Boris is a band that engages the listener at gunpoint with their particular blend of scuzzy shoegaze put through a filter of brain-melting doom. In contrast, Merzbow is a dude that makes sounds that are specifically designed to induce pain. The marriage of such music goes together like chocolate and peanut butter. Regardless of your attitudes towards harsh noise as ‘music’, Merzbow is still an act that belongs in the music’s canon for taking distortion to the absolute limit and testing the general listener’s tolerance for noise. Harsh noise is the absolute disregard of composition, form and melody, relying upon pure sonic intensity, it does not make apology for its ugliness, and it is, needless to say, an acquired taste. Merzbow’s work from the late 80s early 90s, while appreciated not from a “this is good music” standpoint but “this is horrible, yet ground-breaking sound” standpoint, was incredibly influential in the development of Industrial, Japanoise and Shoegaze, with many acts such as Church of Misery, The Gerogerigegege, Boredoms and Melt-Banana. Among these too was Boris, producing music with the same wanton disregard for ears as the Merz with varying degrees of intensity.
In comparison to Klatter, the very percussive earlier collaboration and synergy of two very different styles of music, Gensho combines the brute force of both artists’ oeuvre. Gensho is a strange album in that it comes in two halves and the listener is intended to listen to both simultaneously. It essentially amounts to Merzbow masturbating over the top of established, re-recorded Boris tracks, but by god if it isn’t a wall of sound. Merzbow restrains himself somewhat: this is not pure distortion and there’s clearly some form of soundscape present. It’s even somewhat danceable in points, as Merzbow creates a clearly distinguishable beat. It is filled with an incredible amount of tension: one gets the sense when listening to the Merzbow half that the world is collapsing in on itself. On the flipside, Boris’ contribution brings with it melody and infinite drones. While the music provided by Boris is already extant on other releases, it is significantly altered from the originals often to the point of nonrecognition. “Akuma No Uta” in particular is significantly altered from its four-minute counterpart on the album of the same name into an eleven-minute drone fest right out of a Sunn O))) project. The vibrations on this thing are staggering – the drones and squeals allow you to fully embrace the brain death associated with immersive music such as this, which not many acts can successfully achieve.
Like The Flaming Lips before them with Zaireeka, Boris and Merzbow have created an album that allows the listener volition over their experience. The fact that both parts of the album can stand well and truly on their own is also testament to the talent involved here. ‘Talent’ is applied liberally in Merbow’s case – noise music is one of the easiest forms of music to make but the hardest to get right; after all, it still must be listenable to be enjoyed. At once brutally punishing and breathtakingly beautiful, Gensho is incredibly listenable, provided that the listener is prepared to work and suffer for the art.
Review by Eamonn Kelly