|SCARCELIGHT RECORDINGS > releases > SLR40|
Merzbow. Rattus rattus. CD
Two words: Merzbow Music
|: cover by Masami Akita
The Merzbow behemoth continues to spew forth ever more material and, just as amazingly, there seems to be
no shortage of labels eager to issue it; add the always-interesting Scarcelight imprint to the list. Yet
even it's rendered speechless by Japanese noise-meister Masami Akita's mastodon sound—or almost speechless,
as the following text appears at the label's site: “Two words: Merzbow Music.” The disc includes three tracks,
the first two modest in length and the third, “Rattus rattus suite,” an epic 37-minute meltdown.
Like a dormant machine booted into life, “155” escalates to a lethal screech in just fourteen seconds. A symphony
of brutal wails and howls pummels the listener into submission for a relentless five minutes, though the barest trace
of a throbbing pulse can be glimpsed fleetingly behind the squeals. But it's the, ahem, 'suite,' that leaves the major
impression. There's actually development of sorts, as merciless passages alternate with restrained episodes (or at least
what counts for restrained in the Merzbow universe). At the nine-minute mark, one finds the piece convulsively lumbering
before showers of shrapnel and caustic detonations threaten to topple it. Arrested moments suggest it's catching its breath
at the fifteen-minute mark, and a hammering episode emerges soon after. In essence, though, the piece amounts to a non-stop
barrage that's simultaneously frightening, bewildering, and stupefying. Listening to Merzbow's a transforming experience (no
doubt anyone who's completed the awesome trek through the 50-CD Merzbox is forever altered) which doesn't mean pleasant. Rattus
rattus is aural sadism, the brutal sound of machines howling in orgiastic pain as they're eviscerated, their innards violently
ripped out one piece at a time.|
May 2005, Textura
How do you write about a CD-long attack of ear-splitting, speaker-blowing noise? Noise is Merzbow's specialty. Masami Akita
has made literally hundreds of albums of loud, aggressive, noise – sounds that are disorienting and harsh at any volume.
The truth, though, is that while Merzbow's music is absolutely not what your average person on the street would think of
as music, it's also not a monolithic entity. Every Merzbow recording does not sound the same – within the context of what
he does, there's some rather diverse sounds and textures. That's certainly true of his Scarcelight EP Rattus Rattus, though
my ear is far from refined enough to explain this music to anyone. The three tracks on Rattus Rattus sound like possessed
factory machines gone mad, screeching and wailing and buzzing like the world's about to end. It isn't a constant scream, though,
more like complex patterns of cries and screams. It's fascinating and harrowing music, not for everyday listening except by the
toughest of music fans. It's the sort of music that completely silences music critics, making them swallow their tongues in search
of the right words. It's the kind of music that silences everything besides itself, really.
Brand new Merzbow album on Accelera Deck's Scarcelight label - three tracks totaling just over 50 minutes. The first and
shortest track '155' is a far more aggressive than other Merzbow material of recent - varied, erratic leaps from glitch
to pure ear-shredding nastiness. '166' has much more breathing room and is centred around some heavily processed layered
loops that gradually reach further intensity towards the end. The final and longest track 'Rattus Rattus Suite' is a 37
minute marathon in which the pace of the first two tracks find some common ground with enough variation throughout to keep
it wired. The source material for these works isn't entirely clear but it generally sounds like analog noises put through
digital processing. Recorded between 1999-2005.
I can definitively state that on this CD Masami Akita actually creates a sound with a recognisable tone. And then
he hits another tone, and then another – 3 in the space of barely a minute! I can’t remember the last time I heard a
Merzbow record that didn’t limit itself to pithy distortion, scree and thunder. Then again, Merzbow is digital these days,
and he’ll constantly remind of this fact during the “Rattus Suite” which follows two short “introduction” tracks as a 35-odd
minute opus and quite possibly an exploration of the sound of a rat in a cage going insane. Lots of electronic squiggles and
farts mix themselves in with the more familiar howling roar that Akita has made his calling card for so many years, sounding
incongruous at first, but increasingly convincing as he hits you again and again with new waves of churning, wailing sonic
It might not surprise you to hear that there’s not much in the way of discernable continuity or structure apparent here,
but even I was shocked by the lack of consistency in the face-scraping assault Merzbow chugs at you this time around.
Twists and turns in the texture of the noisescape are endless and unpredictable, keeping you on your toes for the
duration of this aural brutalisation – or rather, anxious for some kind of familiar feel or sound to clutch to whilst
this chaos whirs around you. At times it sounds disastrous; at others it’s a triumph is disparity and subversion of the
expectations of even a noise enthuisiast.
