Review: MAAAA / K2 split CD

This split CD from 2011 brings together two harsh-noise junk metal  lined projects: Maaaa from Russia/Poland, and K2  from Japan. Russian (albeit currently located in Poland) duo Maaaa opens the dance with five tracks of extremely well composed and fierce harsh noise. The first track "Entomophobia" starts with an impressive insect buzzing sound that reminded me for a second of Randy Yau and Dave Phillips' collaboration. The rest is a pure, brutal harsh noise assault. Very aggressive,  distorted metal junk and feedback, excellent metallic sound looping and white noise. Frankly I couldn't ask for more to an album starter!
Maaaa's contribution continues with a wide spectrum of classic noise weapons of choice: "Crude Petroleum" features ultra crude crackling distortion and pulsating space synth looping and sounds; "Eastern Bloc" gives us more psychedelic synth sputtering; “Drunken Skinhead” is a big mess of glass shattering, metal junk sounds and distorted frequencies; “The Puke” is a short blast of nasty buzzing synth and feedback. All of Maaa's tracks are quite short, the longest marking at little more than five minutes, and each of them is a solid composition. I can't recall many harsh noise acts from the last few years that managed to pull off such good and well thought short blasts of pure sound, so hats off to Maaaa! These guys definitely deserve more attention.
After the Karelian torture of Maaaa, it's the turn of the Japanese Emperor of junk metal manipulation Kimihide Kusafuka, aka K2. The three tracks presented on this CD don't feature any junk metal sounds though, as Mr. Kusafuka goes out to specify in the booklet. Maybe he wants to move away from a comfortable area and explore other things?. Indulging and reveling in layer over layer of synthesizer abuse, K2's sounds here are unusually rough, nasty and pretty different from his other material I'm familiar with. All the three tracks seem cut out of long synth/junk electronics improvisations and include all the right ingredients for a good harsh noise mix: piercing high frequency sounds, lightning-fast shifts of direction and sound, fucked up vocals, a certain sadistic pleasure in torturing the listener's ears with pure feedback and most of all layers and layers of synth devastation. There's a great variety of timbre, grain, “rhythm” and frequency but not all the sounds obtained are completely successful. I'm thinking especially about the unavoidable occurance of toy laser-like blasts and delay pedal fuckery, but in the end it's a just matter of personal taste. K2's tracks are simple, almost stripped down to the core and the quality of recording is very raw, which also is quite unusual for classic Japanese artists. In conclusion, his “Izanagi Mix”, “Boosted Magatamania” and “The Hole Of Ootakimaru” are good rough harsh noise. Of course the world needs more of this!
Last but not least: the artwork. The tiny booklet looks really good, especially because of the transparent pages. Excellent design. I must say that this time the match is won by the Russian couple simply because their tracks are fucking great, but this split CD is very good from start to finish. Recommended to all fans of harsh noise.

A split release can sometimes feel less like a complimentary marriage of matched artists and more as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone at the expense of any real consideration of artistic congruence. Whilst some may even offer an artists greatest works, there are some which will do neither artist involved any favours for their catalogue. I'm all for variety and disparate styles, but not when one artist's creation is perhaps being propped up by having another's name on the cover.
Fortunately, the eight tracks contained within this split CD by Maaaa and K2 are of quality and cohesion and the disc presents less of a throwaway jaunt through offcuts and/or low quality control and more of an exciting realisation that the split format can be a great way to showcase two geographically seperate but sonically well-suited artists.
Opening with what appears to be some kind of insect swarm sample, Maaa quickly slams straight into a cacophonous slab of rapid noise destruction, rhythmically smashing and churning through oscillations and concrete noise boulders with brute strength which, at nearly five and a half minutes, is the longest of the Maaaa tracks and sets the tone for the ear-bashing that follows.
The Maaaa "half" continues with more distorted and synthesised layers of bulldozing noise, introducing throbs and pulses that compliment the low-end battery nicely, showcasing some of the wonderful sounds achievable with the famed Polivoks synth and a healthy dose of practiced noise-crafting. Across all five tracks, there is sufficient variety in the sounds to retain concentration but also a sense of consistency that holds focus nicely, employing percussive junk metal sounds along the way that enhance the destruction on offer without distraction and without becoming merely "metal bashing". It is precision chaos and very enjoyable at that.
