13 Japanese Birds, Vol. 9: Hyodori

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For those who have followed Masami Aktita's (aka Merzbow) career, his animal activism and respect for the natural world have been well documented. His recordings, particularly those in the 21st century, seem to be thematically underscoring this in ever-increasing ways. That said, Merzbow is also doing something else with his monthly 13 Japanese Birds series of recordings: paying tribute to the influence of French composer Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue d'Oiseaux. Hyodori is the ninth volume in in the series. The hiyodori -- a brown-eared bulbul -- is a very common bird in Japan, but is found almost nowhere else in the world. The three pieces here, totaling over 65 minutes, are somewhat typical of the extreme, analogue-power electronics Merzbow employs on the vast majority of his recordings. This series is different, however, because he also uses his drum kit on every volume. That commonality is interesting in relation to the bird he pays homage to: some of the volumes in this series are loaded with dynamic and textural subtleties; but not this one. The title track is the longest and most physically demanding of the listener. Punishing pneumatic sounds, power tools, deliberately ultra-compressed machine sounds, and feedback are employed for maximum noise effect shot though with distorted examples of the bird’s own voice via a guitar. It is interesting to note, though, that entire flocks of the hiyodori are often found in industrial areas and suffer from diseases associated with pollution, creating a compelling parallel to the sounds found here. While it’s true that the average listener will find it difficult -- to say the least -- to hear any correlation between Merzbow’s noise and birds, it is no doubt clear in his mind, and he could care less; he knows exactly where he's going. His unique, trademark sonic attack is on full display here, making this a compelling and demanding listen.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 30:20
2 16:17
3 17:45
blue highlight denotes track pick