Alec Empire Vs. Merzbow – Live CBGB’s NYC 1998 (2003)

Christ, who’s idea was this? Mixing gabba-techno / industrial kingpin Alec Empire with the father of harsh noise, Akita Masami would surely result in a cacophonous cocktail that would make the world end in any other given circumstance. Somehow the earth didn’t stop turning, and instead we are treated to one of the craziest collaborations in musical history in all it’s glory. This is quite probably the most coherent thing I’ve heard Merzbow being involved in. Empire’s spastic beat programming and bass warbles dominate the forefront of the performance, with Merzbow’s harsh noise attacks bringing up the rear, fleshing out the higher echelons of the audio canvas.

It’s kinda like what Libido Airbag would sound like if their members were originally from Ramleh instead of GUT. I’ve not heard awkward synths and industrial terror mashed together so uncertainly since Greed-era Swans. Obviously, the ‘harshness’ of the harsh noise has to be a little scaled back for Empire’s parts to even get a look in, but even when it’s Merzbow’s time to shine, he seems to focus on broken, stuttering loops and staccato, stabbing distortion in lieu of punishing walls of wailing static. There are some clever references in the song titles here, such as “606: The Number Of The Beast” and “Curse Of The Golden Angel”. In case you didn’t know, this references Curse Of The Golden Vampire, which was another short-lived bat-shit-crazy-random supergroup featuring Alec Empire, Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin of The Bug / King Midas Sound fame (I know, right?).

Whoever thought up this collab might have possibly been smoking a lot of meth at the time, but it fucking works. If you loved Masami’s Merzbeat, Aqua Necromancer or Door Opens At 8am albums, or even his Merzdub collaboration with Jamie Saft, then you’ve probably already heard this. If you’re an Alec Empire fan, I don’t see why you wouldn’t love this either. Everyone is a winner!