If you are looking for a CD that can really ‘bring the noise’, then “Cuts” is for you. Merzbow, Gustafson and Pandi are an avant-garde super-group of sorts in that Merzbow (Masami Akita) is the leader of the modern electronic noise genre, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson is a long time star of the free jazz scene and drummer Balazs Pandi plays in several avant-garde rock and jazz acts. Together the three raise an incredible sound that is not for the feint of heart. Once the domain of the most creative composers, during the post-punk/industrial fad the use of noise in music became common place as an indulgent expression of imagined pain and privileged complaints. Merzbow’s use of noise takes us back to the more ascetic approach as his barrages of sonic distortion and feedback carry little trace of indulgent emotion and instead seem to represent unstoppable natural forces such as a hurricane or a storm of locusts. If you are not ready for really loud intense grinding noise, then I would pass on this one.
For the first two cuts on this CD Merzbow plows ahead with a steady onslaught of feedback and natural distortion while Pandi plays along with a variety of free jazz beats and modern thrash. Generally Merzbow’s sounds are mixed a bit higher than the drums so it is not always exactly clear what is happening on the trap set. I suppose Mats is contributing electronics on these as well, but everything blends so it is hard to tell for sure. At about the ten minute mark of track two the electronics finally break down and Pandi enters with a pounding rock beat, soon the electronics began to interact sounding like an alien race attempting to rock out, there is a lot of deconstructionist humor to this section and the variety is welcome.
Track three, “the fear too: invisible.” is probably the track with the strongest resemblance to something familiar to free jazz fans. After Merzbow’s opening, Gustafsson picks up the sax for some classic 60s style free blowing while Pandi’s drums respond in kind. Merzbow’s electronics move to the background on this one as he fills in the empty spaces with odd sounds. This track might remind some of Sun Ra and John Gilmore’s most outside work and its probably the top ‘cut’ on “Cuts”. Track four continues the variety as Merzbow backs off for a bit while Gustaffson makes his horn barely recognizable with distorted electronics and turns way down for some very quiet moments. Track five opens quietly, but soon enough Merzbow is back in full force, and this time topped by Gustafsson’s shrieking saxophone. The shrill intensity of this one is incredible.
I probably don’t need to point out that this CD isn’t for everyone, a lot of this is probably too intense for even die hard free jazz fans, but if you looking for uncompromising noise mixed with modern avant-garde jazz, this is the one.