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Merzbow / Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - A Perfect Pain

Another outing, including a vinyl issue, of this pairing of industrial and noise legends Genesis P-Orridge and Merzbow. A Perfect Pain was first issued in 1999 and surprisingly I don't think I've ever read anything where either artist has spoken of this release. Over the years, it's not one I've turned to often but it's much better than I remember. This collaboration coincided with P-Orridge working with Bryin Dall on their spoken word project Thee Majesty. So it's not surprising to discover that different vocal takes of all the lyrical texts from A Perfect Pain also featured on the debut Thee Majesty CD, Time's Up, where Bryin Dall added atmospheric augmentation to the spoken word readings. A Perfect Pain is altogether different where Merzbow's electronic noise is concerned. Around this point Merzbow was recognised and revered for his harsh unflinching distorted noise. Labels across Europe and the USA were clamouring for Merzbow releases. A Perfect Pain does feature passages of his signature harsh noise but here using drum machines and drum units alongside his electronics and filters, it is propulsive, rhythmic and looped, slipping seamlessly from looped rhythms and sonic embellishment into new noise and sound configurations.

A Perfect Pain opens with 'A Perfect Restraint' looping jerking noise over sustained keyboards that sounds like a warped and dilapidated carousel. P-Orridge speaks of possession, in the shortest of texts here, before everything is sucked into a chaotic maelstrom of swirling noise psychedelics. P-Orridge's spoken tones make this closer to Thee Majesty than Psychic TV but for the most part it is a Merzbow sound that I'm not familiar with. The ferocious noise rush of Merzbow comes later, and often at the end of P-Orridge's vocal texts.

"I don't feel very well" P-Orridge opines on 'Flowering Pain Given Space'. Listening now it's rather prescient given the current state of his health. His voice is treated, slightly processed, distant and echoed over Merzbow's skittering and rattling rhythmic ticks as he invokes The Beatles echoing "nothing is real" from 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and later referencing William Burroughs in the cut-ups words "photo falling". As the initial spoken text retreats the riddles of noise and rumbling bass beats begin to take precedence. It all coalesces into an electronic noise rush, lacing charged frequencies over the flitting squelchy bass rhythms as it segues into the expansive 25-minute 'Source Are Rare'. This is the centrepiece of the album and deservedly so as it is relentless and unrelenting, especially on the final section where Merzbow, who up to now has been working with a sense of restraint, finally unleashes the noise: the brutal, pulverising, ferocious sound he is associated with. P-Orridge's voice here is treated and manipulated set to rhythms, stuttering frequencies and ascending noise scales. "Each day we embrace the holy", it opens. This is classic P-Orridge territory addressing power and the structure of control, and in this instance it is our stolen dreams and desires, thwarted, prevented and emaciated by control particularly of the religious kind. P-Orridge's voice is increasingly manipulated and layered, with Merzbow's providing sonic detritus and embellishments until the text nears its close and the oscillated noise and ringing frequencies takes hold against a punishing rhythmic thrust, careering off into an extended noise section sliced with cut-up and shuffling textures, and frequency overload. A brutal slab of rhythmic and sonic overload.

'Kreeme Horn', which is also the title of a bootleg of some early recordings of Throbbing Gristle, comes close to being something of a homage to TG with its pulsating electronics and looped rhythms. P-Orridge naturally places himself at the centre establishing the connection between you "the listener" and me "the speaker" with his whispered ruminations on suggestion, not persuasion, suggestion in praise of the grotesque. While its title is taken from a TG bootleg, it is the text from the liner notes of that bootleg which is expanded upon on the following track 'All Beauty Is Our Enemy'. Movements of frequencies and lashings of noise open 'All Beauty Is Our Enemy'. P-Orridge's voice is placed within these noise eruptions and frequency overload, resolute and still, intoning words on the brutality of nature and the role of the artist in revealing the grotesque. Merzbow holds back on all out noise, embellishing the spoken word with a myriad of changing noise shapes. P-Orridge is playful and sardonic, continually answering his own questions with the sing-song response of "I don't think so". As P-Orridge's narrative text ends Merzbow adds rumbles and shredded noise opening up into discordant siren-like wails and processed cut-up rhythmic textures and oscillating frequencies.

As I said earlier, this is much better than I remember. It is a clever pairing as aside from working with noise both Merzbow and Genesis P-Orridge operate at the extremes of culture sharing many interests ranging from eroticism and transgressive art to animal activism. Most Merzbow collaborations usually involve other musicians so A Perfect Pain is quite unique as it casts vocals against Merzbow's noise constructions. Given their immense pedigree and the breadth and volume of their releases it's not the best work from either but all the same I'd recommend the punishing 'Sources Are Rare' and the TG-like 'Kreeme Horn'. On the whole it is a worthwhile collaboration uniting the sound composition of Merzbow and the spoken word of Genesis P-Orridge and if either artist interests you it is a collaboration worth hearing. A Perfect Pain is issued on CD and on black vinyl with a special flaxen golden edition only available from Cold Spring. For more information go to Cold Spring