A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Being so tuned into the world, with so much information at our fingertips and the ability to see macro structures at work, it can be difficult to know where to put your energies to make the most difference. It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed, to shut down, to succumb to ennui and apathy and irony. Or just to become bitter, altogether.
As i mentioned in the review for Merzbow’s collaboration with Sun Ra a few weeks ago, Strange City, noise music is particularly adept at emulating the sound of systems – replicating the military/medicinal/industrial death web via feedbacking oscillators, crippling static, and repurposed field recordings. It’s a sonic allegory of the interdependence and intercontextuality of The Machine, of which we are all a part (especially if you happen to be reading this via technology, and i’d be kind of surprised and confused if you weren’t.)
The Kakapo is one of the Earth’s largest parrots – a flightless bird the size of a small dog, native to New Zealand. As of June 2016, there were only 123 kakapos left in existence. And while a large, fluffy, flightless bird doesn’t sound that evolutionary viable, sometimes it is our job, as cultivators of The Garden, to protect those that can’t protect themselves.
Masami Akita, aka Merzbow’s, fascination with birds is no secret, given how frequently they show up in his album titles and art, (editor: although we have yet to discern the actual origin of Merzbow’s love for winged creatures, due to a dearth of interviews in English. Would love to know more, if anyone has any info!) Kakapo is Merzbow’s most recent act of art as activism, for the wonderful Oaken Palace label, out of Birmingham, UK.
Kakapo is two lengthy, drone-y sound journeys, as typical for Merzbow, but not as long as other Merzbow material. The brevity works to its advantage, giving a good overview of Akita’s noise moves and techniques, making this a good choice for people just getting into Merzbow’s massive ouevre.
“Kakapo Pt. 1” comes on with some creeping static and a distant pulsing hum, like some air conditioner unit in the center of a rainforest. It doesn’t take long for buzzsaw oscillators to kick in, churning and thrumming like incessant deforestation. We’re put in the place of the Kakapo, with our thoughts being chewed up and spit out like the “Owl Parrot”‘s natural habitat. There’s also some trademarked squiggle synths, around the 12 minute mark, showcasing the hand of the creator, giving that handmade quality that almost all great noise seems to have. (editor again: We’re still trying to figure out how in the hell this sound is made, as we hear it on tons of noise records. Anyone know?)
“Kakapo Pt. 2” drifts gracefully out of “Part 1”, giving continuity to the two halves. More crystalline bubbles meet some underwater thrashing, like a river full of writhing eels with sharp teeth and bellowing cries. A mid-frequency drone holds things together, as persistent and unceasing as chronic migraines. “Kakapo Pt. 2” has a harsh noise drop shadow, which never fully succumbs to full on HNW, to its benefit. Instead, the line noise and surface chatter – like the noisefloor on non-digital media – reminds us that these threats are ceaseless and unrelenting. While we sleep, and chase our little dreams, millions of endangered species are fighting for their lives.
All in all, Kakapo is just one more reminder of how noise music transcends the human, placing ourselves INSIDE of nature, rather than apart from it. It’s similar to H. P. Lovecraft‘s Cosmic Horror, except Masami Akita is like some Shinto Shaman, swimming through the capillaries of The Dreaming, where Lovecraft – ever the rationalist – shut down in dread and awe.
Kakapo comes in an edition of 500 translucent green 140 g vinyl, as well as digitally. The vinyl format is a neat touch, being nicely mixed and mastered, as well as providing a nice respite in the middle, to get up and flip the platter (for those strange creatures that need a break after listening to 16 minutes of scathing feedback.) All proceeds for Kakapo go to the Kakapo Recovery Fund.
Merzbow Monday is an on-going investigation into the back catalog of Masami Akita, seeing as how he’s one of the most prolific and iconic noise musicians extant.
With that note in mind, I’m hoping to keep up with #MerzbowMondays, making my way through as many Merzbow records as possible, trying to determine what is good noise and what is mediocre mess.
One of the things I hope to achieve with this investigation is providing instruction and insight into how exactly the noise is made and produced. Amazingly enough, in all of my years of trawling the Internet for tutorials and concrete information regarding underground genres, there’s not a lot of content out there about how to make noise music – or experimental music in general – let alone how to make really good noise.
My question/query/thought for all of you out there:
One of the risks of people not taking the time to delve into underground/unconventional/uncommercial music is it could go away forever. Noise, as kind of an anti-pop, breaks down the repetitive predictable structures of pop songs into longform abstraction, much in the way that Schoenberg or Weber would deconstruct the symphony into a kind of atonal orgy.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, observations, and for learning from one another!
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Tune into every Sunday night/Monday morning for Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness @ Freeform Portland! Exploring the dark side of techno, hip-hop, shoegaze, metal, psych, folk, and soundtrack. You can listen to the archives online at mixcloud.com/for3stpunk.