forestpunk

A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Merzbow Monday: Merzbow – Collection Era Vol. 3 (Merzbox Disc 6, 1981)

This collection of the Collection era, compiled as disc 6 of the Merzbox, is more of a historical curiosity than essential listening. 

Before the harsh noise, the sheets of damaging static and coruscating winds, Merzbow worked primarily with a raw, brutalist assemblage of scrap metal, tape loops, and acoustic instruments used and abused. It serves as an interesting link between the 20th Century avant garde that served as the source for Merzbow’s name in the first place (Kurt Schwitter‘s Merzbau project), academic improv, and various strains of post-industrial music that Merzbow himself would help to inspire. 

The early Merzbow recordings might best be approached as an interesting installation or artful assemblage than any sort of narrative statement. We’ve compared other albums from that era to “walking through a forest of rebar, getting caught in the crossfire of some BB battle.” You may get the most mileage out of a similar approach to Collection Era Volume 3, with its accumulation of whirring motors, senseless jazz, and abstract rustles, rumbles, and scrapes. 

Things start off on a low-key note with “01,” with its fluttering engines and mechanical pulses. Its less of a song and more of the sound of listening to a flywheel whirring in perpetuity. The engines give way to more of that mechanical forest feel on “02,” a rather satisfying slab of rhythmic noise and junk percussion. If Harry Partsch and Einsturzende Neubauten got together to build a gamelan orchestra, this is what their night-time rituals might sound like. 

If Harry Partsch and Einsturzende Neubauten got together to build a gamelan orchestra, this is what their night-time rituals might sound like.

“03” is a riotous gallop through the shortwave radio band, a geiger-counter trawl through a radioactive land. “04” might be a percussive ritual you find there, while a blind, idiot Xerox machine oozes phosphorescence into the twilight. 

And so on… we won’t bore you with a play-by-play or track-by-track analysis. Things continue on in this vein for the duration of Collection Era 3‘s 8 tracks. Sometimes it’s like listening to a washing machine. Others, it’s like the cooing of some robotic rabbit. 

Suffice it to say, Collection Era 3 is for those who wander through small machine workshops and thrift stores in auditory rapture. If you’re the type to flip through industrial equipment catalogs in search of new instruments, fans of minimalist avant-garde improv records, and Merzbow records you may enjoy Collection Era Vol. 3. Everyone else will probably be alright missing this. 

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