There are three tracks on offer from Japanoise long-termer K2, apparently eschewing the usual garbage clonking to which many would be more familiar in favour of taking the Nintendo DS version of a Korg soft synth and systematically splattering it across the remaining 28mins or so of the disc. Cutup, harsh and fast moving but never spiralling into full chaos, K2's offering here is meticulous in its construction whilst free enough that sterility is gratefully avoided.
Tracks "Boosted Magatamania" and "The Hole Of Ootakimaru" are recorded live and as such the scalpel-sharp operation becomes a little more blurred. Nonetheless, the audio surgery is still one of textbook quality and before long into "...Magatamania" you'd be hard pushed to notice that either track were recorded during a different session. Dynamic, raw and verging on psychadelic in its effect, K2's contribution differs somewhat from the earlier offerings from Maaaa, but as mentioned before both halves of the split compliment each other more than well enough to justify throwing them together on this split.
For those who find themselves reading this review and are in the Noise market, two things you will find to set this release aside is that the first participants in this split are married, and not a pair of two guys who adore each other so much they SAY they’re married [as is so common in the Industrial underground, the gay part, not the love part]. Sergei and Renata are no Haus Arafna, but they do offer the best parts of this disc. Secondly, the runner up, both literally and figuratively, is a surgeon! Who would have known the hyper-intelligent could sit around and make harsh noise of all things after cutting into people? Don’t laugh. Kimihide Kusafuka IS a doctor, after all.
The couple, who hail from an Eastern Europe so eastern that its practically Russia, have a huge advantage in this ring, a module known as the Soviet-manufactured Polivoks, an analog synth that was made back in the USSR days that is best when used for considerable bass and has a pretty powerful Gain knob to it, which happened to be the catalyst for Sergei in his entry into a much more abrasive sound exploration plateau. While both MAAAA and K2 deliver on the promises of “harsh”, not only does MAAAA give us more tracks, the tracks have much more accessible qualities to them than just a savage, random ear-thrashing. Certain tracks by the happy couple are fleshed together with things not normally found in harsh noise, such as rhythm, and the contrast of lighter sounds, which when done correctly, can actually amplify much louder and more brutal sounds`But the sounds aren’t ambient or tame, but clearly synthesized. Its actually difficult to tell the difference between what could possibly be coming out of the Polivoks or the other thing MAAAA shares in common with K2, a much-coveted Korg MS-20. Stand-out tracks for the first installment are “Crude Petroleum”, with its heavy synth-bass pulse and crazy tempo changes to an oscillation, “Entomophobia”, and “Drunken Skinhead” which is basically a bunch of minor static with about two minutes of scrap metal flying all over the place.
Then the Doctor is in with a much more destructive frame of art. What I found awesome about this triad of sounds is that a Korg DS-10 was used. For those who are still unfamiliar with this awesome little chip, it is an emulation of Korg’s fantastic MS-10 synthesizer, which is played/programmed on any Nintendo DS. The best track of the three by K2 is “Izanagi-mix”, which is a schizophrenic, randomized piece that has countless different timbres that just keep coming over so much distorted scatter. His jams that were recorded live though, I didn’t find so interesting. They’re longer, more simplistic, feedback-ridden… I know that sounds great for the HN purist, but after listening to MAAAA’s stuff first, its a bit of a let-down.
All and all, this is still worth checking out. I didn’t mean to put so much emphasis on both the geographical and occupational factors that went into the creation of this split, but it did remind me of the fact that Noise is a rather universal thing. And these folk know how to channel it.
