Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Waters Risin'

@ 192
Biography by William York

Japanese cult favorite sludge/doom rock trio Boris takes their name from a song on grunge godfathers the Melvins' Bullhead album. They also have a lot in common with the Melvins musically, including a fondness for heavily down-tuned guitar/bass tones and exceedingly slow tempos. But they also incorporate elements variously drawn from other sources, including psychedelic rock, punk, noise, minimalism, pure sludge-drone music à la Earth, and more. Also, despite the unpretentious psychedelic/stoner rock imagery that accompanies much of their work, there is an ambitiously experimental aspect to much of it. Their albums, for example, have tended to be massive conceptual projects: Absolutego, in its original form, was a feedback-heavy drone exploration consisting of a single 65-minute track; Flood consists of another extremely long track, 70-plus minutes in length, exploring the band's quieter sides with a minimalist/phase music slant. Also on the more experimental end of their discography are collaborations with Japanese avant-garde enigma Keiji Haino and power electronics/noise legend Merzbow.

Boris formed during the early '90s and consists of guitarist Wata, bassist Takeshi, and drummer/vocalist Atsuo. They made their first recorded appearance on an obscure 1994 compilation entitled Take Care of Scabbard Fish, released only in Japan and now out of print. Absolutego, their full-length debut, came out in 1996 on the band's own Fangs Anal Satan imprint but was unavailable in the U.S. for years, a situation that was remedied when the Los Angeles-based Southern Lord label reissued the album in early 2001 along with a bonus track and new packaging. Their next album, Amplifier Worship, came out on the Mangrove label in 1998 and was also unavailable in the U.S. for several years; San Francisco's Man's Ruin had planned to reissue it in the fall of 2001, but the label folded before that could happen. 1998 also saw the release of the Boris/Keiji Haino collaboration, a live disc entitled Black: Implication Flooding, which came out on Japan's Inoxia Records. In 1999, Boris issued a split CD with fellow Japanese band Choukoko No Niwa, More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape, which also came out on Inoxia and featured Boris weighing in with a brief (for them) 28-minute contribution. Their third full-length album, Flood, was released two years later on the MIDI Creative label. Their 2006 album Pink put them back on Southern Lord and featured some shoegaze-influenced sounds. A year later Rainbow appeared with Michio Kurihara from the Japanese band Ghost contributing to the soundscapes. Also in 2007, they released a limited-edition recording of a live performance with Japanese noise master Merzbow in Tokyo titled Rock Dream.Smile, the group's fourteenth album was released in spring, 2008.

It's great to finally see some of this classic Boris material finally surface from its Japanese home, and Flood is one of the undiscovered gems of the early catalog. Comprised of four 'movements' (don't worry they're all around fifteen-twenty minutes in length) this shows Boris at their most sedate, moving between simple picked guitar compositions, lengthy psychedelic freak-outs and deep, haunting and somewhat spiritual drone compositions that wouldn't sound out of place on a Mirror album. Opening with a hypnotic guitar riff which tumbles around itself in an almost Reich-like manner we are gradually introduced to some simply startling, cavernous percussion before being coaxed into the utter beauty of the album's second piece. This is Boris at their friendliest with a slice of ebow-heavy instrumental guitar music maybe closer to Mogwai's quieter moments than the metal-flecked and Melvins-worshipping Boris we all know so well. Don't worry though, the distortion pedals are back for the third part as the band push their amps to eleven for the album's heaviest and most psychedelic moment, before bowing out on an extended and almost melancholic drone workout. A rich and varied body of work which indicates well how the band were to progress in the future recordings, this is an essential part of any self respecting Boris fan's collection.

1  Flood I
2  Flood II
3  Flood III
4  Flood IV
Get it HERE