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LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018 Day 2, 05.07.2018

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Boris live with Merzbow at Roskilde Festival 2018

Every festival has its highlights and hot tips, but it’s rare that you actually get locked out of seeing a band. The hottest ticket of this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t one of the headliners, but weirdo pop collective Superorganism. We attempted to catch their set on the Gloria stage, but half an hour before they were set to go on, the queues snaked around the building and into the Food Court. We’re among the many that missed out, so feast your eyes on what we did manage to catch. But if anyone actually did get to hear them, we want to know if they lived up to the hype.

Smerz live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Smerz
Smerz drag you into their murky musical world with no remorse and no second thoughts. But not in a devious way, more so with their nonchalant “we don’t really give a fuck, we’re going to do our thing regardless” attitude. And their thing is somewhat difficult to explain which is why they are so fascinating. Their heavy beats, twisted synths and dry mantra-like vocals pin them as electronic experimenters who are so serious about their art. On the other hand, they bring a sense of humour to their stage show that is somewhat out of place, yet they stand behind it completely unabashed. Their first two guests were two topless muscular men doing chin-ups on workout gear in the background (for only one song). Then their stage became a runway for a fashion show which was so ironic and serious that it was…not actually ironic. Check out their video for “Worth It” for further reference. Smerz delivered a flawless performance showcasing their inventive production, post-pop songwriting and a though-provoking aesthetic that left you guessing what exactly it was you just felt. — MT

Yangze
Jakob Littauer’s solo project is firmly rooted in electronic pop with clubby beats and groovy keyboard progressions, and it’s clear that he’s a talented producer with a solid musical background from the way his songs are crafted. The hooks are interesting and catchy, and the arrangements are unpredictable yet flow naturally. And damn, this dude can sing! Yangze is really all about the vocals and his pitched-up or vocoded lyrics cut through and complete his sound in a novel way without needing to hide behind clouds of reverb. Yangze captivated the crowd at Klub Rå and strung us all along with every note.

Boris live with Merzbow at Roskilde Festival 2018

Boris with Merzbow

There is something irresistible about this Japanese noise rock power coupling. Merzbow a godfather of noise rock. Boris are somewhere between glamorous, beautiful goths and super cheesy; while their guitarist and bassist pose elegantly, their drummer is conducting the audience from behind his kit with his drum sticks and manages to elicit a genuine horns up moment.

While the drummer is not about subtlety — something I love him for every time he bashes the gong behind him because gongs should not be about subtlety — there is something quite nuanced about the way songs shift from lurching rock to dark and dreamy to the spiky punk of Pink. Merzbow is hidden off to the side behind a table with his electronics, and it’s a little hard to make out what he’s doing until the last two minutes of the performance when Boris go quiet and his noise is finally distinguishable from their noise. But this set is a reminder of how textual and varied noise rock can be. — AF

My Bloody Valentine

There are some rumors about My Bloody Valentine’s live show that continue to hold true: They are loud (but not playing as loudly as their initial reunion tour 10 years ago), even when compared to Boris and Merzbow in the same night. The vocals are buried, but, as on the three-part female harmony of “New You,” can be unexpectedly beautiful. The visuals are a little 90s Windows PC screensaver, but after being blinded by Nine Inch Nails, it feels right, warm rather than harsh.

But there is no getting away from the abrasiveness that comes with the beauty. While Loveless and m b v songs have added synthesizers to brighten them, earlier songs have a car crash quality no harmony can take the edge off of. Par for the course, the band don’t engage with the audience, so we can only intuit that the emphasis on the burned film guitar sound over the synthy sparkle on “To Here Knows When” isn’t intentional by the annoyed way Kevin Shields looks at his guitar. This tentativeness is what throws things off, likely a nuance only he can hear, the fabled perfectionism that causes the band to disappear for years at a time.

In the end, there is “You Made Me Realise” to cap everything off, ecstatic cheers to the noise interlude, and ecstatic cheers for the final chorus. Metaphorically one would usually say that the dust settled, but in reality, as we stumble away from the stage, the dust swirled around us. It probably looks lovely from a distance, but in the midst of it, there’s an abrasiveness you can’t escape. — AF

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

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