Reviews Sun Ra/Merzbow Strange City

Sun Ra/Merzbow

Strange City

Big kudos are due to Justin Mitchell of Cold Spring for making this release possible, and bringing to life one of the strangest meeting of the minds. Irwin Chusid of the Sun Ra estate released a few rare and unreleased tracks from the great artist, which would be remixed by noise maestro Masami Akita, also known as Merzbow. Strange City is the resulting remix/collaboration between the two, connecting the planes of free jazz and noise. The record was initially released in 2016, but the first reissue arrives just one year later. 

The album kicks off beautifully with Sun Ra and his Arkestra introducing a vivid free jazz aesthetic, but that is quickly submerged over the noise waves produced by Merzbow. The remainder of the record sees the noise take the lead in terms of loudness, coming upfront and covering all the background. It is a harsh process that Merzbow is implementing, instead of deciphering the cosmic messages of Sun Ra, he encrypts them with his own alien DNA. 

However, even behind the thick veil of noise, it is Sun Ra's spirit that guides the work. The structures, the cosmic sense and the rhythmic patterns, as altered as they are, all speak of Sun Ra's tone and modus operandi. The extreme renditions of Merzbow are coupled with the free jazz essence, projecting everything under a different light. The glass-like breaking sound in “Granular Jazz Part 2” for instance, present a stunning accompaniment to the sax phrases, coloring the edges around it before devouring it. 

Strange City depends as much on the textural as it does on the improvisational. Sun Ra and his lucid structures are spread through this work. The force of the artist, completely absorbed by the countless possibilities of pattern matching, rhythm deconstruction and inharmonic exploration provide the backbone of the release, and its free jazz spirit. The textural realm is enacted by Merzbow, who looks beyond the music itself and into the timbre that can be awakened from within. While Sun Ra explore the capabilities of music, Merzbow explore the capabilities of sound, pushing it to the limits. 

The overall achievement however is the strange sense of balance Strange City radiates with. While Merzbow's sonic razors are sharp and appear to be all over the spectrum, the presence of Sun Ra lies in the core of this work. Despite its disfigurement and tempering, it dictates the progression of the record, through modes of granular synthesis or extravagant processing. The most impressive moment of the record, “Livid Sun Loop” exhibits this uncanny balance, with the explosiveness of Merzbow in its purest form, while the underlying structures of Sun Ra providing the lucidity to this chaotic narrative. 

7.5 / 10Spyros Stasis
Leave a comment

7.5 / 10

7.5 / 10

Share this content
Recent reviews

Worriers

Survival Pop

9.0 / 10 Worriers - Survival Pop album cover

It seems like Worriers nailed down their sound on day one, when they rose from the ashes of The Measure S.A.. The Lauren Denitzio-fronted group plays a melodic and quirky style ...

Grit

Diamond EP

8.0 / 10 Grit - Diamond EP album cover
200 Words Or Less

These past few weeks have been very busy weeks for me. My girlfriend moved in. Happy news for me and her of course. Moving her stuff, renovating my home, vivid ...

Black Anvil

As Was

7.5 / 10 Black Anvil - As Was album cover
200 Words Or Less

Black Metal as a musical genre is not known for it's subtlety. The pendulum will usually swing between low-fi heavily distorted guitar and blast-beats or overwrought, overproduced operatic epics. But Black ...

x

Logo

Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:

Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.