It’s allright Maaaa, I’m only bleeding
From Poland I got this really great CD of harsh noise which is a split between MAAAA and K2 (TRIANGLE RECORDS TR-47). The booklet is extremely confusing but it seems that MAAAA, the duo of Sergei and Renata who we heard from with their superb Decay And Demoralization CD for Mind Flare Media, occupy the first five cuts in the same way that a bulldozer “occupies” a building scheduled for demolition. Using a combination of Korg synth and metal junk, this husband and wife team create electronic music of a devastating power which is as basic as the ‘Crude Petroleum’ of track 2 and as confused as the ‘Drunken Skinhead’ of track 4, but it’s also incredibly dynamic and inventive – jet-fuel rock music on power skis, mainlining its way to the heavy-metal heart of the listener. Recorded in Warsaw in 2010 and 2011, these five crash-collision powerhouse cuts reinvigorate the notion of “metal” in industrial music. Even so, the MAAAA cuts are almost eclipsed by the sheer manic viciousness and searing attack of K2 for the remaining three cuts; Japanese player Kimihide Kusafuka uses a vaguely similar set-up (Korg synths, ruined electronics, contact mics and voice but no junk metal) to deliver remorseless sweeping invasions of exciting dive-bomber racket. Where MAAAA feel somewhat resigned and pessimistic about life’s prospects, it’s clear that K2 wants to attack everything with a psychopathic relish, sawing through life’s hurdles with a chainsaw in one hand and an acid-blasting cannon in the other. He’s also a member of numerous band projects including The Bikini Pigs, Hospital In Vain, The Immunes and Lemon Negative. As with the best Japanese noise, there is something dangerously crazy and uncontrollable which feeds the core of this music. Hold tight and enjoy the ride. Many thanks to Sergei for sending this primo sizzler of harshness.
Here we have a riveting split cd of driving, psychedelic noise textures this one released on the Triangle label in Poland. Maaaa, a Polish husband/wife duo, begins the first set here with the closeup sounds of a flying insect, a momentary bit of human voice, then smashes high-speed into a wall of noise like a head-on car crash. Their sound world is one of terrifying, but beautiful, machine noises. Extensive use of the Korg MS-20 synthesizer's analog sounds, feedback and metal junk(on track 4, "Drunken Skinhead") create a soundscape of unusual brutality. Everything is mixed with a wide stereo image and enough compression to expertly delineate their powerful abstractions.
When you come up next to the great K2, you better come correct! This guy, by day known as Dr. Kimihide Kusafara, a pathologist, is one of the originators of the Japanoise genre. He used to make sounds with scrap/sheet metal for his classic style, but now has removed any possibility of self-reference in his sounds by creating a vast arsenal of noise weaponry that sounds so otherworldly, it might as well be the sounds of an alien planetscape. Not a peaceful place, mind you, more like the howling thousand year storms of Jupiter's red spot. At times, a voice is audible as the trigger for feedback and, like Maaaa, K2 also utilizes a Korg MS-20, but whatever analog synth sounds are here aren't discernible processed through these huge slabs of distortion and feedback. With K2 it doesn't really matter what the origins of the sounds are when listening glued to your seat with the fascination of their sheer awesomeness.
Who knew that artists whose monikers consisted of only letters and numbers could create such harsh noise? Neither MAAAA nor K2 are new artists to the genre; actually, K2 is one of the prominent figures in harsh noise and cutup junk electronics, and MAAAA follows in those footsteps on this split with an electronics setup very similar to K2′s. It’s interesting to listen for the major differences in sound and composition that the two take on this split, which is to say that while MAAAA’s five tracks have a characteristically different sound from K2′s, the noise is still unrelentingly harsh.
MAAAA starts the disc off with five relatively short tracks of junk electronics and scrap metal sounds. Beginning with “Entomophobia”, MAAAA churns out ferocious and deep tracks full of Korg whirrings, static and bass pummeling, and overall just a jumble of incredibly harsh sounds that dominate the disc. There is a sense of destruction to all of these tracks, especially “Entomophobia”, which does not let up its wicked decimation until its final second. There is a lot going on in each track, but the difference between K2 and MAAAA seems to be the fact that K2 emphasizes the idea behind stop-starts (though not as pronounced on this disc), whereas MAAAA continue to amplify their noise without break or pause. MAAAA also switches up the sound, alternating between the harsh attacks with rhythmic slabs of noise (“Crude Petroleum”) akin to Merzbow on Timehunter or Merzbeat. In fact, there’s a lot that can be contributed to Merzbowian sound, especially on “Drunken Skinhead”, which retains some of the similar junk metal/percussive sounds Merzbow used in the ’80s.
