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The following regards the creation of two artists notoriously known for producing loud, often chaotic music. The first are a trio of Japanese rockers with an eclectic sense of musical composition, the other, also Japanese, is... well... a demon who produces dense, layered slabs of unrestrained noise music. Together, however, the exit their strange realms of chaos, and cross over to majestic glacial landscapes and towering ice-capped mountains, both scenes of utter peace and bliss, effectively leaving both of their comfort zones in favor of crafting beautiful, elegant, and restrained soundscapes in the form of slowly moving ice and a gentle, though chilly breeze.
This environment may seem dull and uninteresting to some, but really, this landscape is something to be admired, for only gods could carve such utter beauty from but harsh cold. A hum of the passive breeze drifts to and fro as a lone guitar plays a simple song, one of the self-reflection of the solo guitarist and admiration for such a lovely but desolate place.
Soon, a bit of snow slowly slides down a mountain side, creating a slow, soft rumble, while the breeze picks up a bit, chilling the guitarist in a brisk wisp. He is eventually joined by more of guitars chanting spells of relaxation, droning like cicadas as if there were a vast multitude oscillating their mating calls in the frigid, minimal beauty.
The more one travels through this landscape, the more sounds one will pick up: the gurgle of the last unfrozen brook; reindeer herding through the snow, their footsteps but a light patter over the powder; the nearly inaudible swoosh of an albatross and scamper of white rabbits; even the suns warming but contained and far-from-fiery beams, streaking such quaint golden against the blue sky and white earth, seem to be emitting some sort of low frequency noise.
It really is a gentle environment, and is sure to put anyone who passes through at unnatural ease, but it's so immersive and dynamic that one could not possibly drift into a state of unconscious dreams unless they do not see the fascinating beauty concealed in this environment. But so quickly does one pass through this sculpture of ice and snow (or so it seems), that they seem distant and far from home upon exit of what many would call a frigid, hollow waste. But the true admirer with always return, as if lured by the pleasure of an earthen drug.
“Sun Baked Snow Cave” is a masterpiece. When a single song lasts an album’s entire length, it will either prove a masterpiece or a failure, and this is a gigantic, crushing and inspired masterpiece.
Starting with a relaxing acoustic intro, consisting of the central theme growing and expanding, yet simultaneously remaining calm and minimal, after around twelve minutes, this acoustic theme starts to duel with noise that fades in over a period of around 7 minutes growing stronger and stronger, come the nineteenth minute it has been totally overpowered by this colossal, booming, droning rumble, gravely and deep yet calm and relaxing at the same time – this is the start of the second distinct section of the song. By the twenty third minute, the bubbling rumble has become accompanied by a lead of feedback, and soon the cacophony has you in laid out in a sedated rapture, the sound itself encompassing your entire being and holding you still, but you don’t mind as you’re in aural ecstasy. It’s loud and getting louder, and so, so heavy, the atmosphere thick, dense with the leaden sound that weighs you down, and before you know, you can hear the introduction of some phase – you check the clock and it’s the 37th minute – it’s phasing one moment, the next it’s turned into a frenzied squeal, and then back to phasing – and the phase roars and builds up and gets heavier before all of a sudden there is a lull, and the volume lowers slightly, and now you can hear it, the phase sounds like a snowstorm, the atmosphere that’s encapsulated you has laid you in the warmth of a snow cave.
Come the 43rd minute, you’ve come to realise that over the last five or so minutes the volume’s been gradually decreasing, though the atmosphere is still surrounding you heavily, not allowing you to stop taking notice, not allowing respite from the calmness. Then, after another two minutes you feel your heart jump and there is an undistorted electric guitar that comes out of nowhere and within moments, the cacophony has died away, though the guitar still with it’s own massive sound, despite any lack of bite: it’s a relaxed, delayed, hypnotic motif that again is soon accompanied by the snow-phase. This guitar marks the coming of the final section of the piece – you’ve dug your snow cave in the first section, the second section saw the snowstorm coming and crushing all around it, and now the snow simply… falls… and the sun shines down on your hideout once more.
