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album reviews

"Prime Radiant" CD / KK NULL (Blossoming Noise LLC, USA / Mar 2005)

Prime Radiant' is noise as a spray of blood-red roses, a vast wash of colour concealing six inch thorns. Kazuyuki Kishino has been at the forefront of the Japanese noise scene for over 20 years, both as guitarist/leader of extremist sludge rockers Zeni Geva and as a solo artist exploring the outer territories of electronica. Along with Masonna and Merzbow, he is part of a trinity of noisemakers whose work seems to operate at the very limits of human endurance. Like theirs, Null's work transcends its surface violence and reveals something rich and strange at its core. What makes this montage of live and studio work marginally less forbidding than usual is its abrupt change of mood and texture; rather than pummelling an idea into the dust, he covers a lot of sonic ground here, albeit a terrain of savagely blasted extremes. Kishino has said that he tries to imagine through his work what music from other galaxies might sound like. If the little green men are all listening to this stuff for fun, 'Prime Radiant' is a scary prospect for sure."

(From The Wire Magazine / May 2005)


"ATOMIK DISORDER" CD / KK NULL (Neurot, USA / Oct 2003)

One of worlds most famous noise guitarists and noise creators, the Tokyo born KK Null, added another release to the more than 100 titles he was already involved in during the last 20 years. This CD entitled Atomic disorder features a rich variety. Heading of with a harsh metal percussion and obscure, powerful electronics, the album continues with heavy machine-like rhythms to be followed by dense repetitive soundsculptures. There is more to be enjoyed during this album. Furious beats that meet the listener in high speed mode interchange with obscure electronic soundscapes in which strange sound constellations play the major part. KK Null surprises with a dynamic approach of styles. Whatever he comes up with is well-done and excellent produced. Every sound falls in place, even if it is very extreme. Atomic disorder makes clear that a very experienced musician is at work here, who still has a lot of inspiration and does not make any compromises after all these years.

(Neurosis / Neurot recordings)


"10,000 LIGHT YEARS" CD / ZENI GEVA (Neurot, USA 2001) #3

With twelve albums under its collective belt, Tokyo-based Zeni Geva is still as virile and potent-sounding as it was when it first birthed its exclusive brand of Jap-noize terror. With the band's debut release for Neurot Recordings, Zeni Geva continues to apply its piercing guitars and nihilist English lyrics, updating its sonic fury with a more linear approach that still incorporates the band's notorious, trauma-inducing oppressiveness. While Zeni Geva has an impressive musical resume, including early-day work experience with The Hanatarashi and The Boredoms, as well as a list of collaborative references ranges from Steve Albini to Fred Frith, there's no need to spend any time calling peers and former employers. The Japanese workhorse has the uncanny ability to integrate its past commitment to noisy consistency with progressive musical evolution, creating a hybrid sound that transcends the band's own historical timeline. Trading its brow-bludgeoning beats for a more poised and striding Neurosis-flavored flow, Zeni Geva strips out riff-heavy bass vibrations, turning 10,000 Light Years into a dexterous display of fretboard fingerings and bruising, tempo changing buffets. 10,000 Light Years is a large cohesive unit. Each track plays a part in shaping the disc's mood, creating a Japanese monster that breathes fiery noise and destroys the feeble and musically confused in one fell swoop. Singling out particular tunes is like dissecting a living creature, compartmentalizing its energy into accessible subsections. To best interface with Zeni Geva, you must face the band head-on and witness the awesome power of 10,000 Light Years in a single sitting. However, if you must sample this experiment, the intricate guitar interaction of "Hazchem" will heap notable sheets of perilous distortion upon your ears. "Auto-Fuck" trades sensory deprivation for a vicious assault of speed and cavernous vocals, preoccupied with issuing destitute feedback and a whirling collage of maddening brute-force guitar empowerment upon anyone within aural range. For some, time deadens the spirit and calms the aggression that brews inside. After many years in recording studios and on the worldwide touring path, Zeni Geva's K.K. Null can still probe his soul, awakening a dark beast of raging retribution and focused fury and sending shockwaves of harsh reality through the underground music community. More importantly, Null has the expertise to deliver this acerbity as controlled output that disrupts the monotony that surrounds us all. Strap in and submerge yourself into 10,000 Light Years -- it's a world of torment and anger-management, and some of the best work Null and Zeni Geva have done in years.

