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Monday, May 31, 2010

BORIS ‘boris at last – feedbacker –‘ LP review on TOKAFI

Sound, Drones and Rock n Roll: An unexpectedly positive noise-symphony.

Most likely because of their love for noise, distortion and feedback, Japanese Trio Boris have sometimes been classified as Post-Metal-deconstructionist. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Turning the amplifier into the focal point of their sound, the band may actually represent the original spirit of Sound, Drones and Rock n Roll more faithful than most of their peers. In an age, when Rock has turned into an economic vertical ruled by rational logic, their take on the genre is as reinvigorating as it is, in an admittedly twisted way, pure. Even the outward hubris of a release like „Feedbacker“ signals, if anything, a return to the core values of the genre and to a time when musicians would try and expand the borders of music rather than cater to a bourgeois need for weekendly simulations of revolution: Composed of a single, fourtythree-minute composition characterised as a „symphony“ in the press release and comprising a host of different movements and styles, it defies the law of gravity by proudly revolving around its own axis.

At the time „Feedbacker“ was first published as a co-production between their own, bizarrely titled, Fangs Anal Satan imprint and Conspiracy Records in 2003, Boris were still more of a small cult-band which had managed to secure one-off releases with fledgling label Southern Lord. The album would, however, quickly cement their name as one of the first harbingers of the surge of a new wave of Noise-Rock-bands to whom the sound, physical feeling and immersive qualities of Guitar-feedback meant everything, but the „evil“ aesthetics and distopian Weltanschauung of Metal were more of a gimmick than something to be truly taken seriously. Eight years on, it is not hard to discern what made them such an enticing proposition: Defying fixed terms like improvisation or song, the work drew from the unconscious rather than the subconscious, inventing itself with spell-binding imagination in each moment. It was in-your-face enough for slow-motion headbanging, yet complex enough to warrant repeat listens. Accessible enough to appeal to those in love with the quaffable groove and slacker-mentality of the Stoner-community, yet radical enough to qualify as experimental. And it combined a deep admiration for the classic cornerstones of distortion-worship with the passionate ambition of transcending them.

On the one hand, one could therefore simply perceive the record as a smoothly segued juxtaposition of five distinct tracks. On the other, it also makes sense to regard it as a creative continuum, bracketed by an opening solo-Guitar exercise drenched in warm, crunching frequencies and, a full three quarters of an hour later, a relaxed band-outro rising from the debris of the preceding onslaught like a drowsy phoenix from the ashes. Contained between these poles are a dreamily drifting space-section ingenuously slowed down by Drummer Atsuo's intricate half-time beat, raw, unholy powerchords and an almost funky groove-section, which sees frontman Takeshi contrasting elegant vocal lines with mysteriously metaphorical lyrics: „Must shoot at the season of the fangs that has forgotten to make a decision. Fragments have come together to become me. Millions of me, million ways of living.“ Just when you thought melody and hooks had taken over, Boris relentlessly send the entire piece through the shredder. Riffs are broken apart into their formants, licks smashed to pieces, Guitar- and Bass-lines stretched into chilling, frosty tones, as percussive patterns mutate into a grinding sequence of metallic hihats slowly fading away into darkness.

Boris have always placed seminal importance on communicating with their listeners as directly as possible, which is why live-gigs are probably still the place where their ideals shine through in their most precise and undiluted form. And yet, their studio-output is marked by the very same ideal of music constituting a two-sided exchange. By finding a balance between the textural sound-properties of their music and the notion of a journey marked by development, transition and transformation, „Feedbacker“ forces its audience to surrender to it completely. Sections brimming with beauty take turns with terrifyingly mangled din, wilfully burning whatever background wallpaper-qualities the album may have had, but this is anything but an act of destruction. In the act of listening, a bond is struck between listener and band, which can be taken for an invitation to share the inexplicable intensity of an experience regardless of what's ahead. Compared to the occasionally offputtingly mathematical permutations and calculated aggression of many of their peers, that is an unexpectedly positive message by all means.

By Tobias Fischer

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