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Merzbow: Animal Magnetism

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if you like this you'll like: Hijokaiden, Nihilist Spasm Band, Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Henry, drills, barnyards trapped in high-volume temporal loops.

REVIEW: Merzbow: Animal Magnetism
10.26.2003 by Alex Wlasenko

Merzbow: Animal Magnetism [Alien8, 2003]
Three words? fields of noise

Baa? That's one thing I never expected to hear on a Merzbow record.

For the uninitiated, Merbow is a pseudonym for Masami Akita, noise-artist extraordinaire. Maybe "extreme electroacoustic composer" would sound classier; he shares more in common with Iannis Xenakis, Iancu Dumitrescu, and Pierre Henry than with contemporary wall-of-noise wannabes at any rate. Sure, Akita can make your ears bleed, but more and more he also tempers his punishing sonic blasts with subtlety and nuance. Despite having pumped out more than 200 albums, Merzbow shows that he's still full of plenty of surprises.

This album features Akita's talents on guitar, laptop, and chicken. Yes, chicken. As I listened to the disc for first time, it gradually dawned on me that some of these bursts of sound were in fact clucks and squawks. Then came the sheep. As I listened to the rest of the album, and then listened to it again, I found myself wondering if some of these sounds were just electronics coaxed into mimicking barnyard animals, or the cries of animals caught in a machine. It almost merits a warning: no animals were harmed during the recording of this album.

Even with the playful animal samples, nobody could possibly mistake this for the whimsical sounds of Jean-Jacques Perrey, or the suicide-inducing Jingle Cats. The ambient static is still there. Organic digital shrieks and processed guitar wails and drones are accompanied by booming loops. However, Animal Magnetism could possibly be one of Merzbow's most "mellow" albums. There are islands of tranquillity in the sea of cacophony, many of which are positively haunting. The last track in particular is almost accessible, featuring more familiar guitar tones and (could it be?) harmony.

Criticisms of the genre are plagued with the notion that the majority of noise records produced all sound alike. Merzbow isn't content to follow the sheep. Instead, he's opted to put them on his record.

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