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MERZBOW / SUN RA - Strange City

Format: LP
Label & Cat.Number: Cold Spring Records CSR229LP
Release Year: 2016
Note: it sounds incredible, but it happened: MERZBOW remixed SUN RA, using rare & unreleased tracks of the official SUN RA archive from 1966/1967; the LP has completely different material than the CD version!! "The constant and destructive waves of noise make this decisively a Merzbow record, but its cosmic mood and rhythms prove that Sun Ra lives in its DNA."
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Officially licensed from Irwin Chusid of the SUN RA estate, Cold Spring's Justin Mitchell negotiated rare and unreleased tracks from the SUN RA archive to be remixed and treated by Masami Akita.

The tracks incorporate the jazz power of SUN RA, carried into brutal excess by the legendary Japanese artist, MERZBOW.

6-panel matt laminated digipak.

Please note that both formats (CD / LP) have completely different music!


"The constant and destructive waves of noise make this decisively a Merzbow record, but its cosmic mood and rhythms prove that Sun Ra lives in its DNA.

Sun Ra’s presence on the latest Merzbow record is odd: blink and you might miss him completely, but squint and you can notice him almost everywhere. The only time it’s blatantly obvious that Masami Akita, the man behind noise legend Merzbow, is using Sun Ra’s recordings as source material comes in the first 10 seconds of Strange City. Opener “Livid Sun Loop” begins with overlapping saxophones and drums, but Akita quickly steamrolls those into a dense cacophony. For the rest of the album’s 103 minutes (66 on CD and 36 on LP, both titled Strange City but containing different music), he steadfastly maintains that busy din.

Yet focus your ears intensely on Strange City—preferably through headphones—and Sun Ra’s music peeks out through Merzbow’s noise wall. (The Ra estate gave Akita material from 1966’s The Magic City and 1967’s Strange Strings, which he remixed and treated while adding his own original sounds). Rattling drumbeats grow out of crackling static like weeds in a garden, bassy rhythms undulate beneath rolling roars like shifting tectonic plates, and pretty much every screech and squeal could pass for a wailing horn. Strange City is decisively a Merzbow record, but Sun Ra lives in its DNA.

Where Strange City stands in Merzbow’s massive discography is easier to suss out. Many of the strengths Akita has developed over roughly four decades of noise devotion are put to use here. He creates relentlessly forward-moving music with so much going on that it feels three-dimensional. During such lengthy tracks, your ears and brain accept and acclimate to Akita’s ruthless sounds, and his seemingly random noise eventually starts to feel normal.

Strange City is most successful on the two half-hour-plus tracks that make up the CD version. “Livid Sun Loop” is filled with destructive sounds and stabbing rhythms, but it also has a narrative arc developed through 32 minutes of sonic drilling. On “Granular Jazz Part 2,” Akita grapples most seriously with Sun Ra’s creative spirit. Devoted primarily to the trebly end of the spectrum, the piece subtly rides Ra’s rhythms while building a space-bound aura, a fitting way to grapple with an artist who claimed to come from Saturn.

The three tracks on the LP version of Strange City—all titled as parts of “Granular Jazz”—are less distinctive. In some places, Akita falls back on stock noise moves like firing-laser jolts and helicopter-style whirr. Something interesting happens on every piece, though, and the closer “Granular Jazz Part 4” is particularly fascinating due to its relative restraint. Surprisingly distant and subdued, it’s like Merzbow’s ballad of Sun Ra, an elegy for a virtual partner coming after 100 minutes of sonic boxing. You could call Strange City a Merzbow victory, but it couldn’t have happened without Sun Ra on his team." [Pitchfork]