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Merzbow & Lawrence English: Eternal Stalker (digital, Dais, June 2022)

Merzbow is one of those artists who is so bafflingly prolific that I never quite know where to start. And, let’s face it, it’s not the sort of thing you want to listen to 24/7. So while I do very much admire him, I’ve only really dipped my toe into his discography — and half the time that’s come in the form of collaborations, from his memorable pairing with Russell Haswell on 2002’s Satanstornade to 2019’s Coastal Erosion with Vanity Productions.

Lawrence English’s release rate isn’t exactly slovenly, either, and he’s an even more promiscuous collaborator. He’s someone I’ve listened to plenty, without ever quite getting round to buying (although I own a good few records on his label).

And so to this rather excellent release, which combines (well, duh) the kind of ambience you associate with English and the kind of noise you associate with Merzbow… and comes up with a sum that’s brilliantly greater than the sum of its parts. We do spend some time in the land of distant howling barely audible over walls of static, and there are moments where we are adrift in a timeless void, but mostly we’re wandering somewhere in between the two, and very enjoyable it is, too. This is a thoroughly and messily mechanical environment. There are elements which remind me of the noisier parts of Chris Watson’s El Tren Fantasma, when we’re immersed in the hubbub and clamour of the train hall, and inevitably there are touches of David Lynch’s Eraserhead soundtrack (as well as, perhaps, the train journey from Edward Artemiev’s Stalker, although perhaps that’s just an idea implanted in my head from the album title), but for the most part this seems bracingly original to me — an impressive thing given how crowded both the parent genres can be. I’ve listened to this record a whole bunch of times now, and there are still new moments which surprise and delight me on each occasion. It’s not easy listening, but it’s a thrilling ride.

I bought this from English’s Bandcamp page.

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