Back in the magical summer of 1995, my trusted cohort and fellow noise enthusiast/best friend and I were at the neighborhood record store, perusing the new releases wall. As we snobbishly scoffed at albums by post grunge grunt rockers and hair metal leftovers, something jumped out at us. A plain white album cover with black text that said “Japanese/American Noise Treaty.” We both grabbed a copy and looked a the track list. It was littered with names we’d never heard of and we raised our eyebrows; “Cock ESP?” “Third Organ?” Who the fuck were these weirdos? Two familiar names jumped out at us though; the first was Masonna, who was featured on MTV’s 120 Minutes when Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore hosted (also featured was Bikini Kill in a short film about the Riot Grrl movement). The other was Merzbow, who we previously heard on Northwestern University’s radio station, WNUR 89.3.
I opted to purchase this gem where as my friend purchased something else (most likely something Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev related). When we got back to my house, we put in disc one. We were not prepared for what would come next — the most abrasive, shrill, static intensity forced it’s way out of my bookshelf speakers. I quickly hit stop on the CD player — not because it was bad, or I was startled, but instead to give me time to unwrap an XLII and get it into the tape deck to copy these beasts to cassette. This was absolutely quintessential car noise.
Around this time, my friend and I would commonly drive around the northwest side of Chicago listening to bizzaro music at top volume. It made for some hilarious, uncomfortable moments at red lights where senior citizens, squares and (on at least a couple occassions) Chicago cops would uncomfortably stair at us as they rolled up their windows. Most officers in the “retirement district” of Chicago’s CPD didn’t want to bother getting out of their cruisers to hassle a couple of long hairs in a sticker covered car, let alone worry about what kind of conversation they would have with said mutants. Japanese/American Noise Treaty was a next level freak out.
When playing this for select groups of friends who were more hung up on the pop punk and ska of the day (which I have no shame in admitting I also enjoyed), they generally didn’t know what to make of this release. What we made of it was transforming one of our music projects, originally designed to piss off buzzards at the local metal club into a complete and total noise driven war machine called My Tree My Pet. One day I’ll upload some of those tracks that drew influence directly from this compilation.
Overall, as a much older, calmer listener, I think I actually enjoy these tracks a lot more than I did when I was drawing influence for caffeine fueled noise catharsis. This stuff is by no means everyone’s cup of tea, but give it a chance. Listen with your eyes closed and look for patterns and layers. They’re there, trust me. A lot of this stuff is true genius and absolute art.