Masami Akita seems to have four major sources of inspiration for the work he releases under the name Merzbow: “scum culture” (his term for pornography, fetish/bondage material, horror/gore, etc.), pure abstraction, animal and nature rights (viz., F.I.D., Bloody Sea, Turmeric, etc.), and Japan’s own history and culture. The latter gets some of the least representation in his catalog, but for me it’s some of the most fascinating stuff. Yoshinotsune has been my stock best example of that, but Collapse 12 Floors sits nicely alongside it, especially since it refers to a piece of Japanese history that I have my own affinity for.
The big tipoff to what 12 is all about is the title of the third track: “Collapse 12 Floors, In Asakusa 1923”, a reference to the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. Most of Tokyo was leveled in the quake, but one of the landmarks that was most affected was the fabled Asakusa Twelve-Story Tower or Asakusa Jūnikai Ryōnkaku. An octagonal, red-brick building with an incredible view and a somewhat cantankerous elevator, it was built in 1890 and designed by William K. Burton, a Scottish engineer who had also designed many of the water supply systems for Meiji-era (post-1868) Japanese cities. It rose high above the skyline and boasted numerous attractions on each of its floors. The quake caused the top three tiers of the tower to snap off, and just about every photographic catalog of the ’23 quake has an image of the hollowed wreck of the tower, the sky visible through its upper windows.Read more