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John Cage used it to offset and contrast quiet; punks use it for its antisocial appeal. Jimi Hendrix used it to express the smoldering disaffection of a generation. Lou Reed used it to tell his record label exactly where they could stick his contract. But can noise be legitimized as art? Merzbow's Masami Akita is the nominal ringleader of a curious Asian (and now international) phenomenon that has been dubbed "Japanoise." He and his clamorous peers have pushed the sound envelope to extremes over thousands of cassettes, CDs, and records.

Many of these recordings are as much objets d'art as they are musical documents. One Merzbow CD--limited edition of 1--was even soldered into the disc player of a Mercedez Benz, the automobile itself serving as packaging. Merzbow's high-bore squall, often served up in long, excruciating doses of concentrated din, is definitely art--albeit art with a limited appeal. The throbbing assault of piercing feedback, metallic upheaval, and unmitigated "power electronics" are an acquired taste. If you're looking to brave Merzbow's sonic blast furnace, TAUROMACHINE is an excellent introduction. The commotion unfolds with enough rhythmic and tonal variegation to keep your ears engrossed--even entertained--as they're being scourged.

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