There is something about the combination of noise-maven Merzbow and drummer extraordinaire Pandi that can do no wrong. They have teamed previously with Mats Gustafsson (2013’s Cuts) as well as the combination of Gustafsson and Thurston Moore (2015’s Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper). This latest effort includes Keiji Haino, whose dark guitar soundscapes have evoked nightmares for over 35 years.
Herein, Haino lays down a roiling mass of distorted guitar lines, while Merzbow provides the expected walls of sound and burbling electronics. Pandi, as his approach on these sort of albums seems to be, plays percussion like a lead instrument – no grooves, no steady beats.
With all of the tracks between 5 and 14 minutes, the trio has plenty of room to improvise through this nearly hour-long set, and improvise they do. An Untroublesome Defencelessness appears to be a composed on the spot, “live in the studio” recording from April of last year, though post-hoc addition of overdubs would not be surprising.
As a representative track, Why is the courtesy of the prey always confused with the courtesy of the hunters…Part III begins with guitar feedback and busy, but unobtrusive, drumming. Over this rides a layer of electronics in counterpoint to Haino’s Bailey-influenced jangling. As the guitar lines evolve into rapid, distorted riffing, Pandi makes heavier use of the cymbals, while Merzbow slowly drops down to background static. Eventually, we are left with just guitar in the foreground bouncing between two notes.
This album is another minor classic (and an album-of-the-year candidate) from UK-based RareNoiseRecords, a label that is taking the “noise” genre to new places by blending it seamlessly with free improv. Bravo.