It would be a mistake to say Merzbow is all about quantity, but it sure seems like that sometimes. According to Wikipedia the Japanese noise musician Masami Akita has released over 350 works under the Merzbow name, but the true number of albums, tapes, collaborations, remixes and live recordings is probably unknown to even Akita himself. The sounds on those recordings are all about quantity: the quantity of noise. Whether he’s manipulating sheets of white noise, creating jarring electro-screams, conjuring skronk out of a mess of wires or triggering wailing loops on his computer, Merzbow has always remained at the forefront of all that is loud.
The noise legend played Greenpoint’s Saint Vitus last night, and in the spirit of excess and quantity, we’ve decided to publish all of our thoughts during the show. Think of it as a running internal monologue to music that’s both completely chaotic and oddly meditative. We settled on 56 thoughts because, well, you’ll see….
01. Oh, a live drummer. Neat!
02. Is Merzbow tuning? Dumb thought. Can I retract that?
03. This isn’t too loud.
04. BLLLLEEEERRGGG. OK, this is loud.
05. The drumming is keeping this anchored a bit. Or at least it gives the compositions a certain rhythmic consistency. Lots of cymbals.
06. Merzbow looks intense but also unfazed. He’s wearing all black and sunglasses. His hair is very long. He doesn’t really look like his Noise Park drawing.
07. There should be a special phrase for the way people crane their necks to try to look at the equipment on a table at a noise show. This maneuver is hard to pull off even in the first few rows, but if you’re standing in the back, it’s really useless. But keep trying, dude in front of me. Dream big!
08. I’m glad Merzbow is still rocking a “Meat Is Murder” sticker on his laptop, but it seems to be a different one than the one I’ve seen in other pictures. Does he change them?
09. What image does Merzbow have for his desktop background?
10. Shoutout to the people at Saint Vitus who gave out the free ear plugs at the beginning of the show.
11. Currently trying to figure out who around me is wearing or not wearing their ear plugs.
12. Does not wearing your ear plugs make you a cool, badass noise warrior, or does it just make you an idiot?
13. I’m glad I missed the Spurs/Thunder game for this, but I am curious what the score of the game is. Does Merzbow watch basketball?
14. I’m going to do my best to try not to think of some belabored sports metaphor to describe Merzbow’s removed demeanor.
15. OK, fuck it. Merzbow is like Tim Duncan: a calm, collected veteran who manages to have a removed, Zen-like attitude toward the chaotic things surrounding him.
16. I wonder if Merzbow would be angry that I’m thinking about basketball during his performance.
17. Currently trying not to think about basketball.
18. Currently trying not to picture Tim Duncan on stage with Merzbow, jamming Dirk Nowitzki style.
19. A surprising amount of couples here. People canoodling. The couple that Merzbows together stays together.
20. OK, this is really loud. Time to turn on the “horrible similes for intense noise” side of my brain.
21. This sounds like a pipe bursting in that underground hideout where the Foot Clan hangs out in the first Ninja Turtles movie.
22. Like a geyser of sludge rising out of a metallic volcano.
23. Like a digital avalanche roaring through the brain of the Star Child.
24. Like machine guns shooting globs of dissonance at an oncoming army of Beach House fans.
25. Like gears in a factory churning up and down.
26. Like the engine of a time machine sputtering before being sent back to the Dark Ages.
27. Like plague-carrying mice squealing in the mouth of a hawk with a cool laser eye.
28. I hope no one notices how much I’m sweating. Why do I always where a sweatshirt to these things?
29. Everyone around me must know I’m sweating, including Merzbow, who does not approve.
30. Merzbow doesn’t know I’m sweating. He actually seems pretty focused.
31. What is that piece of equipment Merzbow is using to conjure all of this noise? It looks like the base of a banjo strapped to an oversized Wii controller.
32. It’s pretty dark, so it’s hard to get a look at the piece of equipment Merzbow is using. Someone who knows more about noise should’ve written this review because I’m probably going to embarrass myself with my ignorance.
33. Note to self: Google “Merzbow equipment” when I get back to my apartment.
34. Note to self: Invest in better ear plugs.
35. It’s odd how you can feel the the vibrations from the speakers in different places. The physicality of this show is immense, but it’s also subtle in certain ways. I don’t feel like I’m being bludgeoned.
36. I’m mostly feeling the vibrations around my ankles and my shins.
37. The cuffs of my pant legs are chattering.
38. Though it is obviously very loud, the sound here is pretty impeccable.
39. The composition seems to be shifting.
40. It’s hard to fist-pump at a Merzbow show, but apparently it’s not hard to go “WOOOO!” at a Merzbow show.
41. The second half of the show seems to be introducing more organic textures, less synapse assaults.
42. People often frame noise in terms of violence, and that’s so limiting. Why do we have to call this type of music “annihilating,” “punishing” and “brutalizing”?
43. I also often describe noise music that I enjoy with destructive terms (bulldoze, crush, ummm… destroy?), but a lot of the joy in the music is tied up with acts of construction: constructing sounds, constructing instruments, constructing patterns.
44. This is really beautiful. There’s a doomed romanticism at work here. Maybe that explains all the couples.
45. BLRRRGHHH! OK, it’s still loud.
46. There’s something mournful about Merzbow’s compositions. Like something has been lost and this is all that remains.
47. Oh, that’s nice, the drummer gets a chance to solo. Merzbow is fiddling with his computer. Is he writing a Yelp review?
48. I wonder how many people here have really strong opinions about that dismissive AllMusic review of Merzbow’s 1996 classic, Pulse Demon. I’m guessing at least 14.
49. The second half is definitely less jerky and more open to natural tones, though perhaps I’m just getting used to the deafening quality of the music.
50. It’s hard to tap your toe to Merzbow unless you are squishing a bug with that toe.
51. Can’t stop picturing Tim Duncan vibing out to Merzbow. Tony Parker stands in the back making that stink-face he always makes. Stephen Jackson is nowhere to be found.
52. My sweat is vibrating, and I think the hair follicles on my arms will be shaking for days.
53. I’m sweating so much, but I’m not even ashamed or self-conscious anymore because Merzbow has liberated me from my sweat-shame complex through his harsh tonalities. I am free.
54. Thanks, Merzbow.
55. This is great. I love this. I am transcending my body. I am transcending existence itself. I feel invincible, like my body is merely a shell from which I will one day escape.
56. I am…