The pairing of Japanese noise pioneer Masami ‘Merzbow’ Akita and Hungarian drummer Balázs Pándi is well established by now—Pándi has been Merzbow’s live drummer since 2009, and Cuts (Rare Noise Records) follows hard on the 2011 duo album Ducks: Live In NYC—but this offering is a real fresh blast all the same
Merzbow, in performance, often swaps between electronics and drums; his approach to the former often seems predicated on a percussionist’s sense of dynamic potential; so the pairing with Pándi, an intelligent Grindcore stylist who’s been versatile enough for past collaborations with both Venetian Snares and To Live and Shave in LA, is remarkably congenial.
I don’t know about you, but with a few notable exceptions (particularly Akita’s digital opus 1930 from way back in ’88)) I generally prefer my Merz-noise cut by collaboration: albums like Ducks and Pulverized Purple—by the Kikuri duo of Akita and Keiji Haino—get pulled from the shelf far more often than any of the many hours of solo Merzbow available on disc.
Here, Merzbow and Pándi are joined by the increasingly ubiquitous Mats Gustasfsson: I’ve come to see Cuts as an evil counterpart to the Afro-Arkestral tribalism of Gustasfsson’s 2009 encounter with Kieran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden and Steve Reid, as documented on the Live at the South Bank album.
“Evil Knives. Lines” is 18 minutes of sandblasting & snarling bass grind electronics plus agitative smears of penetrating, distorted siren sounds and the roiling, rolling thunder of double bass drums. Beatmaster Pándi is ludicrously limber, laying into punishingly creative workouts that remind me more than anything of Slayer original Dave Lombardo’s 90s sessions for John Zorn and Saxon sticksman Pete Gill’s work on Motörhead’s Orgasmatron.
“Evil” eventually collapses in on itself, with Pándi’s rhythm sense here maintaining an asymmetric but very physical beat amid the detritus of skirling stress sounds, queasily strafing electronics, and rumbling tectonic noise. “Deep Lines. Cuts.” runs with a similar ball for a further nineteen minutes, Pándi’s tempo (though not his intensity) dropping to a tension-inducing tribal pummel.
Both Merzbow and Gustafsson play electronics: one (I assume it’s Gustafsson) producing the lower, more grounded bass/base strata of throbbing noise on amped instrument/power tool frequencies, while the other maintains a sometimes stridulant, always caustic wash of bleached squalling.
Gustafsson’s strangulated tenor sax is first pitched into the mix partway through track three, “The Fear Too. Invisible.”. With Gustafsson blowing in even, methodical lung bursts, Merzbow twines his electronics around him in snarling smears. Their evening out the tempo frees Pándi up to take polyrhythmic liberties.
Ending after just 7 minutes with Merzbow’s emulation of feedbacking electric guitar sounds, “The Fear” effectively segues into the comparably brief “Like Razor Blades in the Dark”. Pándi drops out and Gustafsson licks on just a few dirty R&B fragments before switching back to electronics for this muzzy, entropic number that lapses into silence.
After a sax skronk intro, dual electronic frictions and pummelling drums are back in force for a 21-minute accumulation of heat, density, and controlled chaos in Cuts‘ concluding movement, “Like Me. Like You.” The album’s ending, when it comes, seems preemptory.
You can sample Cuts, and purchase it if you like what you hear, on the Rare Noise Records website.
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Mats Gustafsson, John Russell, Raymond Strid – Birds
Colin Stetson and Mats Gustafsson – Stones
Fire! with Oren Ambarchi – In the Mouth – a Hand
Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing