Masonna (マソナ) is the name that Yamazaki Maso uses for his incredible one-man noise attack unit.  Along with Merzbow, Incapacitants, and Jojo Hiroshige (of Hijokaidan fame), Masonna is one of Japan’s most famous noise artists.  Masonna uses a variety of electronic devices and instruments to create shrieking walls of feedback and violent waves of distortion as he yelps and screams over the top.  In interviews Maso-san has said that what he’s trying to do with his noise unit is to summon the most extreme intensities of rock music and release them all at once in a single sonic attack of enormous magnitude.  The photo at the top of the page was taken at Alchemy Records, where Masonna works, during a tour of America-mura’s vast horde of underground record stores that I took with Andee, of San Francisco’s Aquarius Records, and his friend Josh.

Masonna’s live performaces are famous for the incredible energy that he releases as he jumps around the stage wildly, screams and stamps on his equipment, and rolls around as if possessed.  He often hurts himself during his performances, which are so extreme that they often last only a few minutes.  The special solo performance show that I saw as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations at Namba Bears lasted all of four minutes because Maso-san ended up injuring his knee as he was leaping through the air while swinging his microphone in circles.

The show may only have been four minutes long, but it was a four-minute monument of all-out sonic assault.  Listening to Masonna’s music is like hearing the screaming sounds of circuits as they die in a fiery conflagration, or perhaps the sounds that a wildly screaming coven of witches would make were they all somehow speaking through shorted microphones channeled through mixing boards stuffed solid with cyclotrimethylene trinitramine.  Or perhaps like the shouts of a cosmic alien intelligence beamed straight into your head, but too fast and intense to comprehend.

In addition to his numerous side projects and his work with the psych-garage group Acid Eater, Masonna often plays collaboratively with other musicians.  I saw a great show at Osaka’s nu-things featuring Mani Nuemeier of Guru Guru fame on drums playing with an all-star cast of Alchemists including Masonna (on analogue synthesizer), Jojo Hiroshige on guitar, Kakinoki (from Garadama), and Yoko Takano on bass.  One of the very best collaborative shows I’ve seen, however, had to be the duo of Masonna (on analogue synthesizer and vocals) andKawabata Makoto (of Acid Mothers Temple fame).  Makoto’s ripping, psychedelic guitar work and Masonna’s tripped out space-synth and shouting worked together to create a beautiful warped forest of sound that distributed itself as a slow motion explosion.

Listening to Masonna at home, on headphones, is a totally different experience than seeing Masonna perform life.  The disortion, feedback, and sonic intensity is all the same, but without the energy of the live show I find the noise attack to be strangely calming, almost trancelike.  After a while, Masonna Vs. Bananamara, an album that Masonna recorded in his room while he was still living at home with his parents, almost comes to sound like chattering insects shrieking in a language that might be piercing at first, but then starts to become familiar, as if with just a bit more exposure it might soon be possible to understand exactly what they’re saying.

Masonna’s Spectrum Ripper at UbuWeb

Kawabata Makota at the Japanese New Music Festival


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