Boris — New Album
(Sargent House SH-070, 2011, CD)
Boris — Attention Please
(Sargent House SH-055, 2011, CD)
Boris — Heavy Rocks
(Sargent House SH-058, 2011, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2013-05-15
A few days after I got New Album, I mentioned to a friend that I was really enjoying the new Boris CD. He gave me a funny look and said, "I didn't figure you for the doom-sludge-feedback sort." I said, "You haven't heard this CD." Boris may be known as one of the loudest, heaviest bands on the planet, a reputation well deserved given their back catalog, but they've always had some variety in sound. In 2011, they released three albums on their own as well as at least one collaboration (Klatter, with Merzbow), and the three Boris items are pretty far from what my friend was thinking of based on such past albums as Amplifier Worship or Dronevil. There are no 20-minute feedback epics here. In fact, most of the music here is... pop. Sort of. Tracks are generally short, in the three-to-six minute range, and feature some catchy melodies, keyboards, and accessible sounds. Not that they ever sound like Maroon 5 — this is still Boris, after all. Several songs are featured more than once between the three, with different mixes or versions. And oddly enough, each is packaged in a different way: one mini-LP, one digipak, and one jewel case.
New Album (yes, that's the actual title) was the first released. There are at least three versions, with the LP, the Japanese CD, and the US CD being slightly different. I have the American CD version. Right off the bat, you get a siren-like synthesizer wail, then the band kicks in with a melodic rock tune sung by Takeshi. It could pass for Plastic Tree or any number of other Japanese power pop bands (this is not meant as a criticism — aggressive melodic rock of this caliber is a wonderful thing). Wata sings the next tune, "Hope," and Mellotron strings feature prominently in the mix, reminding me a bit of Opeth with female vocals. "Party Boy" is a bouncy dance tune with lots of keyboards and a thumping drum part; heavily distorted guitar is present but relatively low in the mix. These musical scientists have taken lessons learned from the experiments of past years and applied them to a more accessible palette, so you'll hear scattered bits of noise that harken back to earlier extremes, but it's all kept in check and subservient to a different aesthetic.
Heavy Rocks (not to be confused with their 2002 album of the same title) skews the mix a different way. You guessed it, heavier. You know this right out of the gate with "Riot Sugar," a post-Hendrix workout with some great psych freakout guitar. It's not all relentless heaviness, though "light" would be a relative term. Quiet moments are likely to have squealing feedback somewhere in the mix. A favorite moment is the speed-metal thrash of "Galaxians," with its pulsing synth rhythm and double-time drums. There are two longer tracks, both breaking 12 minutes, that drift off into spacy echo land.
Attention Please starts out with a relatively quiet beat on the drums and an echoing guitar. Then Wata's voice comes in, breathy and soft, as if from a dream. Her soft vocals are one of the album's defining features; they're mixed in such a way that I can't really tell what language she's singing much of the time. Some tracks do build up to more rocking sounds, and even wailing feedback, though it's mixed at such a level that it's not abrasive. Next up is a different version of "Hope," with the guitar relatively low and Wata's voice more prominent. A new version of "Party Boy" resembles industrial disco music, with drop-tune fuzz guitar and glitchy synth. Other tracks delve further into either the dreamy side of the sound or the head-banging side, but never so far that the identity wavers. And their tendency for experimentation is not abandoned, as attested by the loops of unknown origin featured in several places.
I'm hard pressed to choose between these — each has its strengths, and preference would be highly suggestive. New Album is probably the most "mainstream," Attention Please is more dreamy, and Heavy Rock if you want to bang your head but have enough musicality to occupy it as it bangs.
Related artist(s): Boris
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more