse of the opening "Black Headed Gull." Certainly, there are plenty of overdriven, screeching, grinding, and piercing sounds here, but they are far more methodical than many of the records he's issued in the past. In fact, the drums become more "rocklike" as the piece travels through its 31-plus-minute length. The power electronics hold a steady presence but it's the drums -- played wildly and busily throughout the middle section -- that sound more like John Bonham than anything listeners have heard since he passed from this world. On "February 2002," the drums take a more intricate role in the construction of the work rather than powering it, with cymbals, snares, gongs, and overdriven polyrhythmics working to create an actual strategy for Merzbow's electronics to follow rather than drive through. The simple snare and kick-drum pattern that plays monotonously through "The Angel of the Odd" acts in concert with tempered feedback and industrial noise to create a hypnotic piece that is reminiscent of Martin Rev of Suicide without Alan Vega. At eight minutes, it's just the right length. This is among the most enjoyable, wonderfully provocative, yet aesthetically listenable sets heard from Merzbow in some time.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 31:42
2 13:33
3 8:05
blue highlight denotes track pick