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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Gareth Davis and Merzbow – Broken Landscapes (Moving Furniture Records, 2020) ****

By Nick Ostrum

A couple of things. First, I am a fan of Masami Akita (Merzbow). Second, like any normal listener (cheers to the dedication of the abnormal listeners), I am simply unable to keep up with his hundreds of releases, or even his 40 (very rough count) of archival and new recordings from just last year. Biases and human shortcomings aside, I have developed a taste for harsh, textured noise like this and a particular preference for Masami Akita’s collaboration projects. At least lately, his work with Richard Pinhas, Keiji Haino, Balazs Pandi, Mats Gustafsson, and others seem to allow Akita the room and, maybe, the similarly minded sounding boards to step back (slightly) the gale-force onslaught and allow for richer textures and more spacious and continuous courses. That is, even while retaining dense loop, ear-rupture aesthetic. There are plenty of exceptions, but, regardless, I find the collaborations more reliably exciting.

All sound is music, Broken Landscapes is more musical than much heavy noise, and heavier than much heavy ambient. Much of this has to do with Akita, but much also comes from the bass clarinetist/electronicist Gareth Davis (A-Sun Amissa or Oiseaux-Tempete, as well as numerous collaborations). There are times when his clarinet blasts clarions out of shrieking, steely soundworld. Here, he sounds like a siren, a warning, from a future of environmental devastation and endless (noise) pollution. Each track is named after an enviro-technical landscape: the Norwegian windfarm of Dogger Bank, the now forever Lynchian Inland Empire of Southern California, and the sprawled suburban Yabata, Japan, as imagined in the track Yabata Frog. In one sense, even the social messaging is textbook Merzbow. In another, to someone like myself who simply does not keep up, it still sounds like Merzbow and Davis (see below). I gain some comfort from that, even though our near future when the struggle between civilization and nature might be lost for both promises to be quite a depressive shit show. And, if this is any indication, there is still some ruthlessly dark and brutally lurid beauty to be had.

Broken Landscapes is available in LP and digital formats.


Richard said...

I especially like Gareth Davis's work with Aidan Baker, Invisible Cities.
This has been on my wishlist for awhile. Seems I should finally get it.
Thanks, Nick.

Nick Ostrum said...

I am with you, Richard. Invisible Cities is excellent, though quite a different beast. And, actually, a review for it should appear within a few days.