Yeah, that’s right. You get a second Artist Spotlight today. I was gong to push this back to tomorrow, but it was way too much work to re-edit this in preparation to post it so it is not an absolute mess. If I don’t have the patience to do that now, I definitely will not have the patience to do it tomorrow.
I am not much of a metal guy. I can enjoy individual metal songs here and there from various subgenres, but nothing that I would listen to unless prompted every so often. Most of the metal-like acts that I like are just that, metal-like; I just cannot get myself to burrow down that rabbit hole. From 1997 to 2007, Tool was pretty much the only “metal” band that I enjoyed enough to get albums for and listen to without being pushed to listen to them. Yeah, I know, I know.
Anyways, in 2007, I was introduced to the album Pink by the band Boris during a Yousendit frenzy…with no description given. You remember Yousendit, right? Well, given the minimalist nature of Yousendit, I went in with absolutely no knowledge of what I was about to hear and loved it. Why do I like Boris so much? I don’t know. Perhaps it is due to getting to them before I got to other bands, making them the standard-bearer to my ears. I guess that maybe the song variety kept things seeming fresh, even if individual tracks sometimes sounded the same as others. And they largely avoided the elements and subgenres that I found to be too awkward to enjoy. They were metal, but also not. The music was simple without being simplistic. The sound could be both beautiful and ugly. One could dance, one could headbang, one could just get lost in it and then blasted back out.
I went to a few concerts between 2002 and 2009; not so much before and not so much afterwards. But, when I heard in 2013 that Boris would be performing for two nights in Boston, I had to drive over there for both. It was a small club (three bars, though) and the performances had few frills, but it was a wonderful experience for me. I took a few pictures…three of which are below. Anyways…
Named after a song by the Melvins, Boris was formed in 1992. Atsuo Mizuno was on lead vocals, Wata was on lead guitar, Takeshi Ohtani was on bass/electric guitar, and Nagata was on drums. They released demos in 1993 and 1994, but Nagata quit in 1996, just before the band made their official debut. As a result, Atsuo had to take over as drummer. Between 1996 and 2016, the trio has released…well…a lot of stuff, just like the band that gave them their name. I could not hope to cover each release (and Youtube took down two of the videos that I was going to use anyways), so I will list all of their releases (not counting re-releases or singles) and pick out a few songs from their official non-collaborative albums. Some of the tracks that I use were on re-releases, but whatever, you get the gist. And if I forgot to put a release or two on the list…well…I wouldn’t be surprised.
Also, I am guessing that any of you who posted in that Metal thread may be able to describe this band’s music and musical influences better than I, but them’s the breaks. Please direct your corrections and clarifications to the comment section.
In the beginning, there was Boris and Nagata.
Demo Vol 1 (1993)
Demo Vol 3 (1994)
Years 1996 – 2002
Boris came out of the gate as a “not for everyone” band. Their first solo release was Absolutego , a single 60-minute piece of drone metal in the style of Earth and the Melvins. Notes played loudly and slowly, with Takeshi howling the vocals. Subsequent releases would have shorter tracks, but in a similar drone style. There were also tracks with faster guitar playing and drumming, like black metal, though the sounds were so close together that it sounded pretty much just like the drone metal songs if you shook them. There was also the occasional kind of stoner rock music and sludge metal…so, still kind of like the Melvins, but with less sarcastic goofing off.
Barebones / Boris Split EP (October 1996)
Boris / Tomsk 7 Split EP (1997)
Black: Implication Flooding – live collaboration with Keiji Haino (October 1998)
Amplifier Worship (November 26, 1998)
More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape – Boris /Choukoku no Niwa Split (1999)
Flood (December 15, 2000)
Drone metal continued to be a Boris staple, but other styles became prominent. The Melvin-esque stoner rock/sludge style became more prominent, more mid-tempo to fast stuff with more conventional rock song structure. There were also more quiet tracks where Wata sounded like she was improvising. With atmosphere being as important as melody, some tracks descended into noise and ambient soundscapes that test the relationship between an electric guitar, the effects pedals, and the speaker. These styles did kind of exist before, but they entered the forefront during this time.
