Auto-Be-Recycled

Pretty remorseless avant-rock noise attack from Japanese punk devils Zeni Geva on Maximum Implosion (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR260CD), a double-disc set which zeroes in on the mid-1990s collaborations between this band and famed American hard-nut Steve Albini, who adds his guitar and production skills to the whole evil mess…K K Null has built up a pretty unassailable fortress of guitar-based noise over the years, starting out with his 1980s collaborations with Merzbow and his playing in YBO2 and Absolut Null Punkt. I think the band Zeni Geva started around 1986, soon allowing Null to indulge his passion for extreme prog moves in among the hardcore brutal noise rock power blasts, to say nothing of his horrifying vocal attack – at all times he wheezes and screams like a man being tortured by disfiguring nuclear-strength instruments of pain, yet also welcoming the agony in some mysterious way as his shrieks gradually reveal a streak of wild defiance. I still haven’t really recovered from when I “accidentally” bought a copy of Maximum Money Monster from 1990, listening to which is like being hung over a rail and pummelled for 60 mins with iron bars…

On this comp we have before us today, we kick off – and I do mean kick – with the 1993 album Nai-Ha, originally issued in America on Nipp Guitar. Joined by second guitarist Tabata and drummer Eito, Null smashes out six terrorising cuts aided by Albini’s engineering and production skills. Apparently “Nai-Ha” translates roughly to the English phrase “broken inside”, one of the songs is a violent depiction of a car crash, and the closing track is called ‘Terminal Hz’. This might give some idea of the overall theme of Null’s concerns, though I’ll say in its favour he’s not wallowing in nihilism like some 1980s industrial music goon, and the intent is clearly to offer the listener a very extreme form of catharsis through noise music; listen for a good purge, in other words. Albini, whose reputation for many resides on his astounding Big Black records (a benchmark in obnoxious guitar noise still unsurpassed for many) adds guitar to ‘Angel’ which he co-wrote, a fairly “approachable” (in this context) ballad of poisoned, wistful doom which occasionally flares up into angrified stabs of nerve-shredding racket. Tagged onto the end of this CD are ‘Kettle Lake’ and ‘Painwise’, tracks which haven’t been available I think since the 1996 double-vinyl version of this album on Skin Graft. Both songs are slow-burning suicide-type songs which expose the hollowness of existence pretty well, mainly due to the aching world-weary tone of Albini’s vocal plaint. If K K Null sings and plays like a steamroller, Albini is more like an angry wood-chipper…

For disc two of this set, we have a reissue of All Right, You Little Bastards!, a Zeni Geva and Steve Albini live album recorded in Osaka and Tokyo in 1992. This hasn’t been reissued since its 1993 appearance on Nipp Guitar, so evidently Cold Spring are filling a need lodged in the hearts of many music collectors (and gluttons for punishment). Albini fans will get more juice for their pfennigs on this disc, as his guitar is all over the set and he sings in places as well – there’s even a version of ‘The Model’, which he famously covered with Big Black. Certainly can’t beat this one for sheer extreme rock-and-roll energy (even if the energy does feel blocked, like a wild lion frantically clawing at a locked steel door), but I kinda miss the production values of Zeni Geva in the studio, where you get more opportunities to savour the textural and dynamic variations. Even so, there are guitar solos on here which are so “blistering” you could use them to demonstrate the unpleasant effects of radiation heat burns on human skin. Recommended for fans of other apocalyptic guitar noise from this period, such as Skullflower.

The cover artworks for this triple-gatefold digipak use the original artworks by Mitsushiro Hiruma for Nai-Ha, only this time they’re printed without colour overlays and thick-lettered typography so we can actually see the images a lot more clearly. Given their grim nature, you might not be happy about this outcome, but these pictures of skulls and wrecked machinery perfectly encapsulate the body-horror cybernetic sci-fi terrors of Zeni Geva’s music and themes from this mid-1990s period, a nightmarish X-rated version of The Terminator 2 crossed with David Cronenberg’s Crash. From 8th November 2018.

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