If you’ve ever wanted to hear something akin to a György Ligeti choral piece being performed on the rim on an active volcano, look no further than this collaboration between two of the most … um, explosive artists of the Japanese underground. Keiji Haino, the guitar god and self-described “bluesman” who sounds like he hails from somewhere around beyond the orbit of Pluto; and Masami Akita, a/k/a Merzbow, whose rumblings and seismic disturbances turn feedback and speaker blowout into art forms unto themselves. Haino’s the master of the monochromatic and mournful; Merzbow covers the ears with a Pollock-splatter of sounds in all spectra. A collaboration between them was bound to be epic in some way.
Pulverized Purple does not disappoint, at least in the sense that it shows both parties doing what they do best and at the fullest possible volume. Come to think of it, “Pulverized” is the right word: it’s the best adjective for what they do to the sounds they create between them, and also what happens to the listener. Akita-the-irresistable-force and Haino-the-immovable-object smash together again and again, grinding the audience into atoms between them. But beyond the obvious my-noise-album-can-beat-up-your-noise-album one-upsmanship, Purple also shows off the more careful and considered sides of both parties: Haino’s eternal straining for some emotion that words and music alone don’t encapsulate, and Akita’s amazing sense of spontaneity and intuitive composition.
The opening track, “That Which Will Rise…”, serves as the best example of “chorus meets volcano” for the album. No climax would do such a thing justice, and so there isn’t one — the song simply stops in mid-rumble/wail. “By Mischance…” sounds like Haino in his Watashi-dake? mode, jangled and tangled strumming under Haino bellowing out one choked shriek after another. Akita complements all this with one booming wave of violence after another, probably courtesy of his long-abused EMS synthi. “Give Me Back” pits Akita’s feedback against Haino’s shuddering jazz drum lines (his percussion work generally goes unheralded compared to his guitar or vocal performances). Imagine one of the drum solo breaks of Coltrane’s “Ascension” taken to its furthest possible extreme and you’re about halfway there.
“That Place…”, despite clocking in at a relatively short five-something minutes, packs some of the fiercest and most sonically colorful work on the whole record into a relatively short space. The closing title track, all thirty minutes of it, is ironically enough the closest thing to an actual song: it’s Haino on guitar producing something akin to one of his longer mantras (Affection, or maybe the second half of Pathetique), while Akita scorches and bubbles away behind him. Sounds impressive enough, but then they up the ante even further by adding more of Haino’s drums at around the halfway mark, and what was simply a trance turns into a full-blown landslide.
Fans of sonic overload will gobble up the whole thing, but those of us who have gotten used to hearing the real emotion in both of these men’s oeuvres are also apt to be pleased. Listen while browsing a book of Buddhist hell scrolls for the best possible effect.