A new underground music podcast has set itself a mighty challenge: to listen to and discuss one-by-one the albums of Japanese noise godfather Merzbow. Each episode of Merzcast sees Greh Holger of Chondritic Sound and another musician or noise fan sit down together to absorb a particular album by Masami Akita and reflect on it afterwards.
“Part of the fun of doing this podcast comes from listening and experiencing the record together, and it makes the discussion much easier than doing it over the phone or internet,” emails Holger. “Some of our future guests live across the country, but plans are underway to make those happen in person.”
The podcast episodes are lengthy and detailed, with the contributors breaking down the album track by track, dropping thoughts on equipment, effects, track titles and more. Pictures posted online show sheets of paper with notes on each track written during the listening sessions, which thus far have taken place around the HQ of Holger’s distro Chondritic Sound in Los Angeles.
Since his debut recordings in the early 1980s, Masami Akita has released hundreds of albums of white-hot sound on labels across the world – a catalogue with few comparisons in the noise scene. Information accompanying each album is often limited to identifying a studio and a date. Faced with such an imposing discography, Holger and co elect to bring their own personal perspectives to the wall of sound. “I prefer to bring our own knowledge and ideas about the material to the table, so there's not a lot of research done aside from listening to the record, going over the liner notes, checking out the instrumentation, tracklist, thanks, label, recording data and such,” he reports. “Things such as when and where it was recorded and what elements were used can help relate it to other records. Mystery is in short supply these days, and there's no reason to ruin it with too much fact-finding.
“Once the album is finished, we head straight to the mics and try not to talk before hitting record,” he adds.
The first two episodes are now live online at merzcast.com and at other good podcast outlets. The first edition sees Mike Connelly (of US noise units Hair Police, Failing Lights and Clay Rendering) in the hot seat to discuss 1998’s Tauromachine, and this pair are joined in the follow-up by William Hutson (Rale, Clipping) to check out 1995’s Green Wheels. And what about Masami Akita, the man himself? “He's at the top of the wishlist for guests, of course, so possibly someday.”
Other Merzbow podcasts are also available. While Merzcast was launching, another project Immerzbox was already reaching its fourth episode. Launched by Erik Highter and @metaltxt, Immerzbox started as “sort of a dare” to review every CD of the infamous Merzbox 50 CD career-spanning box set released in 2000. “I knew Erik would be game,” emails metaltxt. “Erik loves dumb ideas.”
Immerzbox started right at the beginning of the Merzbox, and thus currently explores a very different era of Merzbow’s work to Merzcast. “The early Merzbox works we're still discussing are so incredibly different from what people probably think of as Merzbow's work. There's very little harsh noise like he's known for, and some of these tracks even border on the minimal/ambient.
“We're still early in our podcast project,” they continue. “But I'm sure diving so deeply into one artist's work will make us acutely aware of recurring patterns, things that Masami brings up over and over but in slight variations. I'm really looking forward to continuing on this wild journey we've started for ourselves.”
The music that both the two podcasts deal with might be extreme, but the feelings between them are not. “We love what the Merzcast is doing,” enthuses metaltxt, “and hope to collaborate with them on something in the near future.”