A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Merzbow meets metal on this excellent new collaboration with ou·tré rockers Hyrrokkin.
Masami Akita is no stranger to metal. The much-celebrated Venereology is Merzbow doing extreme metal like death metal and grindcore. He’s also collaborated with a number of underground metal’s biggest names, from his excellent collaborations with Boris to more recent – and more extreme – outings with Full of Hell.
It’s actually not as odd of a pairing as you might think. Both metal and noise rely upon the pulverizing power of extreme volume. Both sometimes lean into the hypnotic properties of repetition and longform song structures. Both offer a kind of transcendence through pain or endurance or exercises in extreme aesthetics and transgression.
Still, even if the pairing makes sense and has precedence, Faltered Pursuit is a strange bird in Merzbow’s discography. Strange, but wonderful.
Rather than the usual brick-hard extremity that much of Merzbow’s metallic work explores, Faltered Pursuit feels more like trancey noise rock a la Lightning Bolt, Oneida or even the drive-by mania of The Locust, thanks largely to Hyrrokkin’s relentless drumming. The Yellow Springs, Ohio ensemble boasts a royal pedigree of experimental rock, with members having played with everyone from Gastr del Sol to Fugazi along with other modern innovators like William Hooker and Rhys Chatham, so they come by it rightly.
So, imagine if you will, a free-jazz/noise rock combo jamming along on some jazz chords, while a Vishnu-like drummer does his best Chris Corsano impression when, all of a sudden, the stage tilts and all and sundry are tossed into an industrial rock tumbler. Over the span of the next 28 minutes they will be polished, pummeled, broken down into molecular components and uploaded, only to gibber and sigh to themselves in lonesome digital alienation and existential dread.
It’s not all metal on Faltered Pursuit, though. Album highlight “Let’s All Dance In A Rigorous Line,” remixed by no less than Rob Mazurek of Chicago Underground Duo/Trio, is a wonder of senseless accordions and brooding drones, which are then roughed up by Akita’s steel wool powernoise and bacterial synthesizers. It sounds like Penguin Cafe Orchestra being hit with a powerwasher in a prefabricated steel building and then run through the tumble dry cycle with a pair of hobnail boots.
Sleeping Giant Glossolalia speak of “a highly unorthodox writing and recording process” in their liner notes. We cannot help but wonder what it was. Either way, some wonderful performances are captured on Faltered Pursuit, which are then slathered with Merzbow’s trademarked ducking, sucking carwash electronics and frenetic outbursts of white hot white noise static. It’s refreshing to hear avant rock, metal, and noise playing nice together – stretching each of the genres like saltwater taffy in the process. It’s a much-appreciated entry in each entity’s ouevre and is highly recommended.
Faltered Pursuit is out now on Sleeping Giant Glossolalia.
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