I’ve always been torn between the image of Merzbow as either the Emperor of noise, or merely the Emperor’s new clothes.
Mystifying and exciting, bracing and frustrating, this latest effort does little to resolve the conflict.
Strangely enough this is the first proper Merzbow-record to be reviewed in these pages when
Merzbow has been accompanying me off and on for the last 15 years when I first was baptized in
noise during a live concert of Merzbow (back then a three-piece-�band�). That concert
was so loud you couldn�t move for the soundwaves had a physical grip on your muscles. If you
are interested in noise or experimental music and haven�t come across Masami Akita, then you�ve
definitely done something wrong.
It is hard to write a valuable review on Merzbow. Masami Akita has produced such an enormous mass of records
and even though his actual soundspectrum is quite small, he has explored it on every milimeter, so that it is
virtually impossible to say something new about Merzbow that is also worthwhile (if you are not getting the
news from himself personally, that is). Okay, so he has changed to laptop, but that doesn�t say much
in the earsplitting white noise power area. There is a link to PETA on the record sleeve, but what about it?
(There is a link to some PETA-thing on this website as well.) One common way out of this dilemma is to praise
Akita for the noise-legend he rightfully has become. The other common way out is to describe what you get on
the record. I have provided that in the paragraph below. What else is there? Well, every new piece in Merzbow�s
work is as important as the one before. To some whatever recorded here is just the same noise as always. To those
ready to find the differences between noise and noise, between noise-record and noise-record, every new Merzbow-record
will be important (even if they never get around to purchasing or listening to them. It is the attitude that I am talking about.)
Just like the little �Thanks to those who keep on listening� that the labelowner has written into the cover of
his own record (Accelera Deck�s �Pop Polling�) and which to me has evolved into a sort of mission
statement for the label, the music released thereon and a whole attitude of handling music. As in �To Those Who
Keep On Listening�. Now here is the classic bail-out review:
�Rattus Rattus� is divided in three parts of different lengths. The first, �155� is 5 and a
half minutes, the second �166� is a little over 8 minutes and the third, the �rattus rattus suite�
clocks in at an epic 37 minutes. A definite noise symphony piece, with the first two tracks � named by their opus-number?
� are sort of ouvertures for that. �155� starts with the clatter of a hundred satanic typewriters but soon
enough the well-known devilish thunderstorm of noise and mangled frequencies sets in, carrying with it the demonic cries of a
hundred tortured souls. This track has a lot of changes and is pure, unmanipulated (?) Japan Noise. �166� starts
unexpectedly low and soft, almost constructed and slowly stacks piece upon piece to build up a wall of noise that sounds like
the stuff you need. Instead of building up a big monster of noise that is out to devour you, this is more like suddenly finding
yourself trapped by an army of killer-termites and you wonder if running across them and stomping them will ever lead you out of
this dangerous situation. The �Rattus Rattus Suite� starts off more as a classical Merzbow-piece and it won�t
disappoint fans of the genre, especially due to its varying parts that mix high screeching noise pierces with basic clatter
and klang, then break into full-fledged noise storms, that take itself back within 30 seconds to sound something like holding
your ear into a fast moving welding machine on a crowded highway in mid-germany (where they are allowed to drive without speed
limits.) And ever so on from new sound / noise to next sound / noise. An enormous piece of music.
From all of that I get the feeling that on �Rattus Rattus� Masami Akita has worked a lot with a voice basis
� the affinity of the sounds to Masonna is easily recognizable � plus using his electric-current-mix-thing,
that strange magnetic coil he likes to trash around with an enormous pick up on. In this regard, we are talking about a
Retro-Noise-record here. Wow, if that is true, this genre has come a long way and Masami Akita is written all over its book.
I have to admit that I’m not a great admirer of noise, especially not of ‘japanoise’. Harsh industrial acts can bring me
some kind of destructive satisfaction, but when comes to totally chaotic, unstructured sound-madness: I rather get away from it. I must also admit that I don’t even believe that there are people who like noise musically. They might have some sound-art fetish, or maybe there are those who think the projects are interesting or fascinating, but you must be one hell of a moron (sorry girls and boys) listening to song after song for musical enjoyment. Hearing noise is just physically unattractive: it rapes your eardrums in a very unpleasant way. Maybe I’m going a little too far here, but at least you have an idea of my credibility as a noise-reviewer.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe Merzbow’s Masami Akita was even earlier active as a noise creator than Peter Sotos or
William Bennet of the infamous Whitehouse. Merzbow started out 1979, with a first release in 1982 (A little later
than Boyd Rice’s self titled lp, which appeared in 1977). Since the birth of Merzbow, Akita has released around 300(!)
separate recordings. He even fabricated a 50-cd-box. Calculated: about twelve releases every year, which makes one a
month. This makes Akita presumably the most prolific ‘musician’ of all times.
