Merzbow/Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore /Balázs Pándi – Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper [TrackList follows] – RareNoise (2 CDs)

Merzbow/Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore /Balázs Pándi – Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR052, (2 CDs) 34:30, 44:28 [4/7/15] ****:

(Merzbow {aka Masami Akita} – noise, power electronics; Mats Gustafsson – baritone saxophone, G clarinet, power electronics; Thurston Moore – guitar; Balázs Pándi – drums)

What is noise? One definition is noise is any unwanted sound, especially loud ones which disturb people or make it difficult to hear other sounds: this may include high-frequency tones; abrasive sounds created by industry, jet aircraft, and other artificially-structured noises. There is also noise music, a musical sub-genre typified by significant use of noise within a musical (some could contend, non-musical) context. The double-album, Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper, (out now on the RareNoise label) is a prime example of the noise music aesthetic, characterized by unconventional, human- and machine-generated sounds, physically manipulated audio, and other erratically produced noises such as distortion and feedback. This type of noise music—extended and extreme cacophony—is appreciated by a small, selective group of listeners. And those who know the distinctive players associated within the noise music sub-genre should welcome Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper, because it has Japanese noise music maverick Masami Akita (AKA Merzbow, who has been involved in over 350 recordings since 1979); saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (credits include drummer Paul Lovens, fellow saxophonist Ken Vandermark, and trumpeter/saxophonist Joe McPhee); guitarist Thurston Moore (co-founder of experimental/alternative rock band Sonic Youth) and drummer Balázs Pándi (who has worked with Wadada Leo Smith and is a participant of Metallic Taste of Blood, also on the RareNoise label roster).

Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper is the follow-up to Cuts (2013), a trio release from Merzbow, Gustafsson and Pándi. That threesome also toured, delighting noise music fans with their enthusiastic, on-stage improvisations.  All of the band members had performed together, but not as a single unit. Pándi and Masami had collaborated in the past; Gustafsson performed together with Masami and Sonic Youth. So, it was a natural extension for the trio to enter a studio and invite Moore along. This double-album project is available as double-LP, two CDs, or digital download. This review refers to the two-CD version. Disc one consists of two lengthy tracks, the nearly 20-minute maelstrom, “Replaced by Shame – Only Two Left,” and the almost 18-minute vortex, “Divided by Steel. Falling Gracefully.” The second disc contains the forceful, 21-minute jam “Too Late, Too Sharp – It Is Over” and the punishing piece “All His Teeth in Hand, Asking Her Once More.” Anyone who wants a preview of this material can listen to short excerpts of “Divided…” and “Too Late…”

Gustafsson states the improvised session, “…had no game plan. That usually does not work so well. It all depends on the day, the energy and of course the room. It was a truly spectacular recording. It went super-fast—just a wall of noise-poetry with layers and perspectives changing all the time.” Devotees of Gustafsson’s aggressive, frantic saxophone will embrace “Replaced by Shame-Only Two Left,” since it provides some of his radical saxophone moments. For most of the album, Gustafsson emulates Merzbow, dispensing with the sax and making wholly electronic noises. The menacing introduction for “Replaced by Shame – Only Two Left” utilizes breathy sax noises, gradually heightening electronics, guitar distortion and feedback, and Pándi’s increasingly strong percussion. Soon, Gustafssonʼs bellowing baritone sax blends with Mooreʼs shrieking guitar, and the group shifts to a louder and more strident uproar. Typically, this sort of dense, wrenching structure would have no foundation or foothold, but Pándi’s propulsive drumming supplies support, keeping a sense of equilibrium, while the other players roam through deafening crests of tension. When “Divided by Steel. Falling Gracefully.” launches, the foursome move to greater levels of pure noise with high doses of distortion and feedback, where it’s challenging to tell who is creating what electronic blasts, which is probably part of the overall point.

The start of “Too Late, Too Sharp – It Is Over” offers a respite from the rage. It commences with light, rolling (sometimes Asiatic-tinted) percussion, accented guitar clinks, and low-volume electronics. A serrated undercurrent inexorably builds, which lends an impression of anxiety. The percussive components eventually succumb to thicker drum pounding and equally gruffer electronics. Some pundits can argue anyone could craft this inclement clamor, but close inspection would reveal few other musicians other than Merzbow, Gustafsson, Pándi and Moore who could produce or duplicate the deliberate rise from ambient and atmospheric, to distressing and disconcerting, which courses during the 21 minutes of “Too Late, Too Sharp-It Is Over.” While this may not be in the same realm as the Grateful Dead’s longer concert jams, it’s not actually as far as some might think. The solid wail and wall of noise erupts again on the arduous “All His Teeth in Hand, Asking Her Once More,” where severe electronics fashion tautness and strain. This is 23 minutes of fierce, furious and violent din. Moore and Merzbow bounce sounds off each other, as they erect giant-sized sound scrapes, auditory punches and upheavals. And 12 minutes into the aural hurricane, Gustafsson finally returns to his screeching saxophone, adding abrasiveness to the quartet’s accelerated relentlessness. Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper is made for the initiated, and should not be heard by those who are not already inclined toward noise music. However, this double album is not the overriding noise common on Merzbow releases. The presence of real, acoustic drums sets this project apart from solely electrified efforts, and furnishes a vital, human effect to the barrage of noise.

TrackList:

CD 1: Replaced by Shame-Only Two Left; Divided by Steel. Falling Gracefully

CD 2: Too Late, Too Sharp-It Is Over; All His Teeth in Hand, Asking Her Once More

—Doug Simpson

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