Japanese Noise Artist Merzbow is about to release a new album with the mighty Sun Ra. Alongside this he announced two UK dates. As the last time Fighting Boredom saw Merzbow at the Supersonic festival he blew us away completely we were determined to get to one. Read what we thought below.
The motorway is gridlocked, we have new psychedelia and techno providing the soundtrack to the drive to Manchester. We go off the car park that is the M6 and entrust ourselves to the satnav. A couple of hours of winding single track roads and extreme driving stress and we reach the city. Finding FAC251 is easy, just follow the noise.
Inside the compact sparce venue She Spread Sorrow is playing to a pretty full crowd. The noise that Alice Kulandi is making as she stands behind the table of equipment is built on a low drone with static stacked up over the top. It’s the sound of a dark factory churning away in the night, the sound moving slowly. The drone carries on but the layers on top shift and break. Then she wipes the whole thing away with a wave of static that fills the room and disorientates you. There is nothing to see here, just the noise.
Iron Fist of the Sun is harder, he has an odd film projected behind him. The odd geometric shapes keep shifting to pictures of Princess Diana which throws me a little. As he begins it sounds like an orchestra of hate tuning up. The sound throbs and pulses around the room and then it kicks in and rocks like metal but with no beats or percussion of any kind. The slabs of noise are again accompanied with a low incessant hum with clicks and beeping scattered across the wall of noise. Hard and cold.
Merzbow stands on stage setting up as Iron Fist of the Sun takes down the projector screen and packs his equipment away. He stands, his long black hair falls around his face, calm and completely focused on what he is doing as Balázs Pándi takes his seat at the drums, wearing a Doom shirt. Merzbow is setting levels and putting on an instrument as you would a guitar that looks like a long piece of plastic with a circular drum fastened to it. Balázs hits the drums. The lights dim and the noise starts.
The initial impact is like being inside a jet engine as it takes off. It is violent and hellish. The drums are controlled and precise but they are barely holding their own against the sea of high pitched fluid noise. It’s as if Merzbow has taken Death Metal and eviscerated it, using the components that make the least sense and spun them into his technology to make a sound like worlds screaming. Every time he plays the instrument around his neck more waves of noise hit you, it’s unrelenting in it’s brutality and as it builds and fills you with its incredible pain and openness you see the beauty underneath. There is no respite from it, no relief, it’s just noise.
Iron Fist of the Sun
Merzbow + Balázs Pándi
All words by Adrian Bloxham.
All pictures by Martin Ward.