Keiji Haino & K.K. Null - Mamono (Blossoming Noise CD)
Blossoming Noise - a quality North American noise label who don't have new releases every week and don't specialize in CD-Rs?? You gotta be kidding me. But nope, it's truth, and though they're only 25 releases young (20 on Blossoming Noise, 5 on their Pygmy vinyl-only imprint) they've been making every one count. They've already got choice releases from heavy names like Aube, Merzbow, K.K. Null, John Wiese, Thurston Moore, Dead Machines, Daniel Menche, Francisco Lopez and To Live and Shave in L.A. among others, and on a constant perusal to add more. And they can sell out a 500 pressing like it's nobody's business (see: recent LP releases from Moore and Aaron Dilloway). Luckily - albeit not so much for my wallet - I'm on their email list so don't worry, I'm strictly tuned to all their latest happenings, which is why I decided I had to score both the Dilloway LP and this, because there's not too many Keiji Haino CDs around on the cheap and I believe this is his first time on record at least in the accompanyment of fellow Japan native K.K. Null. If you don't know either man's work by now I don't really know what to tell you but get cracking - Haino's been just as prolific with his world-destroying power trio Fushitsusha as he has on the solo circuit and Null's been the man behind groups like Zeni Geva and Absolut Null Punkt, not to mention a wealth of recordings under his own name. Both men are also multi-instrumentalists, with Haino having tried his hand at just about any instrument ever created by the hand of mankind (and some that were not) and Null being a general practicioner of guitar, drums and various electronics.
Seven untitled tracks gliding across 67 minutes here, and the only liner notes list the track times and who plays what on which track, which is pretty convenient. The opening is a ten-minute electronic duel between both men made human only by Haino's instantly recognizable yelps and moans, which are admittedly pretty funny at first but then take a turn for the dramatic when he explodes in a cry of anguish like he's about to be swallowed whole by Null's impending industrial noise matrix. It's pretty rad, and easy to imagine indeed the track playing out like Haino fighting through a swarm of electronics like some kind of video game character...Guitar Hero 2 this ain't though. Or...IS IT? Shit, I could handle "The Wisdom Prepared" on super-mega-ultra hard mode or whatever it is. Not like I've ever played the game mind you. What follows that are the four "singles" from the album if you will - tracks all ranging from four to five minutes in length. The first one features the same set-up before with Null's cascading electronics and Haino spitting out globules of puke/vox that sound alarmingly like Mike Patton whenever he's on the same stage as John Zorn. The scattershot drumming on track three is also signature stick-n-move Haino style, but Null shies away from harsh blasts and matches the percussion with equally oddly-timed cuts and zips like he's playing his sound sources at double speed. Tracks four and five are probably the most interesting as the two convene in an downright conventional format, with Haino adopting guitar and vocals and Null occupying the drum chair. Both songs get inevitably loud and panicked but Haino's alternating restrained/released playing call to mind Derek Bailey's hands stabbing at his own guitar strings. The last two tracks are heavyweights, clocking in at 22 and 16 minutes apiece, and they're probably about as "jammy" as you're going to get with these two. Haino does voice, electronics and drum machine while Null handles electronics and voice (and drums on the last track). The first one probably could've been shored down a bit from its lengthy running time, it paints a cavernous black forest painting of moonlit junkyard noise, the sound of a horror film boiler room or the razing of several towns' worth of industrial sectors. But is it always relevant? Not particularly. The last cut is much more worth your while as Null puts down a frantic, racing drum beat for almost the entire song and Haino's electronics joining up in epic scope to lend a totally cinematic flair to the proceedings until everything breaks down in a blizzard of percussion from Null's kit as well as Haino's machinery. The whole track could serve as a pretty apt backing piece to a Japanese flick I saw not-so-recently, I can't even remember the name of it...Casshern, that's it. Although despite "Mamono"'s occasional long-windedness, it still makes Casshern look like a commercial in terms of length. Hah! Just kidding, it wasn't that bad. The album nor the movie, I mean.
What's disappointing about "Mamono" is that it sounds all too much like what it's supposed to be; a collaboration between Keiji Haino and K.K. Null. More passages like the ones where the two are somewhat out of their elements (i.e. not noise i.e. the couple of tracks where they're sticking to playing guitar and drums) would be greatly appreciated and add a touch of originality to the mix. Not to slight the rest though, the first and last tunes are both mostly electronic-based and still work quite well. Safe to say it's not on the same level as another Haino collaboration this year, "Animamima" with the Sitaar Tah! group/orchestra/organism. Still a cool disc, just not essential.