Merkabah – Morloch (2014, Instant Classic):
I said I’d write about something new, and fuck it, I’m trying.
I hate to be patronising, but I barely know who this band is (if you can give more detail, it’s welcome) so forgive a brief description – Merkabah are a Polish post-hardcore, post-rock, avant-garde jazz noise band. That is to say, they play mostly noisy guitar-based music with a load of sax skonking meld into the mix. And they do it with aplomb, they do.
Now, I feel like I’m writing this review because even though he’s completely and totally entitled to his opinion, theneedledrop was wrong about this album. I hate to criticise (I don’t really) as he’s an excellent (one of the best, in my honest opinion – a shit load better than my half-arsed attempts that I can’t even bother trying to get published on another website let alone magazine, anymore) reviewer of music. He is tireless, in depth, much more astute than I, and all power to him. But, I’m flirting with academia in my life, so being a bit petty and pedantic is what it’s all about, yeah? Well, some of it.
Dear Mr TheNeedleDrop,
This album is not really ‘doom’ at any point, and I take issue with his inability to ‘find … electricity … between the band as they were playing. Just listening to the band play these songs out felt – I don’t know – uneventful?’
Perhaps the issue is the medium you listened to the band on – as much as I enjoy bandcamp and think it’s a wonderful way to preview bands, I’m not sure its way of compressing music would allow the contours of a well crafted, well produced album, such as this, to truly come out. I listened to it, firsts on Soundcamp, and then since I’ve bought the album and continue to find it a pretty engrossing album. Maybe the medium’s the issue, not the message?
PS. You have no idea what punk is. This is upsetting. Watch Don Letts’ documentary on Punk Attitude – yes, it struggles to get and understand what happens after the London scene fades, but it’s an excellent start point.
Having said that, all I can find is the bandcamp stuff so … yeah:
So, in defence of Moloch. It’s not all that frequently one finds a melding of heavy music that melds with jazz so fluently. Most of the time, one or the other is a bit too dominating, or a bit too ‘false’ – jazz by people who don’t really get heavy music; heavy music by people who don’t really seem to get jazz. Or the jazz they like is jazz fusion. Or they do it side-by-side of one another, conceiving music simply as genre’s, and never shall the twain meet (sorry, Mr Bungle, but my first few impressions of you were as cliché-genre-ridden crap with a singer who’s too clean).
Here, however, nothing feels out of place – in fact, the musicians seem to be intensely sensitive to both kinds of music and work towards bringing the best out of them when required, and not asserting them when not needed. This means that during the quieter, more meditative moments the sax doesn’t blare out most atonal Zorn impressions just for the fuck of it, but rather helps in creating atmosphere.
For instance, the use of sax at the beginning of the 12-minute Hilasterion is all about atmosphere, swirling up, building a tension with spacious guitars and tumbling symbols. When the song kicks in, the sax still doesn’t dominate but plays its role as texture amongst the other instruments. It holds back – sensitive to the post-rockness of it all.
And neither are the avant-garde (‘free’ jazz) moments superimposed, but the jazz building on a heavy wall of noise to create firm-footed chaos.
Again. This is not domination, this is mixture. All is a vital part of the very meticulously crafted noise this band puts together.
Neither does the ‘rock’ stay in one space. While based arguably in post-hardcore, it flirts with post-rock, and sludge occasionally. The jazz parts veer towards atonal, yes, but it makes sense in the setting – most sax solos do actually seem to be based not around free jazz, but rather set to a backing that hightens the chaos of the Zorn-isms. The music’s tone is generally a very dark-grey (an excellent suit colour), but the size of it is a rather fine cliff: there’s a landscape to this music.
One of the best of 2014 so far. It’s extremely well thought out and the band perform admirably, and have a deep sensitivity to their wall of sound. Probably the best post- album of any type for a while. Maybe the production is a bit too smooth, but it doesn’t detract and make the band seem sterile.
Rating: Well, fuck yeah. Great thing, this: post-hardcore noise jazz stuff.