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Friday, March 20, 2015

Boris: Absolutego

BORIS: ABSOLUTEGO (1996)

1) Absolutego.

Western musical culture sure has sown some mighty bizarre seeds on Japanese soil (I'm sure every one of us has some favorite, particularly kinky, example), and it is perhaps no accident that some of the best recognized names in the «noise» and «drone» categories, like Merzbow (Masami Akita), come from the Land of the Hallucinatory Rising Sun, where East and West meet like crazy and produce mindblowing fusion reactions. Whether you like it, hate it, admire it, or de­spise it, there is no denying the uniqueness of it, which might spring upon you in unpredictable ways — and even damage your senses beyond repair, so let's be careful here.

The relative uniqueness of the first album by Boris, a three-part musical (sort of) monster who may or may not take their name from that of Russia's first president, lies first and foremost in the ratio of its sheer musical content to its length. The total number of chords «played» by the band probably does not exceed three or four, while the album's single, unbroken track clocks in around the 60 minute mark (and, apparently, they thought it too brief, so that the next CD release, called Absolutego+, dragged it up to 65 — by artificially slowing down the already superslow piece). Take that length away and you have nothing: just a bit of heavy, feedback-drenched droning which, like all kinds of heavy, feedback-drenched droning, owes its existence to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, the mother-drone, without proving that the offspring has anything to add to what the mother already stated quite «expressively».

But oh, the length. When you have sixty minutes to set yourself up, blow it all to hell, and then step back and let the electricity run out on its own, you have no reason to compromise, do you? First, you have yourself three minutes of pure feedback — no hands, ma. Then you have your buildup: from one guitar, plucked only long enough to generate another mini-wave of feedback, to adding a second guitar that sounds like an electric box on the verge of exploding, to scattered percussion effects — the drums proper do not kick in until the twenty-fourth minute or so, where they are also joined by a little bit of mock-death metal screaming. The central part constitutes about twenty minutes of sonic whirlwinding, and finally, as the drums and one of the guitars gra­dually die out, we are left with about fifteen minutes of high-pitched looping feedback that cut off abruptly — if you have the strength to endure it, there's no better way for you to learn to appreci­ate the blessed gift of Silence.

I have to admit that this uncompromisingly Gargantuan approach does give the album a certain «pull». Play one chord and suck in the feedback it generates for ten seconds, and it will be cool. Do the same thing for one minute and it will get boring. Do the same thing for three minutes and it will get very boring. Do the same thing for five minutes and it will become excruciating, tortu­rous, insufferable. Do it for nine minutes and you have lost touch with surrounding reality: you now exist on a different plane, where there is just you, Boris, and a bunch of busy frequencies in between. Suddenly you realize that you are now living and breathing them, and you dimly realize that some sort of world exists somewhere far away, where the Beatles sing ob-la-di-bla-da and people talk in natural languages, but you no longer know if you will be capable of re-adapting once you get back there, and perhaps it is not safe to get back there at all... but luckily, we are still only on the eleventh minute, and there's fifty more to go, and you feed yourself on feedback like the Man From Mars who eats guitars, cars, and bars, and the howling drones are your life, and the high-pitched sheetmetal feedback is your oxygen, and then it gets cut off... NOOOOOO!

In other words, Absolutego is a dangerous experiment that may forever change your life if you are willing to go all the way, so do be careful. But if you are not willing to go all the way, alas, nothing will change the fact that (a) there is very little that actually gets done here, (b) most of it, if not all of it, has already been done before, and (c) electric guitar feedback simply is not the most pleasant sound ever invented by man, and unless it is properly harnessed, it can be almost as painful as a badly played violin. Not that I am saying that the chaps in Boris do not know how to harness feedback — but they ride it like a wild mustang, hanging on for sixty desperate minutes before it finally shakes them off.

That said, this is also only the very first album by Boris, and, like many experimental bands around the world, they, too, share the approach of making their earliest records look like hooli­ganish pranks before moving on to somewhat more complex projects — many of which would look totally conventional and mainstream next to the big brown splat of Absolutego. In the mean­time, though, here we are with what might look like the sonic equivalent of a sixty-minute long earth­quake — which is kind of a gruesome analogy, now that I think of it, considering how the album was released less than a year after the Kobe earthquake. Fortunately, this one is nowhere near as lethal — it will simply melt down your ears, and those can always be reforged.

7 comments:

  1. " but they ride it like a wild mustang, hanging on for sixty desperate minutes before it finally shakes them off."

    You do realize that according to the National Rodeo Association regulation the time limit is eight seconds. Then again, I dunno how them Japanese run they rodeos...

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  2. Boris now? For real? Hell yeah!

    (And it means that Boredoms can't be far off!)

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  3. Another vote for Boredoms

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  4. Delighted that this has been reviewed.
    Around 12 years ago (I don't remember exactly) I crossed over two Canadian provinces by bus (didn't have the loot back then). Evening came down & I thought it was time to drift off with some pulsing drones and chords. I popped in my Memorex disc player this album I haven't given a proper spin yet. Thinking I was in store for something ala Sleep's "Jerusalem", I experienced something I'd describe as a panic attack but worse. A slowly forming freezing dread like a panic attack during sleep paralysis.
    Since then I have only listened to it twice.
    a) without headphones
    b) without a crowd

    Take heed!

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  5. "blessed gift of Silence" indeed. I gave this a listen recently and, yeah, I've never appreciated silence more than right after it finished.

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  6. Boris are named after the Melvins song of the same name from Bullhead (1991). Melvins are to me, a much more progressive and musically interesting band than Boris.

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