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Live Review: Merzbow - Judith Wright Centre

14 May 2012 | 6:02 pm | Bradley Armstrong

Merzbow favours a homemade instrument close to the design of a shamisen with the spatula-like plucking tool ferociously producing a wah-heavy feedback wail.

With an eclectic chock-a-block week of live music in full stride, a large number of people have converged on the Judith Wright Centre for a rare night of free acclaimed music and for those who arrive early, free wine.

Opening proceedings, Simon Whetham doesn't take to a conventional stage with all the lights in the large playroom being turned off with the glowing exit signs being the only source of light. Whetham takes the audience through mesmerising ambient soundscapes and lush textural noise electronica. Unfortunately, the well-crafted atmosphere is slightly overshadowed by an over-eager security guard with a flash light constantly opening doors and on a night of extreme noise the mix is perhaps a tad on the quiet side.

Wasting no time, the seated audience rise and converge on the opposite side of the room, where Cured Pink have littered the stage with various contraptions in what at first glance looks like an outsider musician/wreckers' yard sale. The show begins with bassist Glen Schenau and drummer Mitchell Perkins wheeling a sander/prop dolly around the audience as vocalist Andrew McLellan provides an assortment of noises through his heavily-distorted, delayed microphone. The set sees a cavalcade of noises provided by hydraulic powered devices, mic'd tin foil, a metal device held up by a washing basket and a robotic machine. The band convenes towards the end, gathering their instruments for a more conventional work that's still as adventurous as earlier. A must see local noise band that delivers in stage spectacle and originality.

Following a stern warning from the night's MC regarding the level of noise, a number of patrons have taken the wise advice and gone for the free earphones provided while the brave brace themselves for the punishing volume that is Japanese noise artist, Merzbow. Upon his entrance the ability to distinguish anything disappears completely, with screeching feedback and low-level frequencies quite literally blasting the audience in the face. Armed with a large table of effects and electronic devices, Merzbow favours a homemade instrument close to the design of a shamisen with the spatula-like plucking tool ferociously producing a wah-heavy feedback wail. The show largely has no rhythm apart from the odd drum machine loop buried in the brutal mix. The level of sound proves too much for the odd person, Merzbow's heavy use of his instrument seems all too familiar even as a noise artist – especially considering the vast array of toys on his performance table. Still, with the ground shaking and every spectrum of frequency and volume explored the set all around is simply mesmerising.

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A huge crowd have turned out for the night, with the venue having to be moved upstairs, and combined with the fact that the talent on display tonight is free, it's almost hard to believe that the night is over.