Megatone – collaboration with Merzbow (April 26, 2002)
Heavy Rocks (April 26, 2002)
Boris/The Dudley Corporation Split EP (2003)
Akuma no Uta (June 6, 2003)
Boris at Last -Feedbacker- (December 25, 2003)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked (August 2004)
04092001 – collaboration with Merzbow (February 11, 2005)
Dronevil (February 28, 2005)
Sound Track from the Film Mabuta no Ura (June 29, 2005)
Sun Baked Snow Cave – collaboration with Sunn O))) (August 23, 2005)
Boris Archive – live album (2005)
Pink (November 18, 2005)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 2 (April 9, 2006)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 3 (April 9, 2006)
Vein (October 2006)
Altar – collaboration with Sunn O))) (October 31, 2006)
Rainbow – collaboration with Michio Kurihara (December 23, 2006)
Walrus/Groon – collaboration with Merzbow (April 2007)
Long Hair and Tights – Boris/Doomriders split live album (October 31, 2006)
Damaged – Boris/Stupid Babies Go Mad Split EP (July 27, 2007)
Rock Dream – live collaboration with Merzbow (October 27, 2007)
Smile (March 7, 2008)
Smile – Live at Wolf Creek- – live album (November 21, 2008)
Cloud Chamber – collaboration with Michio Kurihara (December 23, 2008)
Smile – Live in Prague (2009)
Golden Dance Classics – 9dw/Boris split (2009)
BXI EP – collaboration with Ian Astbury (2010)
Boris/Variations + Live in Japan (2010)
Boris proper came back in 2011 with a bunch of stuff. And a bunch more variety. While drone, noise, stoner rock, quiet doodling, and black metal were still mainstays, there was also a bit more accessible indie J-rock songs. More electronic elements allowed for some kind of dance-pop along with stuff that kind sounded industrial. It was also around this time that Wata began singing more in the songs. It is a bit of an interesting choice. While Takeshi has maybe four different (not all that great) vocal modes, Wata maintains the same quiet breathiness regardless of the style of song. Similar to her anti-stage presence, Wata seems to put her all of her effort into playing her instrument and not really anything else, and she makes it work.
Boris/Saade split (2011)
Klatter – collaboration with Merzbow (February 23, 2011)
New Album (March 16, 2011)
Heavy Rocks (May 24, 2011) Yes, they used the same title again.
Attention Please (May 24, 2011)
Asobi Sksu x Boris – Asobi Seksu/Boris split (2011)
Boris/Joe Volk Split (2012)
Präparat (March 6, 2013
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked –Chronicle (March 20, 2013)
Archive II – Live (2014)
Noise (June 18, 2014)
urban dance (May 2, 2015)
warpath (May 2, 2015)
asia (May 2, 2015)
Gensho – collaboration with Merzbow (March 16, 2016)
Crossing Waltz – live album (2016)
Scar Box from Demo Vol 3 – 3:34
Is there a Demo Vol 2? Heck if I know. I do know that the Youtube video lists this track as being on Vol 3, though a slightly longer version is on their first split EP. The Melvins influence is pretty obvious. It is a slow and dirty sludge metal track, though it gets fast for maybe the first half.
Kuruimizu from Amplifier Worship – 14:30
Voice of an angel that Takeshi. This starts out sort of stoner rock, then goes into sludge metal about two minutes in. Then five minutes in, the distortion cuts out and it is just quite plucking and repeater effects. And that goes on for about eight minutes, and then ends about a minute and a half of feedback whining and buzzing. And that all adds up to 14 and a half minutes of Boris.
Flood 3 from Flood – 20:39
A 70-minute opus split into 4 parts, Flood is a quiet and contemplative post-rockesque track with an explosion in the middle. Flood 3 charts that explosion, being quiet for the first few minutes before turning loud. The melody starts sounding like the theme song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for some reason, repeating that over and over until getting cut off…a transition to Flood 4.
Soft Edge from Heavy Rocks – 3:51
Heavy Rocks was mostly stoner rock except for Soft Edge, one that sounds mostly just a showcase for Wata doodling around on her guitar. It is quite pretty.
Ibitsu from Akuma no Uta – 3:18
Ibitsu is one of my favorite tracks, if only because how it has an idiosyncratic structure and tempo changes while still remaining an actual song.
