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BORIS: Noise (Album Review)


Over 22 years and 19 studio albums it’s fair to say that Boris has always been a band to explore new musical territory and revel in experimentation. This makes them a gloriously difficult band to pigeonhole and define accurately, simply because it is virtually impossible anticipate their next move. This is, after all, a band who released three very different albums in one year alone (Attention Please, Heavy Rocks, and New Album all arrived in 2011).

As you might expect from a band that takes their name from a Melvins track, Boris tend to explore the heavier end of the spectrum, whether it’s drone or doom (they collaborated with Sunn O))) on Altar), ’70s psych-rock (Heavy Rocks), something much more leftfield (their Merzbow collaboration), or dabbling with pop aesthetics, they never seem to be out of their comfort zone. This is primarily because they take music as a whole, ignoring genre boundaries and rules, and make the music they want to.

Noise is perhaps one of their defining statements in that it combines every approach the band has adopted previously and combines them in one breathtaking record. The title is a little misleading as this isn’t one of Boris’ more impenetrable, noisy albums, if anything; it’s one of the most accessible. Opening the record is Melody, a track that is positively swamped in the stuff. From it’s gentle, lilting open and onwards into shimmering power-pop this is Boris taking full on rock and inflating it with effortless hooks and vocal elegance. Certainly the noise is there in the frantic guitar work of Wata, in particular when she’s let off the leash to explore a mix of shoegaze and furious hard rock soloing, but it still sounds delightfully uplifting and glorious.

Recent single Vanilla defies all conventions and somehow manages to discover exactly what would have happened had the punks accepted rather than dismissed prog-rock. Raucous and ridiculous in scope it nevertheless succeeds brilliantly. Quicksilver thrashes along in a similar but much more direct vein. It pulls on thrash metal and hardcore vocals for its inspiration whilst also ensuring that there’s enough melody resonating in the vocals. Only at its close does it begin to melt into a slow, disintegrating sludge; something that long term fans of the band will recognise.
The atmospheric post-metal of Ghost Of Romance finds the band in more expansive mood. It’s genuinely haunting, and plays the long established quite-loud-quiet template wonderfully. There’s something about it that is not entirely dissimilar to the washes of Palms’ debut album, which is of course, no bad thing. Heavy Rain is doomier, more gothic fare, with Wata’s vocals and delayed guitars filling up negative space like the echoing whispers of ghosts. The crushing slow riffing of the last few minutes, juxtaposed with Wata’s sweet vocal lines provokes images of meteors falling on orphanages, or childlike visions of the apocalypse. It is by turns terrifying and utterly beautiful. As if recognising that things are starting to sound a little bleak, BORIS change take and throw in Taiyo No Baka, a quirky little j-pop number that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on a Shonen Knife album and that has vocals that might well have been culled from an EMF studio outtake.

Obviously the only place to go from there is on an enormous post-rock ramble, and Angel does just that. Clocking in at around 19 minutes it smoulders skilfully through delicate guitar passages before unfurling forcibly, creating powerful cavernous passages of sheer wonder. It resolves wonderfully via a chorus of harmonious feedback feeding into the same delicate guitar motif that introduced the song. As an example of Boris at their best, it’s hard to top, but this is an album that finds the band in particularly rude health. Noise never sounded so good.