other VIVO RECORDS releases___________________________________________________________

Coma Berenices CD


Psychedelic-noise by Masami Akita. 5 tracks. Recorded and mixed at Bedroom in Tokyo, January 2007.


sold out

If it looks like metal and it tastes like metal then it must be...what is metal ? Growing up on punk in the mid-80s I was briefly drawn to the power of metal bands like Venom and Slayer. These groups had a force and presence that other music wasn't providing until I was turned on to a new underground altogether. My appetite for what metal sated was replaced by the relentless power of groups like Swans (heavier than metal), Einstuzende Neubauten (building instruments out of metal) and Merzbow (the sound of scraped metal). It all made perfect sense and I felt as though I had finally found what I never knew I was looking for; a veritable teenage epiphany.

'Coma Berenices' comes in a black digipack with gothic lettering, a sever photo of the artist and an overall morose tone. There's no technical insight provided but it's pretty clear what's going on here. Masami Akita's primary concerns of uncompromising music and humane animal treatment are in evidence at any rate. His work as Merzbow holds a unique place in contemporary music having transcended genres perhaps more than any other so-called noise artist. Whether this is due to perseverance, having released a gazillion records, or the quality of his work is open to debate. Regardless he is celebrated by rockers, techophiles, technophobes and free improvisors the world over. What other underground musician has been remixed this much, been on so many different labels and had the endorsement of John Zorn ? Who else's work has been scrutinized to the point of sparking a heated debate over 'going digital ?' By the very virtue of this being a Merzbow disk, expectations are a bit higher than say a seventeen year old's debut release with an identical package. And if you think I've been keeping up with all of Masami's work over the years, then you've sadly misjudged my priorities, not to mention my income bracket.

The first track draws on the electric guitar for its source material. It has a surprisingly psychedelic quality, like something a krautrock guitarist would record alone in his bedroom during some lysergic meltdown. It's dense, but the sounds are sharp even as they seem to emerge from a smoky fog. A perfect full-on sensory assault with a hint of drone lurking in the background. A nod to Keiji Haino perhaps ? While 'Dark Stars' bears no resemblance to even the most audacious sonic explorations of the Grateful Dead, the spirit of free play and psychedelic excess that they embodied has a spectral presence. An analogue synthesizer gets its circuits fried to a crisp as the oscillators are fed through an array of waveform-clipping accessories. 'Alishan' relies equally on such electronic sources but has an actual riff that serves as a sort of ground bass. It's a simple yet dark figure that would tickle the fancy of even the most jaded SunnO))) enthusiast. There are more identifiable musical pitches in these eleven minutes than one is likely to encounter in an entire Merzbow record...and it rocks.

'Silky Feathers' recalls some of Akita's older work with metallic object clanging and pedal abuse over yet another bass figure, this time a three-note dirge. Things then get seriously busy as some more synth work ensues and there may be some more guitar in there as well, but it's hard to tell. The last track reverts back to some processed analogue synth noise that is actually pretty sloppy compared to some of the earlier tracks. Instead of the melodic drones as above, here the low-end is represented by a simple pulse that rounds out a foreboding work. Overall, I find it interesting how there seems to be a need for some grounding on these pieces as opposed to the free-form noise excursions of the past. It works...well.

What does not work, for me at least, are the abrupt fade-outs on nearly every piece. That shit drives me crazy, whether on rock records, jazz disks, and especially improvised music. What happened next ? Knowing that Merzbow probably has any number of labels clamoring to release his music, why not let the tracks play out and get two releases out of the material ? I understand if these pieces are supposed to be presented in tandem for a reason, but I have a hard time getting over my vexation about the editing. Otherwise the content is superb and the recording quality is excellent. If you're like me and only check out Mr. Akita's work every now and then, go for this one. empty j / www.heathenharvest.com

Batten down the hatches! From the Japanophile Polish label  Vivo, here's a pair of new cds from everyone's favorite Japanese  noisemonger, the mighty Merzbow. On Bloody Sea, Masami Akita (for he  be Merzbow) displays his softer side. Not sonically, no not at all,  but in his concerned efforts to save the whales via his "protest- noise". Yes, this is an anti-whaling album, hence the title, and we'd  imagine that if Greenpeace were to find some way to blare it loudly  at the Japanese whaling fleet whenever they tried to leave port, they  might be forced to call off the whale hunt for the season. There's three cacophonous parts to this 50-minute disc, composed of battling blown-out chattering rumble and sizzling synths. Very abstract and  assaultive, as if Merzbow is trying to channel the pain and suffering  of all the whales into a song they never could sing.       Meanwhile, the more recently released Coma Berenices contains  five lengthy, throbbing machine-screams of dense distortion, zapped  with high-end skree... it'll wax yer ears but good. Fried and  frenzied, but also carefully looped and layered with sonic detail. It  is (relatively speaking) quite listenable as harsh psychedelia, the  dark-drone-doom thing taken to the extremes of Merzbowian methodology!