On the K2 side, we have Kimihide Kusafuka doing what he does best: programming his Korg MS-20 to shred sound to bits, using his Nintendo DS as an instrument of havoc, subjecting the listener to sharp shards of feedback. The first track, “Izanagi-Mix”, was recorded in studio, while the two others were recorded live at ORANGE-MURA. “Izanagi-Mix” is somewhat less sprawling than the others, a set that contains some trademark K2 sounds and staples while also remaining fresh enough as a very harsh track. K2 is not using the slight pauses in some of his other work here; while there are some, his sound is more focused on “Izanagi-Mix” than it tends to be on his other, longer works. The same is true of the two live tracks; “Boosted Megatamania” is ridiculously harsh, with a head-exploding pitch that only amplifies as the track continues on with such nihilistic feedback. “The Hole of Ootakimaru” is similar in theme, with more feedback and pitch shifts along with the glitchy, jumpy sound K2 is known for.
Don’t doubt me when I say this split is fucking ace. MAAAA is exactly on par with K2, and there’s an obvious discrepancy between how each artist creates noise. Pairing them together on one disc means that the listener gets two doses of extreme noise, brash abrasions that last for the entirety of the 50 minute disc. Combine that with the fact that this cardboard sleeve comes with a booklet of abstract art made by Sergei of MAAAA and Jura Belkin, and you’ve got yourself a must have release from Triangle.
When it comes down to old-school harsh-noise, K2 is one of my all-time favourites, with  releases that are characterised (not unlike other harsh noise projects of that era) by a brutal sound, but that also manage to maintain the same level of energy, the same power, throughout whatever length the release might have. The sound of K2 is dense and multilayered, rambling, shreeking, panning from left to right, it is constantly getting cut-up and mangled up, and yet, at the same time time, despite its collage-like nature, it manages to sound homogenous, solid, catching our attention to the very last blast or shreek. K2 consistently mentioned “metal junk” as his main sound source, and I’m pretty sure that the sound he managed to capture on his releases in the mid nineties comes close to what a car being shredded sounds like, heard from the trunk.
On this split release with MAAAA K2 explicitly states that “no metal junk” was used during the recording of his 3 tracks (of which two are live recordings). Except for that all the ingredients I mentioned above are present in the sound: shredding and shreeking, brutal, loud and all the way in your face. The way I like it. The 5 tracks by MAAAA are equally superb – In the booklet MAAAA mentions using “metal junk” 1 as one of their main sound sources. I’m pretty sure that lots of people, prior to reading the booklet, would mistake them for K2.
For me this nice release on Triangle Records equals over 48 minutes of pure nostalgy. Three tracks by K2 and five by MAAAA, a harsh noise project that I came accross a few years ago, but that so far have never dissapointed me. A highly recommended release. Get yourself a copy from Sergei (MAAAA/Triangle Records) – And while you’re at it, why not get in touch with him through snail mail for a chance? That’s how we did it in the mid nineties. You’ll have to send him a mail first though to ask for his address. 

Vital Weekly
MAAAA are a couple from  Warsaw ,  K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth….With a peak elevation of 8,611 m (28,251 feet), K2 is part of the Karakoram Range, and is located on the border between Baltistan, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China…. (See elsewhere for the up and downside of Wiki.)… Metal noise and vintage synth and or a  soft version of it for Nintendo DS (ibid below)  often completely split across the stereo field… joking aside I think its (also) important in a feeble attempt at authenticity to both avoid reason and eschew contradiction so despite what I say elsewhere as much as I think noise has no denominator - common or otherwise - this is one hell of a release. Remarkable noise and remarkable in it making any assertion regarding noise hypocritical. Enough said? Well hell no - three tracks by K2 and 5 from MAAAA  as well as a booklet of abstract images… the thing about harsh noise - as this is - is it is as like the event - from a univocity of folk musics which jazz self synthesized itself and transcended the most refined totalities of the "western traditions" in a kind of  Nietzschean overcoming, a great noontide affirmation -  and eternal return of Deleuzean violence and extravagant creativity from the infinite plane of virtuality, James Joyce at Butlins, and Doris Day at Diego Garcia … da da da … (jliat)