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Merzbow - "Dharma"
(Double H Noise Industries)
Listen to the music

Got the Merzbox? Me neither. How many Merzbow releases does one really need anyways? Ya heard one, you've heard'em all, right? Not necessarily. There's no doubt converts to Masami Akita's work have picked this disc up already, but for those who may be unfamiliar or unsure where to begin, this new full-length on Hydra Head's noisey sub-label is, in fact, a great place to start.

"Dharma" is a four-track cd containing a number of short, evolving, discordant freakouts and a few nice moments of droney, white noise meditations. For decades now, Masami Akita has been mastering the art of melody-free, power-electronic improvisation. In recent years, he has discovered the powerbook, effectively digitizing his sonic mayhem, but on this new cd, Akita's sounds are very organic and pure sounding.

The first two tracks are very exciting and immediate. "I'm Coming To The Garden" starts off with a brief moment of shrill stillness, then takes a sharp turn into freakout-land. Chunks of noise are filtered and panned left and right in a nice surround-sound style. Magnetic tape played backward collides with a shrill alarm and a hovering cloud of white noise. Suddenly, a brief moment of silence, between the first and second track, jolts the listener back to reality.

"Akashiman," another brief, but solid piece of power electronics, more or less picks up where the first track ended. Things get more interesting during the second half of the cd. "Piano Space For Marimo Kitty" begins with a maddening, looped piano that slowly sprouts glitches and growling feedback. This track slowly evolves in an erratic fashion, and the unrelenting panning seems to ensure vertigo. Of course it's not too long before total chaos ensues, but just as the listener settles into the whitewash, it takes an evil turn reminiscent of the scene in The Exorcist where the priest plays back the taped recordings of Linda Blair's satanic curses. Scary stuff indeed.

The last track, "Frozen Guitars and Sunloop," is a half-hour of pure noise. Harsh, washed-out feedback whines and howls like a contained tornado, effectively erasing any musical or lyrical concept from your memory. It's effective in an ambient kind of way with the sound down. With the stereo volume knob set at 11, however, the listener will have to be sort that enjoys the pleasure of pain. This particular Merzbow experience is an interesting, moving one that will satisfy both fans of pure noise and electronic music fans who live for tweaked-out sound manipulation.

- SK

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