l http://www.de-bug.de/

astanawiałem się ostatnio nad motywami, które skłaniają licznych wielbicieli estetyki hałasu do zagłębiania się po raz kolejny w dziedzinę bolesnego szumu. Pomijając w tym miejscu przemijającą, młodzieńczą fascynację ekstremizmami rozmaitej maści, która nierzadko bywa początkiem przygody z muzyką noise, najistotniejsze wydaje się tu zainteresowanie źródłową mocą samego dźwięku, wyeksponowaną w tej stylistyce aż do granic przyswajalności. Noise Master Akita jest być może najbardziej wymownym przykładem artysty, który konsekwentnie eksploruje domenę czystego, elektronicznego i elektroakustycznego hałasu, którego muzyczny kontekst jest zgoła nieistotny - służąc ledwie za tło bądź ornament dla nieskażonej estetycznymi naleciałościami potęgi dźwiękowych fal - drążących przestrzeń i uderzających w uszy słuchacza w sposób boleśnie namacalny. Stąd też najbardziej ekstremalne (i najznakomitsze!) spośród niezliczonych płyt Merzbowa sytuują się bliżej eksperymentalnych studiów psychoakustycznych, badających sferę psychofizjologii percepcji, niż kompozycji o charakterze muzycznym. Coma Berenices mieści się doskonale pośród tych albumów, sprawdzając granice naszej estetycznej wrażliwości w sposób zaiste mistrzowski. Jest to zarazem jedno z tych dokonań Akity, w których intensywność dźwiękowej ekspresji osiąga (mimochodem?) wymiar bez mała medytacyjny! Dariusz Brzostek / GAZ-ETA

This three-hundred-and-somethingth release from noise magician Masami
Akita is packaged in sombre black and themed against animal cruelty -
albeit in a loose sense that has nothing to do with the music, unless
perhaps the listener's suffering is an allegory for that of the animals.
But perhaps not.

Eleven minute opener "Earth Worms" is a gross caricature of a guitar
solo, all soaring harmonics, feedback and wah-wah effects. One wonders
if this is what Jimi Hendrix sounded like to grown-ups in the 1960s.
"Dark Stars" is more overtly electronic, a pandaemonium of oscillators
and resonant filters backed my an intermittent bass thrum that provides
the only hint of order and repetition. At eight minutes this is the
shortest and most hectic of the five pieces here. "Alishan" brings the
first real melody and structure, a ponderous stoner bassline that
wouldn't sound out of place in a motorik krautrock rhythm section.

"Silk Feather" slows the pace down a little, blending the implicit
psychedelia of "Alishan" with the synth twiddling of "Dark Stars" but
with a slower, more ominous bass riff and more restraint on the chaos.
Something about this track makes me think of Black Sabbath, but maybe
that's just me. Finally, "Revenge on Humanity" heads into more brutal,
percussive territory, assaulting the listener with pulses of overdriven
synth and grinding noise.

What's remarkable about Akita is that he can make something so alien and
hostile actually quite listenable. The tracks could be a little shorter
but then you wouldn't get such a dislocating sense of unreality when
they finish. Occasionally the effect is like getting all the jarring,
noisy elements of a rock album but without the actual formulas of rock
music. I've heard a lot of noise acts over the years but very few of
them have the subtlety and lasting appeal of Merzbow.-Andrew Clegg-

his 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.
Creaig Dunton www.brainwashed.com

f you know Merzbow, than this review is easy: on "Coma Berenices" our Japanese noise master again does what he does best and purchasing without hearing any note is justified.

If you don't know Merzbow and you are going to listen to this record, than be prepared. Masami Akita, working and mixing from Bedroom in Tokyo, makes real noise. Painful noise. Yelling, harsh, headache-inducing, teeth-grinding noise. On "Coma Berenices" we get to listen to five of his blood thumping creations. I only can take one at a time: his creations are very full-on, energy consuming, sucking you dry of every positive thought and work really alienating.

Masami Akita has been making music from the early eighties on, is a busy musician (over 300 releases!) and has worked with some big names in the industry over the years like Sunno))), Boris, DJ Shadow and KK Null. He also has operated under numerous aliases: Abe Sada, Bustmonster, Flying Testicles, Malador (with Mike Patton) and MAZK (just to name a few).

