Masami Akita's willingness to collaborate with artists whose aesthetics lie far from his own commands respect -- and fosters some of his best work of late. After his terribly effective live team-up with Pan Sonic (released by Victo as V) comes this collaboration with Kim Cascone. Head of the Anechoic label and a leading figure of the "microsonic" approach to computer music, the West Coast-based Cascone makes an unlikely partner for the raw-edged, overwhelming Merzbow. And yet, Rondo/7 Phases/Blowback is definitely a satisfying release, although followers of Cascone may disagree. Whereas V saw both parties finding ways to assert their individualities, one must admit that, on this album, Merzbow rules most of the proceedings. "Rondo," 32 minutes long, is identified as having been recorded and mixed in Tokyo, so one assumes that for this piece Merzbow used source material provided by Cascone and had the final say. The piece is indeed a raucous slab of digital noise, gritty, punishing, and immediately recognizable as Merzbow in good shape. Cascone's input is traceable in the softer textures running in the background, occasionally getting very loud in the foreground. His clicks and quiet noise layers sound like they have been mutated by a mad scientist. One can hear how Cascone's input has influenced the shape and sound of the piece, but for most listeners it will be Merzbow music. The other two pieces ("7 Phases" and "Blowback") were recorded and mixed at Cascone's studio. They feature a very different approach but, surprisingly enough, are still very much on the harsh noise end of the spectrum. Clickety textures are pushed further up front but are still "supersized." On the other hand, Merzbow's harsh drones have been subdued and turned into more manageable entities, to a point where it becomes difficult to distinguish the two contributions. But the structure of the piece -- a sequence of seven segments brutally separated by a second of silence -- again relates more to the Japanese noisician's way of thinking. The concluding two-minute "Blowback" almost feels like an outtake. Lighter and fancier, it consists of a few digital tones bouncing around the stereo spectrum. Here, finally, listeners get to the kind of synergy and common ground featured on V -- which is not to say that what came before those last two minutes is worthless; quite the contrary. But it's mostly Merzbow. Be warned.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture