13 Japanese Birds, Vol. 7: Kujakubato

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Masami Akita (aka Merzbow) is as well-known as an environmental activist as he is a creator of powerful and extreme music. 13 Japanese Birds, Vol. 7 (subtitled Kujakubato) is the seventh volume in his 13-volume/13-month series. In addition to the extreme analogue noise he is best known for, Merzbow is also a drummer of no little prowess. In this series of recordings, and in particular on this one, he employs a full drum kit, tuned quite low as a way of not only highlighting his particular choice of bird in this series ("kujakubato" translates as "pigeon," the lowliest bird in society's regard), but also as a compositional method. Each of the five pieces on this set is a formal construction. The noise is as urgent as ever, though it is channeled through the chant-like beat of the drums. From "Wind of Pain," where it is funneled through floor toms and a kick drum, through the two-part "Pigeon Walk," where the beats are held down mostly by a muffled snare, and the ride tom-tom. Cymbals and hi hats usher in new and brief elements of industrial sound, as an underlying, urgent thrum rushes through the listeners ears and body. If anything on this volume, Merzbow has come as close to "songlike" constructions as ever, but he makes no concessions. His conception of beauty is still entirely his own. The formal pulse in a given composition may not change much, but accents, fills, and shifting textures on the drum kit do. Also, the gated noise in each composition varies greatly from beginning to end, not simply its dynamic, but its texture, frequency, and even its energetic field. This is a very special series in Merzbow's voluminous career -- nearly 200 albums and counting at this point -- in that it showcases his skills as a composer, his own sense (albeit one of the supreme outsider) of tenderness is balanced with righteous indignation when it comes to the offense of society's notion that the natural world is simply an expendable commodity. Kujakubato is highly recommended, as is the rest of the series.

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