Merzbow is a king in the industrial scene and on "Coma Berenices" he shows us once again how it's supposed to be: painful, nerve wrecking and extremely powerful. Ergo / www.gothtronic.com

he black metal-friendly artwork for this album might be a tad deceiving. Coma Berenices is far from being one of Masami Akita's darker excursions, and instead continues down the more ear-friendly path of analogue noise composition. For this set you might think of Merzbow's work as leaning in the territory of psychedelia, with the monstrous 'Alishan' exhibiting sludgy rock guitars and fuzzy, yet distinguishable riffs emerging from the clamorous din. 'Earth Worms' is similarly palatable, with waves of distortion piling upon one another, almost cancelling each other out and instead making a warm, immersive bath of noise. You can hear those fluttering oscillator and LFO experiments at play on 'Dark Stars', which has a mighty throbbing energy to it, but also an ear-tickling, playful, bird-like twitter to it, which is actually rather pleasing. This pulsing motif persists through 'Revenge On Humanity', which amongst the more formless racket-mongering contains one signal in particular that borders on a gabba-style kick sound in its relentless, hammering synth contortions. By crikey, Merzbow isn't half doing the business at the moment. www.boomkat.com

tark black sleeve? Yes. Five bleak track titles? Check. Ear-splitting
blasts of feedback and distortion which rarely lets up? Oh yes. Volume
set to maximum neighbour-bothering level? Go!

Diving into a Merzbow album is something which can take a bit of
preparation - they tend to operate where music is no longer a reasonable
term for Masami Akita's particular variety of noise. This is no
exception, shuddering and writhing with a fierce sandblasted electronic
intensity until the ears cower under the assault - and then a
breakthrough can happen. Some people are into BDSM, and quite a few of
those find affinity in the aural equivalent of nipple clamps and
Singapore slings; but no other paraphernalia than a set of hardy ears is
required to  enjoy, even relax into, the invigorating drubbing which
Merzbow metes out. Richard Fontenoy (Plan B)

oma Berenices finds Merzbow mining father into rock like elements to make an album that takes in a droning rock like air, that's heavy with a doomy and sleek blackness, making the simple white on black cover seem very apt indeed. I guess the  closet comparison in his vast discography would be 2002 Merzzow, as each track here is based around a  looped/ repetitive guitar element and are on the fairly short side for his work around the eight to ten minute mark each, but where Merzzow did drag in places and felt a bit too clean in the production states. Coma Berenices is a lumbering beast of an album, mixed nice 'n' grimy and lo-fi. The tracks main riffs are merged very nicely with improvised guitar and noise soloing elements, so it has a satisfying fog like feel to it, The melodies and riffs he's chosen  here are very darkly atmospheric. The opener Earth worms feels like Popol Vuh's soaring melancholy soundtrack to Aguirre  feed through loads of distortion and feedback,  giving a great grim cinematic start to the album. Later on we have Alishan which starts with a fine throbbing doomy psychedelic rock riff, and slowly becomes more overfeed and swirled by  layers of guitar improvisation and atmospheric noise guitar.
This really is some of his best more approachable work- as it still mangers to be inventive and varied, the tracks always keep you interested. I can very much see this been enjoy way beyond the noise scene to those who like drone rock, Doomy soundtracks and black as pitch rock music. Roger Batty / www.musiquemachine.com

Since I gave up collecting Merzbow (couldn't get a second mortgage on my house) I must say I enjoy it better than before. Perhaps just because the obsessive need of collecting, blurring my mind as to what is what and not finding it possible to hear much twice or three times, the occasional Merzbow just suits me better. Like ever, it's pretty hard to know what an album is about, if there are no references to saving animals that is. 'Coma Berenices' is such an album. Five pieces of improvised noise - that is what Merzbow does and he does best. It seems as if he picked up a guitar in 'Earth Worms', feeding it to the many colored boxes one can get from the same guy who sells guitars. It's not an over the top noise piece - perhaps that is a change? 'Dark Stars' is more like the old Merzbow, heavy deconstructed noise. 'Alishan' is what follows and here it's mostly EMS synthi-A stuff, but do we detect also a small melody in there? Hard to believe, but true. The final two pieces (all clocking in at over ten minutes) are again more a like 'Dark Stars', with a dominant EMS on 'Revenge On Humanity'. Quite a varied CD in terms of what Merzbow usually does. It suits him well however. (FdW) www.vitalweekly.net

Najnowszy album mistrza radykalnego hałasu z Japonii i kolejny dla polskiej wytwórni Vivo, który absolutnie nie przynosi złagodzenia ekstremalnej formuły. Masami Akita to zasłynął jako bohater 50-płytowego boksu "Merzbox", który bynajmniej nie wyczerpuje jego dyskografii. "Coma Berenices" doskonale wpisuje się we wcześniejsze dokonania artysty. To prawie godzinny cyfrowy walec, przy którym dokonania blackmetalowców są niewinnymi wygłupami. Piski, zgrzyty, szumy, chroboty - cały ten warkot układa się w dźwiękowy horror. Jakby cywilizacja, a raczej jej odpady przechodziły traumę i zwracały to wszystko z podwójną siłą. Przy tym Merzbow nie odpuszcza nawet na chwilę, atakuje zdeformowanym hałasem, jakby chciał dźwiękowy świat roznieść w pył. Mniej wrażliwi juz po minucie mogą mieć dość tej płyty. Warto jednak sprawdzić, jak daleko można się posunąć w dźwiękowym ekstremum. Robert Moczydłowski www.clubber.pl