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Masami Akita (1956 - )

Related: noise music - Japanese music


Merzbow is the name used by Japanese musician Masami Akita (born 1956) for most of his experimental noise records. He has released an extensive catalog of CDs, LPs and cassettes since the early 1980s, and is seen as one of the most important noise musicians working today.

Occasionally Akita is joined by other musicians, such as Genesis P-Orridge, Otomo Yoshihide, Cock E.S.P. and Mike Patton, but records made under the Merzbow name are usually by him alone.

He was born in Tokyo. He listened to psychedelic music, progressive rock and later free jazz in his youth all of which seem to have left their mark on his music; his album Aqua Necromancer, for instance, samples progressive rock drum lines, while Doors Open At 8am samples free jazz.

He went to Tamagawa University to study art. It was there that he learned of Kurt Schwitters Merz art made from rubbish, including Schwitters' Merzbau, or Merz building. This the source of the name Merzbow.

His earliest music was made with tape loops, and has been compared to Throbbing Gristle. He released his music on cassettes through his own record label, Lowest Music & Arts, which was founded in 1979. In the early 1980s, he founded a second label, ZSF Produkt. Since then, he has released records on a large number of labels, including Mego and Tzadik.

He later began to use more electronic instruments and electric guitars, but his music still consisted of what most people would think of as "noise". In the past few years, Merzbow has begun to use digital technology more in his music. At a live performance these days, it is normal for him to produce all his music with a single laptop computer. This has dismayed some of his fans.

In 2000, the Extreme record label released Merzbox, a 50 CD set of Merzbow records, 20 of them not previously released. The set also included badges, postcards, posters and various other Merzbow collectibles.

In 2002, he released "Merzbeat"; which was seen as a significant departure from his trademark abstract style in that it contains beat-oriented pieces. This has sparked some controversy among fans, though some older Merzbow recordings, including some discs from the Merzbox, are also rhythmically focused. Still, the album was more so than anything Merzbow released in the past 10 or 15 years, and was more widely available than the earlier recordings. 2004's "Merzbird" followed in a similar vein. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merzbow [Mar 2005]

On sexual bondage

"Bondage has its own beauty - porn too, but often the beauty of bondage is misunderstood. One simple reason for the difference is the focus of the photographer. A good photographer will focus on the rope and the model's face, a bad photographer will focus on the genitals, which is not the point. Most people think female bondage is a realisation of a sexist rape and violence obsession. Violence and rape - if we consider the police, military, schools and other forms of establishment power - are 'normal' human activities. Bondage is not a 'normal' human activity. It must be 'abnormal'. Bondage is parody and an anti-form of authority. People don't understand this point." - Masami Akita, a.k.a. Merzbow, via phinnweb

Japanese noise

Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) plays the double game of ambience Attali identifies: omnipresent sound, becoming noise; noise becoming background. Merzbow music consists of the debris of music, of sound: pulses, feedback, hisses, whirs, blasts, distortions, pure tones, shrieks, machine noise -- all played extremely loud.[31] But this music is noise "all the way down" -- there is no space for recognisably musical sounds to be overlaid with distortions (as in 1980s music in the wake of punk), just combinations of noises, that do not settle into a mantric pulse, or continual explosion ("not music at all, but rather the intensive expenditure of sound and silence").[32] The listener struggles to find a way through, in or above the noise music but gives up at a certain point: rhythms are to be found, frequencies to be followed -- it is not just random, but - eventually "the listener" is pulverised into believing there is a link. Noise music becomes ambience not as you learn how to listen, or when you accept its refusal to settle, but when you are no longer in a position to accept or deny. Perhaps the "experienced listener" can manage whole albums, concerts -- Merzbow has the answer in the shape of the 50CD Merzbox. The possibility of mastery, of "learning to hear anew" etc. -- held out as if possible -- endlessly broken (to keep the possibility open as indefinite promise) by alteration, by blurring of the strata of sound, is what feeds the continual excess of noise music. Noise music is the endless sacrifice of art music didacticism and of restricted economy "noise" (metal, hardcore of all types).[33] --http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=314

History of Japanese S&M [...]

first published in secretmag, written by Masami Akita

Masami Akita Interviewed

interviewed by Trevor Brown
March 1992
(re-edited May 1997)

Masami Akita is perhaps best known as MERZBOW, Japan's leading exponent
of 'industrial music', but simultaneously he has worked in performance
art and is increasingly involved with KINBIKEN (1). The following
interview was conducted (by post) in Jan/Feb 1992. There has been a
certain degree of rewording of his replies for improved coherency.
Masami Akita has double-checked this for misrepresentation and glaring

Music for Bondage - Merzbow

  1. Music for Bondage - Merzbow [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    I don't know about the atmosphere of bondage performances, I've never experienced any, but many people in Japan (and in the rest of the world I guess) are interested in bondage, that's one thing you can learn from Masami Akita's liner notes to this CD (and an other thing is, that it is very different from the average S&M cultivated in the Western cultures). This album by Merzbow is indeed music for bondage performance, as the tracks were made for them. Thus they are very different from the other Merzbow albums, the music is more "musical", while it is still atonal music most of the time, and quite creepy. The artwork of the album is proffessional and so is Akita's text about bondage history in Japan. To bondage enthusiasts it is probably very interesting. Actually the music on this CD was recorded between 1989-1991, so it's an early Merzbow CD release. All in all this is excellent music, however I think I liked Music for Bondage Performance 2 better. --Adam Csenger , amazon.com

  2. Satanstornade (2002) - Russell Haswell, Masami Akita [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Anyone coming into this release expecting Warp's usual IDM or even their more experimental recent offerings (such as Autechre's Confield and Gantz Graf and Aphex Twin's Drukqs) will probably initially regard this compact disc as defective. Certainly, although not nearly as brutal as, say, Akita's Venereology, this music ostensibly scrapes the ears with rusty broken razors. But there is something latently beautiful struggling to get out of the tornado of noise wrapped around this release. Usually, I find it difficult to sit through an entire piece by Akita but there is something mysterious about the craft of this release, perhaps in no small due to Haswell; something that tethers it to the ground while firmly embracing the storm. Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart, the dangerous blades on the cover are indicative of the package as a whole: undoubtedly deadly but strangely alluring. Sit down, place your headphones firmly around your poor ears, and prepare to be swept away. --nathan humpal, amazon.com

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