AMM / Merzbow — Split Series #4 (1999, Fat Cat)
Listen [AMM, “For Ute,” youtube link]
They’ve done it again — Brighton’s Fat Cat Records, that is. They’ve engineered yet another brilliant split release featuring two of the avant-garde’s most distinct and innovative voices: Merzbow and AMM. While we’re a bit slow and behind the times here at Marginal HQ, as this release predates the Konono N˚1/ the Dead C split reviewed in June, we’re happy to bestow upon it our glowing recommendation. “For Ute” is one part sacred ritual, one part iconoclastic sacrilege. Contradictory as it may sound, one need only slap the A side on the platter to get it. Tinkling percussion, grating guitar, and diffuse, obscure tape loops precipitate an out and out rethink of the concept of “band.” Ontologies of the musical (used very loosely in this context) ensemble aside, AMM demonstrate their ability to tap into the artistic collective consciousness in a way that remains challenging and raw. While this ostensible tribute to cellist and sometimes AMM collaborator Ute Kanngiesser is not as raucous as some of their improvised sound walls, it’s still a great spin. At a mere 20 minutes, it’s some lighter AMM fare for those just delving into the group’s work. As always, the trio render no sounds incidental. Hum, buzz, chime, hiss, chord, concord, and discord — all are engulfed and deftly channeled into their freewheeling sonic experimentation. The opposite side of the wax, features Merzbow’s “Tower of Ghost,” a sickening 13-minute maelstrom that lurches between the blizzard and the blaze. The artist manages to corral the aesthetic sensibilities of science fiction and combine it with an artistic intensity seldom matched by others artists, regardless of medium. The Fat Cat Split Series is well curated and brings together some exceptional left of center artists in a format that is incisive, palatable, and most of all, enjoyable. This release in particular, is top notch.