Alec Empire and Merzbow — Live at CBGB’s NYC 1998 (2003, Digital Hardcore)
This late 1990s meeting of two of the world’s most renown sonic provocateurs is in many ways, an ideal collaboration. Both Atari Teenage Riot and Masami Akita aka Merzbow have made careers in exploring the extremities of music and sonic art, yet have scaled the mountain via different paths. Naturally, this meeting in the middle is fascinating. While Merzbow has experimented with rhythmic sampling on releases such Door Open at 8 AM, the assorted breakbeat and hip-hop samples that Alec Empire employs, mixed with the frenzy of static and feedback from Akita, create a deeply atmospheric and sonically confrontational set of tunes. The two provide roving counterpoints to one another and explore worlds hitherto untapped by each respective artist. The keyboard loop at the end of “Brooklyn Connection” adds new dimensions to Merzbow’s storm of sound. “The Slayer Calls at Night” likens back to Empire’s Low on Ice albeit with a healthy dose of rapturous white noise. Alec Empire doesn’t let Merzbow control the intensity, as is made apparent on “Shock Treatment for Corporate Control,” a tune which boasts lightning breakbeats, granular time warping, and frantic electronics. “A Degenerated Nation Reacting to Fear” begins the denouement of the set; Empire’s samples of political monologues are complimented by Akita’s sawing feedback. The highly theatrical strings on the closer, “Some Might Even Die” tempestuously blend with Empire’s pitch shifting on the turntable and Merzbow’s continued dissonant electronics, all the while the credits roll. This release is not to be missed by fans of either artist.