Live: Merzbow Brutalizes Issue Project Room


Issue Project Room
Thursday, September 23

Better Than: Not knowing what noise feels like.

Listening to extremely loud, abrasive noise music is an exhilarating experience because while you’re in it, there’s nothing you can do but give in, and endure–just ask the more than 50 people crowded into Issue Project Room last night for the first of a two-set night with Merzbow, Japan’s preeminent sonic terrorist. When it’s over, you’re just a little bit stronger. (Though our eardrums may beg to disagree. The music was so loud even the most die-hard fans were sporting earplugs, which the venue was handing out like candy.)

Merzbow, a/k/a Masami Akita, has been making noise since the late 1970s and last night he gave a more than 45-minute cacophonous performance. He performed with long hair swaying across his sunglass-clad face, sometimes sitting, sometimes hunched over his instruments with their “Meat is Murder” stickers, unfurling sonic textures so intense the guy next to me had his head in his hands. Indeed, that’s what his music does–it’s so oppressive that the room shakes and you start to hear echoes inside your brain. But listening to the music is only one-part of the noise experience. Coming out of the performance clear-headed and stronger than when you entered is just as integral.

Merzbow uses laptops to control sound, something some noise musicians eschew, favoring instead analog electronics and circuitry. But he also plays a homemade guitar-like instrument–the best of both worlds. His performance was taut and controlled, even as the whirling sounds of distortion and hiss he produced were utterly disorienting. When something like a beat dropped, it felt like bliss.

Two Brooklyn based musicians, MV Carbon and Philip White, opened the show. White played electronics, focusing his efforts on achieving low-end feedback, while Carbon played an electric cello. It was a confounding mix of sounds, though more melodic than Merzbow’s subsequent set. The scratching and buzzing feedback from White was accented by Carbon’s aggressively plucked cello.

One woman noted she saw Pavement the night before and even though she could sing along to those songs, she enjoyed the Merzbow show more because of how intimate it was. “Everyone looks so into it,” she said.

The Scene: Noise heads. Professorial types. Squares.

Random Notebook Dump: Issue Project Room may have the best sound system in Brooklyn.

Overheard: “I went to the Max’s Kansas City show, it was great. Most of the pieces are sold already. They’re all around $1200, not bad.”