Monday, January 12, 2009

Coma Berenices, 2007

Earth Worms (11:31)
Dark Stars (8:05)
Alishan (11:04)
Silky Feather (12:27)
Revenge On Humanity (10:45)
This is another work that does not have a specific identifiable "theme" regarding its sound (i.e. no focus on guitar, psychedelica, drums, etc), but there is a distinct dark, nihilistic feel to the work as a whole. The overall sound is augmented by the packaging, which depicts Masami Akita in front of a demolished building, all tinted dark and such like. Surprisingly, this darkness manifests itself in the music without pushing it to abnormally harsh or violent realms (by Merzbow standards, of course). Quite the contrary, for a noise work, it is relatively mild and listenable.

Across five tracks, Akita manages to slip in a surprisingly notable amount of musical elements into the noise mix. "Earth Worms," for one, shows some synth melodies and psychedelic guitar notes bubbling up from the murky noise swamp. "Alishan" also demonstrates an ear for composition, as the track builds from a looped bass melody, layer by layer, into a denser mix of phased analog synth noise chaos.

While there's no explicit sense of percussion in the album, some tracks show a penchant for rhythm in the form of short pulsing synth tones. The swooping synth of "Revenge on Humanity" builds in pace until it takes on the 4/4 kick drum sound of hardcore techno. Mix in the laser gun synth sweeps and you've got a piece of chaos that lives up to its name, but never feels out of control or completely random. One recurring element of the album that maybe entirely accidental are that the synth tones (my guess, the classic EMS Synthi 'A') are mostly of a high register chirping variety, which sounds very bird like. Given Akita's well-known love of fine feathered friends, it might just be his way of bringing a brighter element to this otherwise dark, fatalistic outing.
Not all the material feels as planned, and other pieces sound more random, but they make up for compositional shallowness in sheer depth of layering, such as the distant punk band practicing in a garage down Masami's street in "Dark Stars," along with the thumping synth pulses and clatterings of junk in his own backyard. As a whole the disc seems to focus on combining the subtleties of his early 1980's tape-loop based work with his mid 1990's focus on analog buzzsawing. It works very well, because it makes for a listening experience as opposed to an endurance test, which many noise albums seem to strive to be.
Coma Berenices doesn't break any new ground in the Merzbow canon, but it does a more restrained version of his harsh noise background very well. It's actually a rather accessible album for the genre, and a stark contrast to the building destroying din of Venerology (which was often a little too much even for the staunchest of noise fans), here is a chance to see what the newer, mellower (slightly) Masami Akita has been up to.

No comments: