A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Merzbow returns to his Dada roots on Rainbow Electronics II from 1996.
The idea of making definitive noise albums seems a bit nonsensical. After all, this is a genre that is all about chaos, of chance and uncertainty, unpredictability and unwanted artifacts. Even in its name, it is the exact polar opposite of “signal”, i.e. data, content, cogent information. In its essence, it’s basically tape recordings of factory floors, detuned radios, the wind… the idea of ‘mastered’ noise seems almost counter-productive.
Rainbow Electronics II from 1996 is an excellent illustration of these principles in action. Constructed from the same raw materials that produced the first Rainbow Electronics in 1990, Masami Akita returns to the raw concréte recordings to turn out 8 new tracks of ambient noise.
Here, we are reminded of collage, one of the principle Dadaist techniques, well loved and widely executed by Merzbow’s namesame Kurt Schwitters. In collage, nothing is ever as it seems, nor is it doomed to the fate it was prescribed. Coat racks can become wooden prehistoric beasts; a bird cage gilding a beating heart instead. Objects, imbued with their own strange half-life, their own magical wills and interior landscapes.
Here, Merzbow takes the noisy junk sculptures of Rainbow Electronics and constructs something more delicate and nuanced, airy sound sculptures in place of RE‘s denser wall of sound. Together, they create a nice overview of the twin polarities of Masami Akita’s sounds and obsessions – futurist sound sculptures and post-industrial junkshop riddims meet the sheer force of volume and untamed white noise.
The first three tracks of Rainbow Electronics II are the spiritual centre of the album, all hypnotic square waves and gas station shop vacs, R2D2 bleeps and detuned, detourned radios; dying telephones being fed through a wood chipper; murderous prehistoric birds. It’s a much more hands-on recording than the first Rainbow Electronics, which has more of a “set it and forget it” structuring of gathering density. The slipshod, scattershot structure of Rainbow Electronics II reinforces the feeling of being a Dada collage in sound form, creating surreal narratives unfolding in alien landscapes of which the mind can barely comprehend.
The first three tracks of Rainbow Electronics II are the spiritual centre of the album, all hypnotic square waves and gas station shop vacs, R2D2 bleeps and detuned, detourned radios; dying telephones being fed through a wood chipper; murderous prehistoric birds.
Rainbow Electronics II is a well-loved entry in the vast Merzbow canon, thanks in large part to its utterly salivatory album cover. With that being said, this is in no way for everybody. But for those with the ears to hear, there is a certain peacefulness to be had here, a maximalist meditation inside the sound, as machines and sound and fury rage around you, while you exist in a crystalline cone of serenity. Call it the Spin Cycle of the Soul, you will come out feeling fresh and renewed if you let the rollers and manglers do their work.
Rainbow Electronics II was released on June 17, 1996 via Dexter’s Cigar
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