The Lineup


Merzbow

Tokyo, Japan

Merzbow

You’ll be forgiven if you start to spell the word noise with a z swapped for the s: During the last 30 years, Japanese artist Merzbow has become shorthand for the genre known as noise, though that parameter puts an unnecessary restriction on his prolific and pioneering career. (For fans of this stuff, calling Merzbow by his given name, Masami Akita, is tantamount to aging hippies referring to Bob Dylan as Zimmy, or Robert Zimmerman.) Across a catalog so vast that no single discography is known to include its entirety, Merzbow has proven himself to be incredibly adaptable and exploratory, an experimental experimenter willing to collaborate with rock bands, metal bands and fellow abstractionists and—most definitively—to explore the manifold fields of out-there sound.

More than a decade ago, appropriately named Australian label Extreme Records released Merzbox, a 50-disc collection of new and old Merzbow work. Encased in a zipped black vinyl case—with a T-shirt, hard-cover book, poster and other accessories included—Merzbox is perhaps the most emblematic of all of Merzbow’s hundreds of releases. (This isn’t the definitive Merzbow release, mind you, as that is a question whose scope is the subject of heated conversations and message board threads that have no true resolve.) Its extended passages of static, squall, sustain and scrambles display Merzbow’s control of his very wide palette: He could blast. He could brood. He could lurk somewhere in the balance, like a specter capable of a physical strike.

Merzbow has released a mountain of material, but if you’re looking for a quick, accessible introduction, his works for North American label Important Records during the last decade are a good place to start. Occasionally concussive, sometimes entrancing, the full range of Merzbow’s power and poise remains—more than 30 years into his career—undiminished.

Of course, you could also listen to any number of his full-length collaborations with Japanese metal banshees Boris, or to Sunn O)))’s Flight of the Behemoth, on which Merzbow features prominently. He has, after all, appeared on enough records by other people that, had he never released a solo record, he’d still be a legend. For that reason, Hopscotch Music Festival is proud to welcome Masami Akita, or Merzbow, as its 2013 Improviser in Residence. —Grayson Currin