Merzbow | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


For almost 25 years and more than 200 albums, Tokyo noise patriarch Masami Akita, better known as Merzbow, has maintained an unflinching devotion to sonic brutality. Anglo noisemongers like Whitehouse and Boyd Rice have linked violent sounds to sexual power, black humor, or antisocial aggression, but Akita treats them as a source of pleasure in themselves, exploring their intricate physical interactions and embracing their sensual richness. Detractors like to complain that all Merzbow recordings sound the same, and on the most superficial level they do--you can always count on layers of squalling, crushingly dense white noise, the aural equivalent of wading blindfolded through a four-foot snowdrift in a howling gale. But that similarity breaks down if you're attuned to the right details. After years of sticking to analog and tape-based sound sources, Akita incorporated digital gear in the late 90s, and recently he's started using actual beats. Thankfully they're not the assembly-line techno-industrial variety so many noise artists seem enamored of--on the 2002 disc Merzbeat (Important) the drum sound is primal, dirty, and cavernous, in keeping with Akita's raw, corporeal aesthetic. And the 2005 disc Sphere (Tzadik) opens with hammering percussion that's sometimes obscured by a swelling morass of noise--it's like listening to the heartbeat of a man running for his life. Merzbow doesn't make it to Chicago very often, which is a blessing for all the noise pretenders out there with busier tour schedules: once you've experienced the genuine article, you won't want to settle for anything less. Hive Mind and Brent Gutzeit open. Wed 9/7, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.

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