(Andrew Magilow / Splendid.com)


"10,000 LIGHT YEARS" CD / ZENI GEVA (Neurot, USA 2001) #2

Billowing hollers are timeless and priceless. So are seismic sonic throes and blows. Zeni Geva, led by KK Null, Japan's premier and unabashed noiserian, remains unruly, composed and furious. Indeed, the band seems to have changed little since the early '90s, when it released numerous ghoulishly titled albums like Total Castration and Desire for Agony. But after all, when a complete and ideal balance is found between noise and poise, swelling crescendos and all-out aural bastinado, what's to change? Null has become increasingly keen on technology, pushing the limits of digital irregularity and tonal discord with his self-made effects box Nullsonic--but fortunately his band's underlying aesthetics remain untouched. 10,000 Light Years starts with unusual clicks and bleeps, which merge with minimally (mercifully) distorted chords. Distinctive rumbles and sinister sub-melodies build to a quiet fantod, a premonition of what's to come. What comes is abrupt rapture and relentless rupture--muted chords, pounding drums, deadly bass-less guitar interplay and sheer aggression. At this point, worries of Zeni Geva abandoning its heaviness evaporate. Null's hoarse, dark (but never macabre) vocals in both Japanese and accented English are truly contagious. When Null whispers or sings, you know he's dying to burst into bellows--and so are you. When he does, in a kind of operatic chortling with a scruffy edge, you're relieved and exhilarated. Zeni Geva's song titles are equally amusing and refreshing. If you think anything "cosmic" or "metaphysical" is passŽ, think again. What could be more daring and imaginative than spacy titles like "Implosion" or "Last Nanosecond," coupled with ones like "Auto-Fuck"?

(Robert Becraft / Willamette Week)


"10,000 LIGHT YEARS" CD / ZENI GEVA (Neurot, USA 2001) #1

The newest release from Japan's premiere heavy thud rock trio Zeni Geva finds our heroes once again committing some more of their patented psychedelic layered groove oriented thunder to magnetic tape. You'd think that after all these years they might start to slow down or, at worse, they would start to sound predictable and tired but that couldn't be farther from the truth as Zeni Geva once more proves with this release that they cannot be restrained. 10,000 Light Years, their first release on Neurot Records, is a ever so slightly mellower affair than some of their earlier works but it in no way indicates that these riff monsters have lessened their power attack. The 8 songs on here are just as complex, brutal and psychedelic as the songs on their more famous Total Castration record from years back this time around though there is more mature approach to their work as if they've truly settled into their role as japanese bludgeon masters. After 12 records and nearly 14 years of maximum skull fuck audio punishments Zeni Geva still can create engaging songs full of complex dynamic arrangements and pure unadulterated power than most bands whom attempt claim to the throne of heaviness and brutality could ever muster. What distinguishes Zeni Geva from the rest of the pack is their incorporation of traditional Japanese style melodies into a western developed style of music. Lithe high end leads with a definite Asian flavor (provided with an ever so stoned glee by guitarist Tabata) whirl and dervish around full blown distortion riffs and muted power chords as main-man K.K.Null bellows and grunts love poem couplets such as "Destroy Yourself" over and over and over again- in the amazing 9 minute long song Hazchem, one of this albums finest songs- giving them a unique, yet beautifully disturbing, sound that is unique from the rest of their contemporaries. Evidence A in this case is in the title song of the album, 10,000 Light Years; beginning with a quiet electronic noise the guitars and drums kick in with a build up that gives the feeling that the song will be built upon this rhythm when unexpectedly another faster riff kicks in and the band in full motion explodes for 30 seconds of whirlwind action continuing in this vein until near the 2 minute mark when again unexpectedly they come to a quieter more restrained rhythmic step dance that then truly begins the song. KK, in an almost out of ordinary move, talks the lyrics in a sing song sort of way as Tabata's asian stoner leads descend steps of notes and climb back up to descend once more for a couple of verses when once again the Zeni Geva we know and love puts their collective foot down on the pedal for a serious heavy groove session as weird electronic noises twist and burn in the background. The funny thing is that this song is downright pretty and has a unique structure to it that only lends itself further to the feeling of beauty in this song. There is a certain sense of elegance in the way they pummel musical convention and again this is what puts Zeni Geva head and shoulders above the rest! Still not convinced that you should buy this album? Then I recommend that you just take one listen to the outstanding version they do of their classic song Interzona - here titled Interzona 2 - this has always been one of my favorite songs by them (I fuckin' dig the version on the live Trance Europe Experience album) and the boys deliver with the goods on it. Overall, I give this release very high marks and in fact have realized that as I've been listening to this closely a number of times to give an informed review that this album has really grown on me and has become one of my favorite records by them. Find, listen, enjoy!! I'd hate to have to not talk to you out of disgust for yr lack of intelligence and good taste. 'nuff said.

