The Japanese like to consume cultures, flip them, and then reverse them. In Japan, we can be ourselves because we are not ourselves. This cultural coda is what seeps into the genetics of Japanese rock music; drummers grow extra legs, Siamese-twins play dual guitars and Schizophrenia is the only vocal take available. You see we’re talking metro-drone and spaz-rock here and Boris hailing from Japan, are among the pioneering ‘mutators’ of the sound.
Pink is Boris’s much talked about latest import offering album and is purportedly their most accessible yet. The talk suggests that Boris’s previous noise excursions into drone metal, doom and hardcore have been reined in; this is no longer the North Pole but from listening to Pink it’s only just a little closer to the South of France. Well, on the record now and after all this initial blog, it’s kind of funny that running the whole way through Pink are strains of British rock, ranging from early 90s shoegaze on the slower tracks “Farewell” and “My Machine” to the speed garage of Motorhead on “Pink” and “Electric”, and finally to the psychedelic Black Sabbath riffs of “Pseudo Bread” and “Afterburner”. Boris do however, add the salt and vinegar.
“Farewell”, is the first track and in terms of flow and atmospherics is codeine calm before the storm. “Farewell”, brings us in with a single foreboding bass drum and distant cosmic guitar chimes before the crystal ball is dropped and shards of guitars ring out. Despite the layered buzzsaw of the guitars, the song is fairly vocal-centric as vocalists Atsuo and Takesi howl in waves that nestle against the crescendo of feedback and crashing drums. No time for pensive thoughts or to consolidate with the washed up symbol sounds and ushered feedback as we might presume would bookend the shoegazer. No, instead the mix is sharply cut into the speed garage of title track “Pink”. The mix serves as an illustration of the ease Boris can push the button on this album simultaneously putting a key through your chrome whenever they feel like it. Still on “Pink”, we hear bass, guitar and drums all race through, before guitar takes time out from riff crunching to rip out some wired solos. The vocals are again what you might not expect, leaning towards a more emo and hardcore twinge though it is virtually impossible to make out anything exact.
Atsuo and Takesi howl in waves that nestle against the crescendo of feedback and crashing drums.
“Woman on Screen” and “Nothing Special” follow a similar trend —amps are stacked up and the rev count lies heavily in red. Far from a sort of cock-sure showboating these tracks have a live appeal to them and sound through the various “whoops” and “yee hahs” that Boris are genuinely enjoying themselves. For a few seconds around the 2-minute mark on “Woman on Screen” drums and bass are stripped away to leave the single guitar to ring out. For those few moments with the debris of the other instruments gone, one realises how nuclear the riff is — it just spiggin buzzes. Equally, two minutes in length, “Nothing Special”’s punk is the antithesis to the guitar delay and drone of Boris’s more accustomed sound. If we’re being hypercritical here we might say that the aforementioned tracks and later tracks such as “Electric” and “Six, Three Burns” lack a little variety but we could also just let it go — so we’ll say just that, let it go.
Grumbles aside, “Blackout” shows they can still do doom and subvert it a little with guitars for sirens that work to dispel the usual cavernous feel of doom transplanting it to an unabridged outside. “Blackout” sounds reminiscent of the darker stuff coming from Justin Broadrick’s solo project Final, guitars are processed and echoed, drums are loud but very distant and you wish you could see but you can’t. Towards the end, “My Machine” sees Boris pushing the button again this time from fast to slow and back to a sort of equilibrium. The quiet whirling of guitar in the back ground and the soft reverie-like chords in the foreground act as a brief aquarium that sonically reminds us of Pink’s beginning, inducing a sort of nostalgia that alerts us to an acute sense of time passing, opposed to the ‘moment is now’ speed garage of the previous songs. Perhaps it is unsurprising, that “My Machine” also prepares us for the closing colossus that is “Just Abandoned Myself”. Borrowing from the psych rock of bands like Acid Mothers Temple, “Just Abandoned Myself” is ten minutes in length and is the sound of what you might imagine yourself to be doing if you abandoned yourself (…) ooh, I’ve just begun to kick the fuck out of you. Gees.