Despite the storm, you want to be no place other than this cave, the euphoric haze of the guitar with the quiet effects in all of their noisy calmness, you’ve just been on a journey to somewhere else, distant Patagonia, maybe, or an arctic plain, wherever it is doesn’t matter: you’ve been there even if it was just a dream. This song is glacial in its size and speed, and invokes truly amazing soundscapes that bring back memories of places you’ve never been and visions of scenes you’ve never seen but yet are all so familiar – a song as powerful as this is a rarity, and deserves to be listened to by all. It really is probably my favourite single song of all time. Despite the length of 62 minutes, “Sun Baked Snow Cave” feels like five minutes, a true testament to time flying when you’re not simply enjoying yourself, but having an experience like this. Just remember that when you listen to it, to have no other background noise, as when the song ends it’s transition in to silence, you’re not sure if that silence is part of the song, or if the song has finished and you’re just lain down and listening to the sounds of nothing. Either way, you don’t care and are happy to listen in still euphoria to the soundlesscape that the song has allowed you to experience in the nothing you now reside.
Some people might find this album to be odd, but what else can you expect from the Lord of Noise whom is Merzbow? The album gets started after about a minute of soft little noises when a nice acoustic guitar comes in, playing it’s tiny notes at a nice, soothing slow pace; meanwhile, the noise in the background is faint, but nearly constant. This goes on for about twelve minutes when a very loud noise starts to slowly fade in; constantly it’s getting louder and louder with the acoustic still fighting on through it. By seventeen minutes the noise has over thrown the acoustic, and by eighteen minutes the noise is a powerful force, very SunnO)))-esque. On and on it just keeps getting more fierce, more noises come into play, making it even more powerful, and before you know it there’s a wall of noise that is impenetrable. After forty minutes it begins to calm down and by forty-five minutes that old familiar acoustic is awaken once again, but with a rotten note still driving out it’s wretched noise, but by forty-eight minutes it fades away. On and on the acoustic plays, but with noises fading in and out, until at one hour and two minutes all is silent…
If you’re into drone, seriously…check this out…
For the last year or so, I thought I had found the weirdest, most out there stuff there could be. Whether that was Senthil's agonising, tortured doom or Sunn O)))'s endless waves of guitar, Everlovelylightningheart's strange clank 'n' drone or even some random noise bands, I thought that while I hadn't heard everything, I'd heard a good approximation of it. Then, of course, Boris come along with the Merzbow collaboration and own me.
This album is a jarring mix of brutal, machine type noise, quiet acoustics and extremely low level ambient noise. It starts off super quiet, with some low level hiss and some super slow acoustics. Imagine an acoustic Sunn O))), but perhaps playing even slower. This goes on for quite a while, but by the 15 minute mark or so, you've got more and more noise slowly entering the mix, until we're up to perhaps the second part of the song. Here, droning, heavily clipped guitars play one continous note while noise circles around it. It's actually pretty cool, but you'd be hard pressed to listen to it in one go. The noise builds up more and more, and by the 34 minute mark it's completely headache inducing.
The noise loops start to take over the guitars by the forty minute mark, and another six minutes after that, the clean acoustic part of the song comes back in, and here's where this song is at its best. The subtle noise effects floating over the guitars give the music an unbearably atmospheric and emotional feeling that just hangs over you. It's depressing, uplifting, ethereal, everything.. Just completely mind blowing in every respect. The end of this super long song is definetly the best, with gentle synths and guitars slowing plodding away.
Listening back to this for the second time, on good quality speakers has actually made me like this record a fair bit. The simple fact, though is that this is completely inaccessible for everyone but the most hardened noise fans. It does have a lot of great moments in the last 20 minutes or so, but the rest is brutal, droning and extremely long. It's way too left of field for me to listen to this regularly. Approach with caution.
Edit: Giving this another listen now. I've given this about 6 or 7 listens now and it's starting to make more and more sense. It deserves a 75% at least. Just know that you'll have to give this record a long damn time.