(W. R./ Enterrupted)


"PEAK OF NOTHINGNESS" CD / KK NULL (Hushhush, Canada 2001)

If ever there was a disc one could say Null used to "break away" from other styles, this would be it. Almost, just almost, the tint of darkhop under corrosive waves of soft noise. Shooting cascades of ambience that break periodically in stilted, broken instrument stops and starts. There are warm cocoons of umbilical textures, spinning, sliding, growing. The loud parts seem to be part of an upward motion. Peak of Nothingness in fact seems to constantly be driving up to a peak, a climax somewhere, a great perspective of feelings brought out in colliding tones and soft noise and sometimes hard noise. KK is truly exploring the abilities of his mind, talent and equpiment here.

(Vince Harrigan/ Manifold Records)


"TERMINAL HZ" CD / KK NULL & DAVID BROWN (Ground Falt, USA 2000)

Null and his nullsonic are gentle mostly here, offering a sandpapery surface or cottony scree and moan that Brown seems to play acoustic or electric guitar over in a sort of minimal, plucked-string way. Like interpretational folk-music for robots. Has a seriously threatening undertone, not soothing, but not really "noise" either. Sort of this asteroid-sized conglomeration of opposing forces, they never quite have a head-on collision but scrape by each other in a frightening scrape and drift. We get to hear the skins of these two spaceships have a near miss.

(Vince Harrigan/ Manifold Records)


"GEV" CD / NULL (Staalplaat Records, USA 2000)

Energized and noisy, these 17 tracks represent the best bloots and blurps from former Zeni Geva member KK Null. A seamless blend of industrial swirls and Dr. Who sounds including digital heartbeats, robotic worker bees, pinballs rolling, drunken hummingbirds, furnaces, teleporters, crickets in a laser attack, alarm bells, champagne glasses in a room of energizer bunnies, malfunctioning androids, a locust attack, an intruder alert and scurrying spiders, inside an elevator shaft, near an over-heating refinery, digital bungee jumping, the Star Trek engine room, a pumping house, a chainsaw lightning attack and so much more. It's also computer talk for R2-D2. Very distracting, very fun. This album has one of the most beautiful pieces of cover art I've ever seen, it could be in a museum.

(Peter Brian Xerxes Hoflich / http://www.jade.dti.ne.jp/~hoflich/JapanMusic.html)


"DISCOTECA PLASMA" CD / NULL (Mindfield Records, USA 2000) #3

Famed noise guitarist creates a Metal Machine Music for the new millenium.
Kazuyuki K. Null, founder of Japanese powerhouse Zeni Geva, hasn't put on polyester and recorded Bee Gees covers. Even though the press release says this might be the first "noise/disco crossover" Discoteca Plasma won't make you dance to the music. Instead, KK Null pushes the listener headlong into a world of seriously noise-influenced minimalist techno. Creating a sound somewhere between Pan Sonic and occasional collaborator Merzbow's remix album, Scumtron, Null distances himself from said touchstones by adding something those artists lack: subtlety. Not to say that this album is subtle, because it''s anything but. However, tracks like "G02-1502" (all titles have a similar letter/number combination, since Null was, in his own words, "sick of coming up with titles that disturb your imagination") have, hidden behind massive walls of crackling static and electronic interference, subliminal beats and other surprises. "L13-0211" is the aural equivalent of a hangover: a high-pitched tone is sustained throughout the tune, sawing your skull into a million pieces, while rubbery beats that sound as though they were pounded out on loose guitar strings (a sound utilized on half the album), queasily bounce from right to left, making it hard to keep your lunch down. Discoteca Plasma is a "Metal Machine Music" for the new millennium.

