This 2 disk set records the first ever collaboration between France's leading avant-garde rock composer, Richard Pinhas (well known for his 1970s work with Heldon) and the originator of Japanese noise music, Merzbow (real name Masami Akita, using a nom de plume to denote his empathy with Dadaism). The album's title comes from the location of the recording studio at the end of the metro line where the collaborative work was mixed. The duo bring together their strengths in use of electronics and synthesisers in particular.
"Tokyo Electric Guerilla" opens the collection of 6 lengthy ambient soundscapes with a hypnotic and slow development which moves from an electronic loop through to a number of disturbing dream-like wind sounds reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream. The following composition has an industrial machinery modality to it, uncannily for me, bringing back memories of the sound of my mother's 30 year old washing machine, released from somewhere buried deep in a 2 year-old's psyche. The third and longest track is very reminiscent in the beginning of Fripp and Eno's startlingly different 1973 album No Pussyfooting. The ebb and flow washes of synths are underpinned by a constant electrical ticking sound while electric guitar is used to elaborate and highlight. Strange electronic noises intermittently squeeze out between the layers of sound, averting the tendency to mesmerise. An effective percussive section represents another phase with a melodic keyboard backdrop.
The music was recorded live and then subjected to mixing and remixing in Keio to achieve a desirable outcome. The result, as a listening experience, is the equivalent of musical painting - rather like watching an abstract artist develop a work on canvas. Pinhas's intelligent and creative use of 'organic' electronics and Merzbow's enormous experience (releasing over 250 cds of material since 1979) in the noise movement could hardly be surpassed in terms of a blending of similar beliefs but different approaches and it imbues the album with a finesse which would be tough to duplicate.
On the second CD, the first track, with its oddball play on words, emphasises perhaps a shared sensibility in animal rights and a reflection of the cross-learning which the pair experienced. The first ethereal piece is the shortest at just 8 minutes and is followed by the 20 minute plus "Chaos Line", another simile for the album title I assume. Opening with a warlike, other-worldly dreamscape, all distant explosions and electronic zaps, the track develops through the addition of distorted guitar, loops and synthesiser sounds to be perhaps the most interesting and varied of the set. It almost rocks into a techno beat in the middle before a series of soaring extended guitar lines from Heldon, leach in and reimpose the earlier drones and washes with the addition of some fabulous basal death-ray zaps. Another shared political ethic entitles the final track which has some similarities to the Red Sparrowes At the soundless dawn album from 2005. More Merzbow than Pinhas here I think with strange whorls of sound and electronic noises feeding into a violent sandstorm of a landscape. Industrial processing effects emerge from this background to dominate for a while before another harmonic shift towards a bleak and empty vision with sharp chaotic noises peppering the scene. Towards the end the seemingly random slashes of sound appear to blend and merge in a brutal spitting melee to evoke a final destructive future.
For fans of ambient electronic music this is something of a nirvana; Pinhas has made Merzbow more accessible outside the noise movement whilst Merzbow has, if possible, pushed Pinhas' existing boundaries even further beyond the horizon.
1. Tokyo Electric Guerilla
2. Ikebukuro: Tout le monde descend!
3. Shibuya AKS
4. Merzdon/Heldow kills animal killers
5. Chaos Line
6. Fuck the Power (and fuck global players)