The latest release from Norwegian avant-electronics imprint Smalltown Supersound
documents a live collaboration between the duo Jazzkammer and Japanese extreme-noise practitioner Merzbow (AKA Masami Akita). Don't let the title fool you, though: this isn't jazz in any form you know, not be-bop, not free jazz, not nu jazz. But while your preconception of Merzbow may be a screeching, hell-bent onslaught of pure noise, it's not that either. Not quite, anyway.
Not that this is pastoral, by any means. The first of the three tracks quickly builds from a lopsided shoes-in-the-dryer percussion loop into a measured, insectile fidgeting before it balloons into a triumphant collision of tones, textures and ideas. There is some jazz here, in fact a third of the way into the first track, a piano emits a tumbling loop of slapping and finger collapse, folded into metal-style drum kicks and a frequency-beaten sample of a drum solo. Where much electronic music focuses increasingly on process, Merzbow and Jazzkammer here concern themselves primarily with sonic dynamism: the impulse of rhythm, the entropy of feedback, the unstable truce in looping chaos.
Slowly the proceedings succumb to a welling distortion; all limits pushed into the red, distinct sounds risk losing their identity and are subsumed into a wash of white noise. For the remainder of the CD, individual elements (tones, beats, even snippets of death metal) struggle to break free, like mastodons throwing desperate tusks up above the lip of the tar pit, but everything eventually is sucked back down into the morass. Ultimately, it's this tension that makes the CD so captivating, fixing all your attention on the flat, elastic breaking point that, like the raised skin of water, separates structure from total collapse.