Masami Akita, better known as Merzbow, is a Japanese Electronic Music
artist and composer, as well as a book writer and editor for various publications.
He was born in Tokyo in 1956. During his youth, he listened to psychedelic rock, progressive rock and free jazz, all of which influenced his musical style. He has been the drummer for various rock bands during his high school years, but began his musical career as an experimental rock artist with his high school friend Kiyoshi Mizutani.
He later attended Tamagawa University to study fine art, at which he majored in painting and art theory. During this time, he developed an interest in Dada
, eventually learning about Kurt Schwitters' Merz
, or art made from rubbish, including the installation "Merzbau", which became the source of his stage name.
Merzbow began in 1979 as a duo consisting of Masami Akita and Kiyoshi Mizutani, initially playing Industrial
music, which was not well-recognized during their time. They began garnering recognition in The Eighties
with their record label, Lowest Music and Arts, as well as its Spiritual Successor
, ZSF Produkt, which released material produced by other industrial artists. During this era, the duo began producing recordings for various international labels. Merzbow performed in the USSR in 1988, and have toured the US, Korea, and Europe in The Nineties
. In 1993, however, Kiyoshi left to pursue a solo career.
As of the present time, Merzbow has released over 350 studio recordings.
Merzbow's music is a matter of debate among Electronic Music
fans, owing to its highly experimental and abstract nature
. He is frequently cited as an early pioneer of Industrial
music in The Eighties
, alongside acts such as Throbbing Gristle
. Due to this, he has gained substantial attention in underground Electronic Music
circles, with many indies acts drawing inspiration from his works. However, he has also made forays into ambient-ish music and musique concrete. It is also arguable that he had a role in establishing/influencing the intelligent dance music (IDM) genre when it was still an Unbuilt Trope
, before artists like Autechre
and Aphex Twin
entered the spotlight.
Despite being highly acclaimed in many musical circles, Merzbow's music is definitely NOT for everyone
; much of his work is extremely
harsh, dissonant, mechanical and rough-sounding, and often employs every form
of musical Sensory Abuse
imaginable, including, but not limited to: heavily distorted, chattering electronics, tape loops, an emphasis on both heavy, sub-sonic bass and piercing ultrasonics, and extensive use of reverb, feedback, and static, which is even made more harsh and sonically abusive through his rough production stylenote
. His music comes across as overwhelming and difficult to listen to, and to the uninititated, may come across as sounding like a massive wall of black noise. Due to this, his music is very, VERY high on the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness
. note You Have Been Warned
. If you really, REALLY, REALLY
want to take a shot at his music, then go ahead and listen
. Just pray that your eardrums won't get blown off in the process.The Other Wiki has a comprehensive list of his known works
Tropes applying to Merzbow:
- Careful With That Axe: Considering his musical style, his surprise vocal inserts in some songs can come across as this.
- Darker and Edgier: He did this to Industrial, which is already a very harsh genre in itself.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Early works were mostly noisy Psychedelic Rock. Merzbow later scrapped this for harsh Industrial music akin to early power electronics artists such as Throbbing Gristle, and again in The Nineties for a harsher, darker and louder sound influenced by early Brutal Death Metal bands.
- Electronic Music: His main output being a stew of the following subgenres:
- Everything Is an Instrument: He even uses instruments made out of trash.
- Genre-Busting: Go ahead. Describe his musical style with one genre. We dare you.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Quite a few, the most notorious being his short-lived trio Flying Testicle, which featured Masonna and Z'ev.
- Loudness War: His output might sound like a huge wall of blastbeats and staticky black noise, but surprisngly, he averts this trope: almost all of his musical output is highly polished, crystal-clear and uncompressed to the point where almost all the dynamic range is still present.
- In a rather extreme example of zigzagging this trope, he has not just produced some of the clearest albums on record, but he has also recorded the two most horribly brickwalled albums ever produced: Pulse Demon and Venereology, the latter having a dynamic range of zero, gain values in the negative twenties and containing the loudest track ever put to compact disc: "I Lead You Towards Glorious Times".
- Metal Scream: The vocal work in "I Lead You Towards Glorious Times" is made up of nothing but these.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: His output is a VERY, VERY hard 11 at the lightest, but what's surprising about him is the fact that, despite being known for his Level 11 music, he has also done Level 1 ambient/chillout music, and in live shows, he is known for toning down his music so as to bring it to around 8-10. Most of the time, though, he cannot be ranked lower than 11 because most of his music is just so hard and brutalizing that it easily goes off the high end of the scale.
- Older Than They Look: This good looking nerdy guy◊ who appears to be in his mid-late 30s is in fact a 56-year old man.
- Postmodernism: He's influenced by Dadaism, Psychedelic Rock and early Industrial artists.
- Scary Musician, Harmless Music: One of the biggest inversions of this trope in music: he appears like a typical nerd, with long hair, glasses and a skinny physique. He even looks fairly young for his age. But his musical output is literally the auditory equivalent of Mind Rape.
- SENSORY ABUSE: One of the masters.
- Signature Style: Very loud, chattering electronics, time-signature torture, loads and loads of Sensory Abuse, and harsh, disorienting atmospherics.
- Spiritual Successor: Because of his apparent influence to many industrial artists, he is sometimes considered as this to Throbbing Gristle.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: His occasional forays into ambient music could count as this.
- Stylistic Suck: He has actual musical talent. Yes, really, he can make traditional music if he so desires; it only happens that he makes mind-fucking Harsh Noise because that's what he enjoys the most.
- Up to Eleven: Merzbow's music is simply Harsh Noise plus this.
- Widget Artist: Hands down, the most eccentric musician in the J-music scene. He's even more weird than all of them combined. Also, he is one of the weirdest Electronic Music producers ever to gain recognition.