Growing / Earth / Merzbow / Circle, Great American Music Hall, SF, 9/2/05.

(Writing this, I realized I never did write about the fantastic Teenage Fanclub concert last month, or the PinoisePop concerts — Ninja Academy, the Skyflakes, and the excellent From Monument To Masses — that I saw with Special K and 40.)

I missed half of Growing’s set — two guitarists who were outfitted (almost hilariously) with a wall of six Peaveys and Ampegs: total MBV-like guitar drone, with loops feeding on themselves.

I’ve never really liked Earth, which is odd, considering how much I hold similar bands (and their albums) — Sleep’s Jerusalem, Corrupted’s Llenandose de Gusanos, Naked City’s Leng T’che — in high regard. Live, their music translates to stoner rock at an excruciating, audience-testing, slow pace, with the same, not-as-chunky Black Sabbathy riff repeated a few hundred times. (Indeed, the best part was when some guy in the audience yelled “Slower!”) It’s music best appreciated if one is slumped, in a stupor, on a sofa, but I was sober, and a couch was nowhere near.

The real star of the show, at least in my book, was Merzbow, whom I’d never seen live before. (I’m something of a Merzbow nut; at last count I had about 120 Merzbow titles.) I managed to wriggle front and center until I was pretty much right in front of Masami Akita himself (who did not even bother to look at the audience at any point). The man in black — black clothes, long hair, sunglasses, black New Balances — sat at a table, and faced a small arsenal of wires and knobs and two Powerbooks (one with the big sticker “Meat Is Murder”). His music resists language; there are barely any linguistic referents for this sort of sonic assault of electronic screeches, giant slabs of bowel-loosening bass rumble, waves of chest-tightening, frighteningly amplified fuzz and feedback. This was literally violent music; at some point I thought my eyeballs were vibrating uncontrollably in concert with one particular loop towards the end of his set — the sound of infernal machines on the brink of explosion. Awesome.

Circle was, in a sense, anticlimactic (the crowd had thinned considerably once they came on), but they were certainly the most energetic of the four acts. A Finnish postrock / krautrock band, Circle had two skinny shirtless guys, a big curly-haired rawk dude, and a masked drummer, beating a motorik groove to the ground. The vocalist, who looked oddly like Will Oldham, alternately orated and screamed like Keiji Haino. Much headbanging among the audience, which unfortunately inspired a couple of obnoxious drunk frat-boy types to push their way to the front. I think I like Circle’s studio albums more, but maybe my eardrums were already ruined by Merzbow before they began. It’s about an hour now since the concert and I can think my ears are still ringing…


Your New Favorite Song.

I don’t know very much about the Finnish band Circle — I think Aquarius Records gushes over each release, but that’s about all I can remember — but I happened to have this (apparently exclusive) track on a free CD given out by The Wire called Klangbad: First Steps.

And let me tell you, it’s smokin’: my friend Darren and I were driving, caught in a downpour, and the music was jumping out of the car speakers. Yes, it does kind of sound like Can’s awesome “Vitamin C,” as it mines that same, relentless, funky motorik groove, but there’s this added guitar squall and psych keyboard flourishes and an overall paranoid urgency to the track.

(The next series of uploads will depend on who wins the Movie Quiz — there’ll be more of those in the future, by the way.)

Hear it (10.52 mb).