(Jason Olariu /Alternative Press)


"DISCOTECA PLASMA" CD / NULL (Mindfield Records, USA 2000) #2

KK null has been creating avant-garde/experimental/noise since the early 80's, working within the band format (primarily with Zeni Geva), as well as with a multitude of collaborators (includeing Merzbow, John Zorn, James Plotkin, etc.) Through the varied outlets, he has been driven by a restless desire to seek out new means of sonic expression. Of course, the caustic, technoid freakout route chosen here was probably not the most obvious direction in which one would expect him to gravitate. "L13-0211" opens with beating on plastic, elastic percussive dynamics dissected with oil sharpened scalpels. The low, reverberant bass textures in the background give the sounds dimension. "G1303805" is full of smooth, round edges as bubbles of tinfoil pop above high pitched, razor plucked guitar strings. "G14-3902" erratically injects a slightly nauseating drone with snipped bits of chewed on noise. Muffled fingernails tear into the dusty, crackling electronic flesh of "K18-4004" as humming, subterranean tones drag the sounds down into a pit of tar. A fascinating venture, transforming guitar based experimentalism into ear tweaking rhythms, as even the tracks that don't fully rely on a rhythmic base seem to incorporate a sensation of rhythm.

("OUTBURN" magazine #13)


"DISCOTECA PLASMA" CD / NULL (Mindfield Records, USA 2000) #1

KK Null is since many years a busy man. Besides his work with Zeni Geva and collaborations, he also cranks out solo CD's. Recorded late last year to early this year, Null comes up with a remarkable work. His previous, also just released but earlier recorded, CD 'GeV' showed the way to more rhythmic sound, and less that of noise/drone fields. This new one takes the rhythm thing a bit futher. Rather then taking a sample of a techno beat, Null apperentely produced his own beats in his own way. The beat is the constant pattern in each track; there are no breaks. Highly hypnotic of course (er... if you are open to this) and Null adds his own blend of electronica to it. The beat is the static element, the noise surrounding it, is the icing on the cake. Towards the end of the CD, the beats go in a slow mode, and Null takes on what he had almost left off. Nevertheless a surprising CD, with somebody taking a new course radically.

(Frans de Waard / Staalplaat)


"PERFECT VACUUM" CD / NULL (Item Recordings, USA 1999)

Crystalline growths pierce earth and skies flicker in geological time. Erosion passes over the listener in several incarnations which are the poems of chosen textures, structures and shapes which are conveyed through pure noise, made through feedback and electronic interference. Exacting placement and careful repetition suggests a purer thought of devaluing all conceptions of quantitative musicality through droning organic sounds, hypnotic rhythms and disturbingly realistic texture in the way that consciousness awaking from dream to sudden change can be. Subterranean motivations of the human soul are scripted inside machine noise, breathing of tumbling recursion in bass-end sound, spacious arrangements of different pitch cycles. Disturbingly honest and unafraid to use empty space and feedback loop ostinato attacks, this music transcends quantification and replaces it with an honest poetry of immediate experience.

(S.R. Prozak)


"0.0004" CD / NULL (Vinyl Communications, USA 1999)

Packaged in some amazingly beautiful artwork by Seldon Hunt comes forty-five minutes of guitar and "nullsonic" work, haunting electronic buzzings and rumblings that often sound like transmission from outer space. The elevn tracks are untitled, simply numbered, so there are no hints there of what the ZENI GEVA leader's intentions are. The artwork is equally ambiguous, combining machine-like repetitions with collaged cartoon elements and smoothly overlaid textures. Many of the tracks are very calm, almost medtative, except for an edginess which never lets you completely relax. Some of this would be ideal music for a film set on a distant planet where it's constantly dark and threats lurk behind a deceivingly quiet facade. Some tracks, such as number 3, set up repeating rhythms which seem oddly similar to the front-cover artwork, and are an intriguing combination of mechanical repetition and humanistic randomness, at times akin to Elliot Sharp's rhythm pieces. Throughout, this is an excellent example of Null's unique sound, unlike anyone else- neither noise nor ambient, but purely experimental expression.

