Cuts certainly starts off promisingly, as the colossal opener 'Evil Knives. Lines' powers out of the speakers like a derailed train, driven by Pándi's whirlwind of drums and those instantly-recognisable sheets of noise Merzbow has developed so expertly over the years. Comparisons to a mixture of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and John Coltrane's Interstellar Space initially seem justified when contemplating Cuts, because of course Merzbow is the greatest disciple of Reed's atonal magnum opus, whilst Pándi displays a deftness of touch that belies his muscularity. The drummer resists the urge to merely go head-to-head with Masami Akita in the volume stakes, displaying commendable restraint across the album's five tracks, notably on the 19-minute 'Deep Lines. Cuts', where he slowly builds up rattles of snares and toms that morph into a rolling backbeat resembling Klaus Schulze on Ash Ra Tempel's 'Amboss'.
Where the comparison to 'Trane falls down is that Gustafsson rarely gets a chance to make his sax heard clearly over the endless torrent of shifting distorted oscillations from Merzbow. Instead, the Swede turns to electronics himself, as if defeated in his attempts to project his skronks and squalls. Indeed, the album's best moments are scattered throughout 'Deep Lines. Cuts', when Pándi stops drumming altogether and Akita pulls back from the sheer brutality of his noise, allowing himself to engage in something approaching a duet with Gustafsson, either on sax or electronics. But these are brief interludes in what at times becomes a sea of electronic atonality. I like that kind of thing, for sure, but it's not why I'd pick up a record with the name Mats Gustafsson on it.
The pleasing reverse, of course, is that this means this is Merzbow at his most virulent and abrasive. At times, his swirling clouds of brittle, high-pitched, shimmering noise get so blasted as to sound like the consumptive screaming of a dying man, and there's no attempt on Akita's part to really rein in the force of his walls of distortion. Mostly, Pándi and Gustafsson appear to be following Akita's lead, pulling away and stopping altogether at times to let him fill the entirety of the sonic space (this might have something to do, of course, with the fact that Merzbow mixed the album). What is impressive is the level of listening going on on Cuts. The trio could have been satisfied with simply battering away at each other and the album would still have seen the light of day, but, with Balázs Pándi keep a tight handle on each track's progression with his alternately hard-hitting and measured rhythms, Cuts never descends into a full-on mess. However, that doesn't mean it soars, either. With Gustafsson drawn away so frequently from his horn, and grooviness or sensuality that could have crept into these tracks is completely dissolved and we are ultimately mostly left with five expertly-managed but exhausting slabs of noise. Again, I like that kind of thing, but Cuts could have been so much more, given the personnel involved.Joseph Burnett - thequietus.com