This release called ‘Rattus Rattus’ is absolutely maniacal. I saw a documentary on the effects of ‘tweaking’ (long
term methamfetamine-use) lately, and this is a perfect soundtrack to it. Meth or ‘crank’ (with an ‘n’) is a substance
made of various chemicals, such as battery-acid and ammonia. What makes this release japanoise, are the totally out
of control noise bursts, collapsing structures of high-and low-pitched sounds, sounds of voltages that are shrieking,
yelling, screaming. As if the brain is poisoned and giving out heavily distorted signals. This record is absolutely
not monotonous, and after two times listening, there is even a structure to discover in the chaotic madness of
torturing sounds. Irritating frequencies sound as if ‘meth bugs’ (hallucinogenic illusions) are crawling underneath
your skin, pursuing their craze for food, eventually eating your brain. Three tracks long.
It might be clear that listening to this release is not a pleasant experience, but I guess that’s not the point
of Merzbow’s radical assault. I must say that it can be fun listening to this release, just to enjoy the pleasure
of the extreme, only not longer then, let’s say, ten minutes. And if you are a music collector, you must at least
have a record of the highest extreme in underground music in your collection, which might well be: ‘Rattus Rattus’.
Merzbow backs the hairier side in the eternal struggle between those who would leave rubbish bags outside and those
who would rip them open after dark for dinner. Apparently a concept piece on the rough deal that rats get from humans,
these tracks shriek, squeal, and scrabble through bursting balloons of noise attempting to (possibly) paint a picture
of their world. But the malevolent sounds here and the lack of any actual words / text from Merzbow, apart from the
PETA address on the sleeve, can work both ways, giving the sense that rats are indeed plague-carrying, smelly cannibals
that need to be hit with broom handles.
Ever since Masami Akita (Merzbow to Ma & Pa) downed his delay pedals and embraced the digital era, his work has (if anything)
become even more extreme as he discovered new ways in which to disembowel his instruments through the silicone scalpel.
Comprised of pieces recorded and mixed between 1999/2005, 'Rattus Rattus' is uncompromising to its core, as wave after
wave of electronically baited squall attack your senses. Bar the brief respite afforded through 'Rattus Rattus Suite',
Merzbow again hammers home just why he has uncompromisingly dominated the genre for so long. Brootal!
Ive always been suspicious of the kind of knee-jerk reverence this guy
seems to bring out in reviewers. His personal mystique is highly
developed, the 'darklord of noise' etc. Merzbow seems custom designed
for the specialist collector preoccupied with scouring ebay for
rubberised sacks of 50-CD boxsets. He serves as a kind of maximum level
mark for hardcore calibration, 0 dM (decimerz).
My experience of his oeuvre however, is limited to two other CDs, 1930
and Cloudcock 00 Grand, and in common with those I found this CD
All three tracks (two shortish, one 36 minuter) feature the framework
of distorted photocopier, rumbling low frequency, self-oscillating
filter feedback to be found on the other two CDs. However within this
framework an almost narrative quality begins to emerge. There are
several layers of activity at work and a palpable sense of intention
throughout. The two shorter tracks are formally straightforward while
the Rattus rattus suite involves a broader variety of material.
This CD delivers a payload to the involved listener, but is not really
the sort of thing you might listen to on a night out with your cousins.
Le roi du bruit digital Masami Akita, Sir Merzbow en personne, revient nous nettoyer les oreilles ce printemps
avec trois titres paraissant chez Scarcelight. Deux titres de moins de huit minutes, puis une longue pièce truculente
de trent-sept minutes. Ah ah. Cinquante minutes de plaisir auditif, ou presque.
Cette fois-ci, j’ai battu mon record de Merzbow (sorte de jeu avec moi-même), atteignant la trentième minute de Rattus
Rattus à la première écoute, puis les 20 minutes restantes en une deuxième. Initialement intrigué par la musique de
Merzbow, par son humour noir, par sa harsh noise décérébrée, je prends désormais moins de plaisir à y plonger.
D’ailleurs je ne la connais pas assez pour dire : « ah tiens là, net progrès ! ». Ce qui est sûr c’est que ce nouvel
opus est efficace, ne perd pas son temps en digressions inutiles pour aller directement à son but : brutaliser son
auditoire. Certains (masochistes ?) adorent déjà depuis bien longtemps le personnage et ne seront pas désorientés
devant ces trois morceaux - cotons tiges qui sont autant d’escalades dans une violence digitale et hachée.
