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Boris – Noise

Sargent House

Boris - NoiseBoris. Where does one start with Boris? Well, maybe with a water cannon to the face, the floppy-haired posh twat. Oh, not THAT Boris? OK, so which Boris, then? The sludgy stoner rock merchants of Absolutego fame? The spooky doom band behind that Sunn0))) collaboration? The magnificent rock band that gave us Heavy Rocks and Smile? Or the bizarre yet immaculate J-pop metal band behind New Album?

It gets a bit confusing when you start talking about a band as eclectic and mercurial, so let’s just simplify things, square the circle and divide by zero, and say “all of the above.” Because that’s what we get with their latest album, Noise. The opening track, “Melody,” kicks off like any one of a dozen heavy goth rock acts from the ’80s until a few bars in when Boris turn on the taps and the whole thing is flooded with a wash of glorious guitar noise, Atsuo hammering away in the background and chucking out fills and rolls like a particularly demented baker. It’s a pretty good mission statement for what is to come, showcasing their gloriously melodic heaviness right up front.

The album’s centrepiece (if it can really be called a centrepiece when it’s right near the end) is the 18-minute epic “Angel,” which pretty much sums up the album as Boris pull all their tricks out of the bag and chuck them in your face. Beginning with a hauntingly plaintive and minimal guitar melody, it gradually builds into something Godspeed You! Black Emperor wouldn’t be embarrassed to whip out at a party, Takeshi crooning over an immense wash of sound and soloing away on that famous double-necked guitar of his before it all picks up the pace. It’s oddly reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction‘s legendarily beautiful and massive multi-part opus “Three Days” in the way it shifts from movement to movement. It’s immense, and by the time it’s actually rocking out it’s hard to tell where it started doing so; there’s nothing for it but to just sink in and enjoy the ride.

Not speaking Japanese and therefore having nary a scooby what Takeshi’s singing about makes it a purely musical experience; voice as instrument, noise as beautiful weapon. By the end it’s chiming away like Jesu — or a slightly scary Cocteau Twins — before returning us to that opening melody. It’s beautiful, and while it may not say EVERYTHING you need to know about Boris, it does say quite a bit. Following, as it does, the poptastic Takeshi/Wata duet of “Taiyo No Baka,” it’s hard to resist using the word “eclectic” again. But I did it in quotes, so it’s OK. In its lighter moments Noise can come across a bit like Sonic Youth, a long time ago when they were a) still a thing, b) relatively youthful and c) really good.

As is almost traditional by now (well, it’s happened at least once before, so that counts, right?) Wata takes over vocal duties on a track with the word “Rain” in the title — this time it’s “Heavy Rain” (like the David Cage game that never made it to any consoles or systems I actually own *sob*), which is actually quite a bit LIKE heavy rain (as in the meteorological phenomenon), being simultaneously fragile and crushing.

I wouldn’t necessarily say Noise is Boris’s BEST album, though a few more weeks of living with it might change that; they have a way of getting under your skin with prolonged exposure. Each track has me wanting more of THAT, and then they go and do the other thing until I want more of that instead. But hey, if the worst thing you can say about an album is that it’s hugely varied and there should be twice as much of it, you’re probably onto a winner. What I will say is that it’s probably the best stepping-on point for anyone wanting to dip their toes into this most unclassifiable and intimidatingly prolific (imagine a metal equivalent of The Fall, only with an actual solid line-up, and then forget about what The Fall actually sound like) of rock bands.

Come on in, the metal’s lovely.

-Justin Farrington-

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