** Edition of 300 ** When it comes to Japanese noise, few projects have pushed boundaries or risen to a more iconic status than Merzbow. The mutant child of punk and experimental music, the project’s blistering sounds - as singular and wild as they are unique - are among the movement’s most important, definitive statements, continuously laying the groundwork for countless artists who have followed in its wake. Like so many artefacts of Japanese noise, Merzbow’s output - often released on small labels in tiny editions - has largely remained difficult to access and highly sought after. Fortunately, over the last few years, the Italian imprint, Urashima, has made serious inroads to making the project’s back catalog available via a dedicated reissue effort. Their latest, Collection 001_010, is among their most ambitious and expansive yet. Reissuing all ten of Merzbow’s “Collection” albums - originally self-released as cassettes on the artist’s own Lowest Music & Arts imprint between 1981 and 1982 - on CD, housed in a painted and engraved wooden box, and accompanied by two special inserts with notes in Japanese by Masami Akita, as well as a numbered postcard, it’s a stunning thing to behold. Offering a deep dive into some of the earliest experiments in Japanese noise, issued in a limited edition of 300 copies, Urashima is back with what might just be their most historically important release to date.
Merzbow came roaring onto the Tokyo scene in 1979, and remains, to this day, one of the most prolific and aggressively forward-thinking projects in experimental music. Eventually simply the moniker adopted by Masami Akita, in its earliest incarnation Merzbow was a duo of Akita and Kiyoshi Mizutani, taking their name from German artist Kurt Schwitters' pre-war architectural assemblage, The Cathedral of Erotic Misery or Merzbau, and quickly set out to challenge entrenched notions of what music could be. Embracing technology and the machine, even in its earliest iterations, Merzbow broke boundaries and pushed toward new territories of the extreme, arriving at a sonic space of pure, unadulterated noise that has continued, now for over 40 years, to set the pace for the entire genre of noise.
Merzbow was an earlier adopter of DIY cassette culture, self-releasing numerous cassettes, beginning with 1980’s Fuckexercise, on Akita’s newly launched Lowest Music & Arts imprint. Following hot on that album’s heaes the following year, the project, still then the duo of Akita and Mizutani, launched a monumental project of releases, ten cassettes documenting their diverse activities, entitled “Collection 1-10”, now reissued as complete collection of 10 CDs, for the first time, by Urashima.
Collection 001_010 is easily one of the most Important Merzbow reissues to have emerged in recent years. Not only does the collection’s contents rest incredibly close to ground zero of the Japanese noise movement, but it is a striking illumination of Merzbow’s early, rarely accessible activities, often entirely defying the perception of the project as a full throttle sonic attack.
Recorded at various locations, the Merzbow we encounter at the dawn of the '80s is a more introspective, searching affair, often heavily defined by a close collaborative dialog between Akita and Mizutani. Unlike later Merzbow, within which bodies of exploration can be divided into rough eras, each entry of “Collection” appears like a free-standing world, with the project following a line in inquiry and experimentation towards a logical unforeseen conclusion, incorporating a vast range of instruments - tapes, organ, guitar, violin, percussion, effects, clarinet, synthesizers, drums machines, etc. - in a series of comparatively restrained delicate works that draw surprising musicality from harsh distances and rhythms, sometimes driven inexplicable toward flirtations with pop music by the use of drum machine.
Ranging from free-flowing acoustic improvisations, tape manipulations and reworks of previous recordings, full throttle explorations of pure electronics, Collection 1-10 is the roots of Merzbow as it would never be heard again, unveiling the intricacy and introspectiveness that has always rested below more than four decades of Masami Akita’s wall of noise. Spanning a vast range of creative output and numerous roads less travelled for the project, these singular works are also among the most listenable, engaging, and inviting of anything Merzbow ever produced, making them a perfect place for new fans to dive in, while holding the possibility of endless revelation for the indoctrinated. Issued by Urashima in an absolutely stunning painted and engraved wooden box, with ten individual sealed CD wallets, complete with an A4 folded insert, a 20x17 cm insert with notes in Japanese by Masami Akita, and a numbered postcard, in a limited edition of 300 copies. We can’t think of a better place to launch into the new year.
Painted black wooden box with laser engraving, includes 10 CDs - each sealed in its own printed CD wallet, an A4 folded insert, a 20x17 cm insert with notes in Japanese by Masami Akita, and a numbered postcard, in a limited edition of 300 copies.