Monday, 4 February 2019

Merzbow + Opening Performance Orchestra

Merzbow + Opening Performance Orchestra ‎– Merzopo - Sub Rosa
Sub Rosa – 2 x cd – 2018 – SR472CD.

1-1       –Merzbow       Futaomote Part 1       
1-2       –Merzbow       Futaomote Part 2       
1-3       –Merzbow       Yasugibushi Part 1    
1-4       –Merzbow       Yasugibushi Part 2    
2-1       –Opening Performance Orchestra     Fraction Elements      
2-2       –Opening Performance Orchestra     Fraction Music XII

Having been active since 1979 with a massive history of hundreds of releases makes Merzbow one of the most important historical figures in the history of modern Noise. Opening Performance Orchestra are a Czech noise group dating back to 2006; this is their 16th album. Merzopo is the recent split album featuring both artists. The artwork is a kind of huge abstract painted penis by Jaroslav Buzek which spreads across two panels of the digipack.

The Merzbow CD begins steadily with low noise and increases to a massive overall sound, this very quickly becomes intense and overpowering. There are extreme contrasts of wall like distortion and sharp high-pitched sound. Sounds do override beyond breaking point; other noises frequently enter the composition. The sound is a big, over powering mass; this frequently breaks down to allow some respite for newer structures of noise to be built. The Futaomote tracks are Harsh, it’s difficult to comment if this is Merzbow’s best work, my criticism of the first two pieces is that they get too busy to a point where the drops in overall noise are essential to make it work again. I think the pieces are huge but could have been way more effective if stripped back continuously, allowing more clarity of individual or combinations of elements as there is often too much in the equation.

In the later ‘Yasugibushi’ tracks the sound does strip back more and this is a lot more interesting as quirkier, playful elements to the sound begin to show themselves. The wider, ambitious sound then glows through a lot more effectively. I feel the Yasugibushi tracks are the stronger Merzbow tracks of the album. The long die-off of Yasugibushi Part 2 is impressive as the work becomes increasingly minimal and dramatic whilst reaching its’ end.

Fraction Elements sees Opening Performance Orchestra Begin with ambient, ominous gloom that rumbles and scrapes itself to life. As things begin to increasingly crash and rumble, feedback and electronic noise begin to really rise. The growth from slight sounds to massive noise is long and impressive. Their work builds to assaultive, distorted walls, spikes of sharp sounds and much sonic overdrive. In photos there appear to be four members but Discogs lists seven; I don’t know if it’s due the number of group members, but the control over such a loud mass of sound is excellent. The number of individual noise components is quite small, but it builds to a massive cacophony of noise that’s controlled in every aspect. Fraction Elements gradually builds to a wall like assault. I later learned both their tracks were played and recorded live, impressive.

In contrast, Fraction Music XII is a lot faster to build, it starts with pulsating drones, it utilises sharper sounds more as well as walls of distortion and metallic scraping. Odd drones to resonate through the noise periodically. Again, this is a massive sound that exercises complete control and precision. There is aggressive use of storms of distorted noise that are well pinned down by sharp noise and drones, so they have a static hurricane like assault due to this. The pointed focus of the sharper sounds that later overlay the distortion is sheer accuracy.

The artists at a brief listen appear similar. The Merzbow work is huge, but does take time to gain real focus, once it does the magic happens. The Opening Performance Orchestra work is simply a group in total control and at the peak of their sonic powers.

Choppy Noodles 2019.

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