Merzbow / Mats Gustafsson / Balás Pandi FIMAV, Victoriaville QC, May 20

Merzbow / Mats Gustafsson / Balás Pandi FIMAV, Victoriaville QC, May 20
Photo: Martin Morisette
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If you've seen Merzbow perform live, a question you probably wouldn't ask is, "How can we make that louder?" Well, the answer comes in the form of sax monster Mats Gustafsson and a relative newcomer, Hungarian drummer Balázs Pandi.
 
Surprisingly, there is plenty of room around the debris field of noise Merzbow creates, possibly because he isn't as intent on the wall of white noise that used to underlay performances at all times. Gustafsson starts on his own electronics in a looping frequency that laces through the few holes available, while Pandi plays hard with a heavy bass-drum foot and an above-the-head-then-crash-down motion on the rest of the kit; the kind of manoeuver that usually signals a song is wrapping up, but here it's the bulk of his performance.
 
Switching to baritone sax Gustafsson improbably becomes the decibel leader, battering his way through Merzbow's weaponry, downgraded from kill to stun. After a break, he then gears up with his alto, displaying the best "psyching up to play" facial expression and posture in all of improvised music. He looks like a cop about to kick down a door without backup, knowing a bunch of coked-up Yakuza are on the other side all of the holding cobras… for some reason.
 
And so the trio goes on into the closing moments of the festival's final show, filling our heads with sound, leaving us with a ringing in our ears that will likely last through breakfast. After all that, if an post-credits encore included Nick Fury crossing the stage and offering them a spot in his newly assembled Noise Avengers, I would not have blinked.