(Ongaku Otaku #4)


"INORGANIC ORGASM" CD / NULL (Manifold, USA 1998)

Descending further into the pure noise approach first experimented with in Zeni Geva, distortion artist K.K. Null twists pure sound into songs which touch the eardrum like fine fabrics of different stitches, melding subtle textures through the patterns of undulation of noise and the rhythms, both natural and mechanistic, that modify strains of thought in musical conductivity. Masterfully distinctive from one another, lengthy songscapes counterbalance texture and tempo to make music that is made from unmusical elements; it manipulates tone and to some degree, "key" in that a different dominant pitch cycle becomes forefront through change in sliding motion of sound sampled in containers of note. Its rhythms change and its structures balance each other across the length of song development, yet throughout the album a consistent descent into moods finer and purer is felt as, the dream beginning, more unbelievably subtle things become believably significant.

(S.R. Prozak)


"TERMINAL BEACH" CD / NULL (Manifold Records, USA 1996)

A spiritual calm in terror emanates from the impressions beneath the vivid and often cryptic patterns of this album, which is crafted from electronic noise, voice and sporadic but concise percussion with emphasis supplied through the layering of gentle and harsh sounds together in a nihilistic ambience of synergy. Where it is beautiful is in its understanding of tone and rhythm together, as if a product of each other in the system that generates their placement, and its overall composition to generate context to its seeming randomness through careful centering in emotional peaks and variations.
Drifting winds of desolation open in a feedback and percussion piece entitled "Zero Wave," the epitome of a modern isolation in a multitude of sounds fed from the same source and recursing to similar conclusions in a shifting wave of resolution. Its peacefulness profound, this song hides an aura of death and acceptance within its folds and sets the tone for this postapocalyptic masterpiece as a whole. Next comes the dreamlike introspective "Voice of Eternity," composed of backward fragments of aria interlaced with clashing placeholders of percussion time wrought from buttressed columns of noise. Fading visions of reality are replaced with metaphor, and then ploughed under into a sea of renewed creation. After this is the interlude "Cosmic Rape," an ephemeral vision into exploding noise without continuous rhythm which places its drive on a self-infused, self-subtracted energy transfer which mimics the relentless life-harvest of modern social structures. The eerily happy and techno-inspired "War Dance" follows, with a shifting hypnosis of rhythm that undulates through the listener's brain to produce a motion on which the other elements of percussion and tone in the song can act a scenario of organized confusion. The final epic from which the album's title is derived wraps up the bunch with a majestic statement of alienation and loneliness in sounds drifting through a backroom of gentle machine and wind noises, a vastness unplumbed in a nostalgia for a life not yet spent in the passing of meaningless days. Although impressive individually, in collusion these pieces speak a unison of dissonant emotions arising from the clash of life-impulse with a disassociative perception of human reality. However bleak they become, they affirm the drive to realization and growth which impels the behavior common to all forms of life.

A project of Zeni Geva mastermind Kazuyuki K. Null, these ambient textures explore a primal side of the human soul before it can declare its impulses to pacificity, violence or sadness; as a result, these songs enwrap a multitude of partially-formed emotions in a single front, much as each fragmented and timbrally-distorted note encompasses all possible notes in resonance within itself. In a world of noise music that is mostly anti-logic and anti-theory, this is a refreshing work that achieves far more of an organic and divergent understanding of life than raw intent to randomness and blast could muster.

(Spineza Ray Prozak / Groin.com)


"ULTIMATE MATERIAL 3" CD / NULL (Manifold Records, USA 1995

Zeni Geva guitar noise monstermind Kazuyuki K. Null brings forth more sonic structures and experiments in ambient noise with this solo release. Consisting entirely of feedback noise, distorted keyboards, vocals and (some but little) percussion work, "Ultimate Material" comes in two half-hour tracks and is an epic journey through the textures of noise, in search of peace. Freedom pervades this music as its fundamental concept; through deconstruction to the granular and intokenizable Null have worked around the conventional perceptional limitations and can use this technique to communicate thematic material of the postmodern generations: the root of belief in power and existential hope, over the immense monolithic aspect of denial facing us. Unlike many noise compositions this work features use of tonal centers by establishing root notes in the resonant background, and it is to its credit that the tyrannical assault of distortion works despite its granularity: few major structures are immediately visible, only patterns of textures.

(Spineza Ray Prozak / Groin.com)