First up on this lengthy three-track excursion is "155", dousing the listener with over five minutes of jumbled
percussive snippets and chaotic arrays of crispy distorted noise with lots of panning and movement through varying
styles of distorted attack - from glitchy and garbled to searing high-end that rapes your ears. It's definitely a
little more… I don't know, not necessarily vibrant, and not necessarily aggressive, but… it's got a little more oomph
to it than a lot of what I've heard from Merzbow in the last year. That's not to say it's all over the top and in your
face, it's still got its moments of breathing room, but… you know. "166" follows with a more stripped down structure
that cuts back and forth from a few layered loops and distorted textures, all with a more spacious setup that gives
each element more room. At times there are rhythmic snippets within the way things are pieced together, but nothing
too blatant. It picks up to more intense levels at several points, but never anything that's quite as lively as "155",
though I guess it comes close in its own way here and there. So, the first two tracks total around 14 minutes, yet the
disc runs more than 45 minutes. Yep, you know what that means: Closer "Rattus Rattus Suite" is a 37-minute marathon,
opening with another percussive sounding sample loop and fits of raging high-end distortion twisting and turning a little
farther back. Interestingly enough, depending on how you look at it, this lengthy jaunt is sort of like a combination of
its two predecessors, taking the harsher and more chaotic side of "155" and fusing it with the spacious moments from "166",
though of course the character of the sounds here is slightly different. It certainly plays more to a lower rumble during
some of the more laidback moments, with a warm bite to some of the strangely dense midrange/treble grating. And I'd say
there's enough constant variation and movement to keep it going for as long as it does. There's always going to be a few
tedious moments, but for the most part this one plays out nicely. I'm not wild on the layout simply because the bright
colors are inconsistent and I'm not big on all of the different fonts employed. Overall the slipcase has a professional
look, I just don't care for the visuals or what have you. In the end this is a solid offering, but nothing that really
grabs my attention and draws me in. This "new school" Merzbow release might appeal slightly more to his "old school" fans
than some of his other recent output, but whatever the case it's another slab of true noise from the true noise master.
I've never been a huge Merzbow fan, so… it's mainly that I respect his history more than anything, you know? I mean,
he is fucking Merzbow.
Everyone pretty much knows by now that it's pretty useless to review a new Merzbow album. Merzbow is Merzbow, and he'll
always be Merzbow, and he "does" Merzbow better than all of the Merzbow copyists out there, and it will probably always
be that way. Aside from a few minor quibbles over whether digital-era Merzbow is better or worse than the original analog
Merzbow, there really isn't a whole lot of critical division over Merzbow's output. It's almost always noise, loud and
aggressive, often with loud percussive slaps to the face thrown in for good measure. Rattus Rattus is certainly no exception,
a cyclone of atonal, shrieking digital clamor with buffeting, battering ram beats that explore every level of the audible
range of sound in an attempt to assault the listener on all fronts. The CD seems to have a concept of sorts, the title and
the cover art being suggestive of everyone's favorite household pest rodent. This is very different from Matmos' rat concept
album (2004's Rat Relocation Program), as instead of sampling said creatures as Matmos did, Masami Akita opts merely to suggest
the presence of the creatures with a series of tiny claw-scratched noise attacks and high, trebly shrieking. Masami also provides
the address of the PETA website on the back of the disc's sleeve, suggesting that perhaps the album has something or other to do
with animal rights. It would be hard to say where the vegan message really comes into Rattus Rattus, unless the album were to
be taken as a noisy screed against scientific experimentation on rats. Your guess is as good as mine in this respect. I've
come nowhere close to hearing every Merzbow record, and in fact I probably only own five or six CDs, so I'd have a very hard
time coming up with a good comparison to any of his previous works. This one does have a very nice quality that might warrant
repeated listens, however. All three tracks contain enough rapid shifts in tone, frequency, tempo and aggression enough to keep
things dynamic, as opposed to past Merzbow records that have easily fallen into a background of white noise. There is no chance
of being lulled into complacency while listening to this CD, especially during the final lengthy "Rattus Rattus Suite," which
variously suggests an Alec Empire DHR-style cyberpunk explosion, an early Whitehouse album, something from the noisier end of
Ant-Zen, and a digitized grindcore version of an Anal Cunt record or some other such throwaway splattercore. This is not to
suggest that there is anything here that noise fans haven't heard a million times before. As Merzbow records go, this is definitely
one of them.