An attention span has become such a hot commodity. With a sense of urgency infused throughout our daily lives, it’s rare these days that anybody can sit still for more than ten minutes. So I’ve issued myself a personal challenge: sit here at my computer and listen to “Sun Baked Snow Cave” — a single, sixty-two-minute track — in its entirety, scribbling notes and thoughts along the way. The gauntlet has been thrown.
Time elapsed: 00:00:00
“Sun Baked Snow Cave” is the third collaboration between famed Japanese noise/experimental musician Merzbow and the Japanese sludge/doom trio known as Boris. Live, Merzbow and Boris apparently split control, with Merzbow controlling the first thirty-odd minutes and Boris stepping in for the last half.
I slip the disc in the computer, and for some reason it’s reading as “Partynight 23-11-2002” by an artist named Chris Fortier at a running time of 1:02:02. I crack my first tallboy of Bud Light (I’m watching my girlish figure and don’t care much for flavor) and turn off all other e-mail and instant-messaging programs. Earphones are in.
Time elapsed: 00:04:19
It’s been a very slow beginning, with lots of static-y noises under the few guitar plucks that must be building some tension. I’m starting to feel like I’m running on a treadmill and shouldn’t look at the clock. I’m not sure I quite understand Japanese noise, but I respect it and feel that listening to it is more a test of will than pure enjoyment. I have a few more sips of beer.
Time elapsed: 00:10:54
The noises are gone and the notes have gotten a little higher, but the mood has lightened. The little pauses in between guitar plucks get me excited for a sudden violent explosion of noise. I know it’s coming. It’s got to be there. Shit, if this continues, I’m going to be writing a two-thousand-word review. Why won’t my mind slow down? It must be time for another sixteen-ouncer.
Time elapsed: 00:24:42
The static noises have come back, and thank God, because it’s making this much more enjoyable. It’s now overpowered the guitar. Did I just drink thirty-two ounces of beer that fast? I think the “Sun Baked Snow Cave” is starting to get in my head. I feel the mood coming on. The guitar put me into a mellow place, and now there’s only static noise fighting with light feedback drones. I’m welcoming it with open arms.
Time elapsed: 00:38:48
Just as I had hoped, Merzbow upped the noise ante. The track has become typical Merzbow, with deep drones of feedback and static sounds cutting in and out. The apparent transition to giving Boris control at the halfway point was barely noticeable — it’s just feedback fighting itself (but maybe this really is Chris Fortier’s “Partynight 23-11-2002”). I’m starting to think this Dallas hotel room is overly air-conditioned. My toes are getting cold.
Time elapsed: 00:45:10
I was starting to notice rhythms in the noise, but still I’m far from dancing to them. We approached what I think may have been the climax at about 00:40:12, but I hope that the heavy layers of noise will return. It’s been going back to the light drones of feedback for the last ten minutes, and I’m already halfway through my third tallboy. The sounds of guitar have come back, and I fear it’s a mellow road from here on out.
Time elapsed: 00:53:48
This is clearly the elongated end to “Sun Baked Snow Cave.” The guitars have arrived again and the noise has subsided to a dull roar. I’m starting to think the press release was lying to me about Merzbow controlling the first half. It really felt like Boris’s typical sound book-ended a Merzbow freak-out session.
Time elapsed: 01:02:02
Just as I assumed, it was a slow end to “Sun Baked Snow Cave.” Even though I sat in the same seat for sixty-two minutes listening to one song, I want a little more, and it’s not just because of the tallboys (only three, for those keeping score). Those Internet-savvy, information-now readers who’ve made it this far into the review may just have the will to immerse themselves in “Sun Baked Snow Cave” in all its glory. You may just want to bring a few tall “friends” on the journey.