A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Merzbow Monday: Merzbow – Kotorhizome album review

Three brutal koto recordings get their first digital reissue on Slowdown Records on Kotorhizome.

Merzbow – Kotorhizome album cover

Merzbow never stops. He never sleeps, he just keeps pumping out pummeling, grinding, obliterating noise albums, EPs, singles, loose tracks, remixes, and collaborations. Blink and you’ll miss half-a-dozen releases; some of which are likely to be quite good or at least worthy of consideration.

In the case of Kotorhizome, you’d even have to watching Merzbow’s Soundcloud to have caught “Kotorhizome 1” when it dropped last September along with the CD issue.

Kotorhizome is the latest archival recording to get the reissue treatment from Japan’s Slowdown Records, this time from a series of recordings from 2012. Recorded in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, serving as one of the inspiration for this era of Merzbow, along with other catastrophes like the nuclear meltdowns of Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear reactors.

Kotorhizome is made up of three monolithic tracks for small-koto, synth, and drone box. “Kotorhizome 1” and “Kotorhizome 2” make up the bulk of the recording, at 26 minutes and 13 minutes respectively, and work as two halves of the same punishing journey. “Kotorhizome 1” begins with what sounds like an air raid siren which sustains throughout the entire nearly half-an-hour, serving as a foundation for brutalist calligraphy of trumpeting feedback, which is then jammed into a trash compactor along with some tinfoil. Somewhere in the distance, what sounds like a sprinkler system activates, transforming the whole goings-on into a sodden mess. Finally, a piercing needle of white hot feedback stabs yr eardrum like fluorescent shards, leaving you wrung out, strung out and spent.

But there’s more to go.

“Kotorhizome 2” is built with the same pallet as Part 1, making it seem almost like a remix. Instead of static and feedback, though, Masami Akita leans into the junkyard percussion, courtesy of the small-koto. He bashes away with pure idiot luddite post-industrial angst, like Einsturzende Neubauten playing Albert Ayler. It’s relentless, making the 13-and-a-half minutes feel almost as long as Part 1.

He bashes away with pure idiot luddite post-industrial angst, like Einsturzende Neubauten playing Albert Ayler.

“Tac Tix” finishes things up, replacing the air raid sirens and scrapheaps with wind sounds, like some gas station vacuum run amok. A cursed fax signal indicates you’re watching these happenings through some grimy CCTV monitor, scene half-lit in sickly parking lot sodium. And then it fades to black.

Kotorhizome is a particularly fierce offering from Merzbow. The needle plants in the rain and stays there, throughout. It’s a draining, taxing listen but worthwhile nonetheless. This is music not of presences but of absences. You can feel when a layer drops out, when the shrieking feedback stops, leaving you light, buoyant and cleansed.

These Slowdown Records reissues are fast proving to be if not essential than very, very welcome, if only as a guide through Merzbow’s endless back catalog. Because no matter how hard you try, you will miss something. If you missed Kotorhizome the first two times around, here’s your chance to check out an interesting document from a particularly tumultuous time.

Kotorhizome is out now on Slowdown Records.

Welcome To Merzbow Monday!

Every Monday we strive to post something to do with the works of Masami Akita, truly one of the most influential, prolific, and legendary noise musicians and theoreticians who’s ever lived.

Got a particular favourite Merzbow release you’d like to see us weigh in on? A theme of Merzbow’s sound art and politics you’d like us to wax philosophical about? Let us know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.



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