After the impressive and well-received debut collaboration Atsusaku the duo of Gareth Davis & Merzbow return for their second album Broken Landscapes to Moving Furniture Records.
For this new album, they further explore their improvised bass clarinet and noise combo. The works here are inspired by the mechanisation of the environment.
Broken Landscapes is released on vinyl in an edition of 300, with a total of 15 special editions in combination with Atsusaku in a hand-stamped record sleeve, and as a download.
You can order the LP and download through our webshop.
Or find the album on your preferred streaming service: https://orcd.co/broken_landscapes
About the album
Following on from their 2016 Moving Furniture release, Atsusaku, Broken Landscapes is a new collaboration between Gareth Davis (Oiseaux Tempete, Scanner, Elliott Sharp, Machinefabriek) and Merzbow, Japanese noise mastermind Masami Akita.
The theme of mechanical compression explored in the first album is taken further this time, being looked at in the context of the fears of mechanisation in the environment. A torrent of noise reimagines the North Sea wind farms, the industrialisation in Southern California and the fight for the survival of animals in their overrun habitats. Through three tracks, the sounds of these spaces are crushed and distorted, the sense of air being saturated by the shifting low-end drones and hum of machines, howling reeds and dense white noise pushing away the breathing space.
The acoustic sound almost suffocated beneath the dense mechanical sweep of furiously abusive digital cross-fire and unrelenting production line intensity. Hints of recognition as a voice from the environment shines through before moving abruptly back into the mechanical barrage of looping textures. Broken Landscapes is built on impenetrably thick walls of manipulated field recordings while the bass clarinet saturates the midrange, the massive swirling mesh of analogue and digital material painting pictures of the magnified terrain that surrounds us.
Avant Music News
On Broken Landscapes, Gareth Davis and Merzbow team up for a second collaboration of sculpted noise. Clocking in around 36 minutes, the album is mostly what you would expect – harsh static, walls, wails, and intermittent chirps and squeaks – but somehow manages to tell a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Over an oscillating bed of shaped distortion, Davis and Merzbow each grind out statements of howling feedback, processed pink noise, and droning atmospherics. The sequences of these sounds, along with warped acoustic samples of nature recordings and machinery, are not random nor arbitrary. They are not exactly melodic either, but there is just enough pattern and structure on these tracks that they represent a twisted thematic progression. These themes may relate to humanity and/or the environment experiencing and responding to stress, collapse, or some other hellish scenario.
Regardless, Broken Landscapes is an unrelenting assault cogently exploring a sonic territory that is both unpleasant and worthwhile.
I enjoy what Masami Akita does, but it’s been a long time since any new Merzbow album has blown me away or taken me by surprise. For at least the past decade, his most exciting work has been in collaboration with other artists. “Broken Landscapes” Merzbow’s second collaboration with bass clarinetist Gareth Davis, an artist known primarily for improvised and contemporary classical music (with Wandelweiser or Elliot Sharp or others like that), though he’s recorded electro-acoustic music with folks like Machinefabriek and Aiden Baker as well. For the duration of the album’s first track, “Dogger Bank”, everything is pitched at pretty much the same volume and density.
I can’t tell what Davis’ contributions are here, but maybe that doesn’t matter. In fact, if Davis’ name wasn’t mentioned, you might not even think he was there at all. The track is eleven minutes of throat-throttle noise with no ground to balance on. The second track, “Yabata Frog”, pulls back for a relatively more restrained fuzz texture. This one isn’t a noise assault at all; it crumbles and wheezes and croaks and chirps. The third and final track, “Inland Empire”, is even more musical than what came before; there’s an almost dub bass throb subtly anchoring the squiggling filigree and undulating tones. I don’t hear any bass clarinet, and compositionally it’s what you’d expect from modern Merzbow. I’d be curious to know what Gareth Davis fans think of this.