Feedbacker 1 from Boris at Last -Feedbacker- – 9:38
Drone…drone…it starts out with just…well, quiet feedback from an amplifier that is hooked up to an unplayed guitar. It takes nearly a minute for the first actual note to get played. Then another forty seconds for the first chord to get strummed. And it keeps going on like that for a while, with the feedback noise running free in the background. There is a little variation here and there, but that is basically it. Just let it wash over you and slither its way through you.
Red from Dronevil – 21:31
Red was…well, not the track that I had initially planned to use from this album. I was going to pick Giddiness Throne, a track where you might not have even been able to tell that a guitar was involved. Youtube took it down a few weeks ago, though it did not take down the video of the full album where the track was included. Well, anyways, this one has a similar slow and quiet vibe, even though the sound is completely different. It is sort of like the more laid-back Earth tracks. The ambient bass having about as much prominence as the gentle guitar. The track does not even really have a proper melody until the drums come in just under 2/3s of the way in. At this point, the track uses empty space as an instrument for quite a while.
Okay, I promise, no more tracks over 10-minutes long. Also, if you got this far, then you are over halfway done.
Yesterday Morning from Sound Track from the Film Mabuta no Ura – 3:16
A soundtrack to a movie that never actually existed, the tracks here are quiet and mostly meant to be played in the background. Yesterday Morning is one such piece, using a guitar feedback to sound almost like a flute.
Farewell from Pink – 9:55
Farewell was actually the first Boris song that I ever heard (okay, not this version, but close enough) and I was immediately hooked. The echoing guitar just envelopes everything even before the distortion kicks in. The vocals seem backgrounded, contributing to the dreamlike quality of the song. Even when the distortion hits a nasty note and the fuzz turns dirty, it is just beautiful.
Track 9 from Vein – 0:46
Less beautiful is Vein. Released in both a noise and hardcore version, Vein is noisy and obnoxious. And Track 9 is a pretty good example of that. On the plus side, it is not twenty-minutes long. It is not even a minute long. You’re welcome
You Were Holding an Umbrella from Smile – 9:19
You Were Holding an Umbrella starts with some sort of drum-machine instrument and more gentle atmospheric guitars. Takeshi’s vocals are lazy and tired-sounding. Just when it seems like the song ends, the distortion kicks in.
Good news everyone: none of the following songs are even five-minutes long.
Les Paul ‘86 from New Album – 4:06
Released in two versions, this version of Les Paul ’86 is anchored by a pulsing electronic drumbeat that almost never quits. There are sounds in the background that are probably a combination of orchestral samples, Wata playing the keyboard, Wata singing, and Wata tinkering on her guitar.
Window Shopping from Heavy Rocks – 3:53
Window Shopping continues their sort of stoner rock/sludge metal style, but has Wata doing the lead vocals. And, as I said, she does not change her singing style.
Hope from Attention Please – 3:52
More indie rock than metal, Hope features synth strings even more prominently than the guitars. The video goes on for several more seconds than the actual song, by the way.
December from Präparat – 3:51
Another slow and quiet post-rocky track, this time with a little more structure.
Taiyo no Baka from Noise – 3:35
Contrary to the title of the album, Taiyo no Baka is a pretty accessible rock song. I am not sure if I would call it indie pop rock, but it is pretty easy to dance around to.
Un, Deux, Trois from urban dance – 4:35
Have you ever turned on the radio and thought to yourself that the music playing was really just a bunch of noise? Well…
At some point, the “this one goes to eleven” attitude and the need for more distortion get to the point where the “guitar” aspect of an electric guitar becomes irrelevant; it is merely a tool to help direct the sounds going through the pedals to the amplifier. The sound of strings being plucked has long since vanished, replaced by a fuzzy buzz, whine, the chunky crunch, the scratch. Sometimes, rock bands use these sounds as flavoring; sometimes, they are the actual meal. Last year, Boris released two hours of material that was almost exclusively the noise that comes from this. And that was before their sixth collaboration with noise-master Merzbow this year. I guess that no one can accuse Boris of going pop. Below is one of the shorter examples of this style. Rock out.