This isn't the first time I've written about BORIS for this site, and it's certainly no secret that I am quite the loyal fan. There are few bands today that embrace such a vast musical diversity to quite the standard of BORIS, except perhaps Motorpsycho.
Throughout their twenty-two years together the group have straddled and dominated everything from thrash metal to post-rock, from sludge to psychedelic…. and even J-Pop. This is something we've come to expect and embrace from them, however. We're leaving our unbiased opinions at the door today and diving straight in, kids: The group's new album, Noise, is fucking incredible!
Having returned to their original three-piece lineup, you would think we'd be hearing something a little cruder and more stripped back, but it's clear from the pristine magnitude of opening track 'Melody' that BORIS just don't do second-best. The song is (you guessed it) deeply melodic and ignites the record with a furious, sparkly propulsion; a herald for the beauty and muscle to come.
Lead-single 'Vanilla ' promptly follows and is everything but. The song is dark, smokey and deeply cool, much like the insane, firey music video (see below). But these thrash numbers are relegated to the few-and-far-between in Noise, in fact 'Quicksilver' is pretty much the only other speed-freak, verging on hardcore punk territory. Instead, the group opts to sludge out most of their time in Noise, submerging the listener in walls of fuzz and psychedelia.
'Heavy Rain' is a total peak in the record; morose and indulgent, yet uplifting in the way something truly beautiful yet tragic can be. The track seems to be a sonic continuation of 2012's three-part 'Cosmos', and equally not too far from peers Bardo Pond. Snail-paced, lurching guitars fog through dense smoggy reverb, while Wata sings with an intimate frailty that hangs delicately on the brink of assimilation. As the layers fall away, the scene drops to a moment of visual serenity: grey, calm and exposed as the sound of heavy downpour dapples the ground. This moment lasts only for a brief glimpse, like the sun breaking through an overcast sky, and then BOOM!!! a deeper, thunderous plunge into a overcoming eruption of heartbreak and muscle. In layman's terms: it's a fucking powerful song.
'Heavy Rain' isn't the only one, though. After a quick interlude of the down-right silly 'Taiyo No Baka' (remember I mentioned J-Pop? Let's move on) BORIS decide that it's not enough to be the rulers to the throne of fuzz and sludge, they should also totally reclaim post-rock. It's in this single moment that MONO, for the first time ever, are beaten at their own game.
'Angel' is a ~19 minute, long-evolving opus akin to MONO's 'Yearning', or some of the delicate finger-work of Tarentel and Red Sparrows. This minimal, steady crescendo is sincere in melody and meditated in its progression; introducing instruments slowly and carefully as and when they're ready. Atsuo's drumming works as the introducing voice across the song, building from mere cymbal splashes into a flurry of rabid breaks and violent fills. Through layered vocals, crazy effects and an ethereal guitar solo the group build a heady, slow-paced haze only to drop it abruptly into an uptempo headbanger, marking the point of recession backwards from this zenith. Sloping with care, the three-piece pull back from catharsis through truly beautiful melody and ambience only to return with one final, eventual snap to the initial MONO-eqsue guitar picking.
Noise is an album of strengths, from a musical force unmatched and without peers. In their field BORIS remain a singular voice, straddling such a variety of form with nothing but a shrug of shoulder. More a compositional voice than any regular band, these three deeply talented artists combine their 20+ years of experience and refinement to create music that helps vocalise what music should be: an abandonment of genre and category allows one to step completely away from any preconceptions of what music is or should be, and BORIS just don't fall into any single category.
Through music such as theirs, we as listeners, are able to touch our emotions and deeper thoughts by simply listening carefully and with intention. I joked earlier about 'Taiyo No Baka' and the touch of J-Pop, but that's because amidst a record of heavy empathy we're able to put our tongues in our cheeks and enjoy a bit of light-hearted, well crafted music that relieves tension between two hard-hitting compositions.
Noise might just be a couple of songs that the band threw together after Nagata left the band, an they could just be a few ideas that were jammed out on tour, but if so they're really fucking good. In the grand scale of BORIS, there's perhaps nothing new, yet it works as a welcome reminder that there are some bands out there who don't make singles, or chase the charts, or run for festival headline slots, but rather spend an entire career crafting important, honest music. These people are the ones who should be praised and remembered, and their music will always stand the test of time.