An implausible collaboration, you might think. Yet Richard Pinhas and Masami Akita have been reciprocal admirers for years; when the occasion arose in 2007, they started playing together - both live and in “a strange studio at the end of the metro Keio Line” - subsequently manipulating the results and gathering enough material for a double CD that brims with sweet mercilessness: divine for many, appalling for the rest. In my case the reaction was, to some extent, a mixed bag of feelings.
Although Pinhas’ metatronic style is explicitly deriving from a slight modification of the concept of Frippertronics, the guitarist often achieves an outcome that surpasses the original in terms of pure psychosomatic gratification. Huge masses of superimposed lines, enhanced by saturation and additional processing, give birth to repeated episodes of supreme fulfilment: while listening to certain sections of this record – but the same, with greater consequence on the mind, happened with the previous outings on this very label – one feels like shifting gears towards a dimension where sound is sufficient to render people impregnable to any attack, even of the physical sort. In a word, those stratifications make us feel invincible.
Merzbow, who utilizes an EMS Synthi and a laptop to do his thing, is obviously a master of the game and calling him a “noise artist” has somehow become a reductive cliché. The pulsating-and-chopping patterns, extemporaneous upsurges and magmatic fumes appearing from behind amidst the thick clouds generated by the Deleuze-inspired French soundscaper succeed as an alternative source of power, yet not completely as far as a true compositional sense should be involved. The two sonic entities appear paralleled, not really as a single body. Merzbow’s heavy blows and Pinhas’ choking vapours are easily discernible; despite the obvious mutual respect, the music does not result in a consistent whole, akin as it is to a rotating showcase of the individual aesthetics, with rare intersections.
Therefore, even if Keio Line remains an intriguing release characterized by several moments of brutal bliss, in truth I believe that it doesn’t stand out in relation to its potential. The best that these artists are able to offer has still to be found in their respective solo productions.