Released: 2007, Drag City Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
After hearing Boris’ brilliant collaboration with drone/doom superheroes Sunn O))) (and still reeling from having missed their tour stop here last year), I was immediately interested in what else the Japanese band had to offer. When given the chance to review the latest output from Boris, another collaboration, this time with Ghost’s Michio Kurihara, I jumped at the chance.
I cannot express the surprise I felt when popping in RAINBOW and hearing the ambient, psychedelic melodies that poured from my speakers. Metal? Not by a long shot. In fact, RAINBOW has more in common with Radiohead and Portishead than Motorhead, so tread carefully, those who seek the same treasure I did.
While not an electronic and sample-laced album, RAINBOW features the heavy-feedback guitar prowess of Kurihara, an underground hero in Japan. Kurihara’s solos are equal parts garage rock and acid-soaked, feedback-driven squelches of noise that would make Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young proud. Coupled with the delicate melodies of vocalists Takeshi and Wata and the simple beats of Atsuo, a very unique and complex medley of sounds, not unlike a band like Jesu, is the result.
From the bass distortion that opens “Rafflesia” to the thunderous, droning wall of sound, the tone is instantly set with what to expect on RAINBOW. Plodding along at a snail’s pace, the rhythm section (if you can deem music this slow as having “rhythm”) of Takeshi and Atsuo bombard the listener with blasts of almost subliminal intensity. Takeshi’s pained vocals (everything is sung in Japanese with English lyrics in the CD booklet) paint a sorrowful picture even to those who do not speak the language. The title track is a subdued number in the vein of Portishead/Massive Attack sweetly sung by Wata. Her almost whisper-like, monotone delivery is offset by Kurihara’s fuzzy, feedback-laden solo midway through. “Starship Narrator” is pure garage rock with a snare-heavy focus and Kurihara absolutely ripping through a solo. Immediately following this ugly noise is the short instrumental “My Rain,” a track that the Icelandic ambient band Sigur Rós could easily claim as their own. The guitar-run-backwards on “Fuzzy Reactor” is drugged-out psychedelia at its finest. Kurihara lets loose on his shredding solo during the oddly-named stoner rock of “You Laughed Like A Water Mark” in a throwback to what Neil Young and Crazy Horse was doing on mid-seventies albums like TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT. Even “Sweet No. 1” has that fuzzed-out guitar tone popularized in the late sixties and early seventies by British blues bands. The funky groove on this track is absolutely killer but once Kurihara lets loose, it almost makes your ears melt right off the sides of your head. Concluding with the barely-audible instrumental “No Sleep Till I Become Hollow,” the listener is left feeling lighter than air and winded all at the same time.
RAINBOW is an eclectic album that really caught me off guard. Coming from the expectation that Boris would be tapping into the ultra-low brown notes of their Sunn O))) association, these songs were off-putting at first and are definitely NOT for the metal fan looking for dragons, chains and leather. For every moment of shredding guitar hero worship, there are just as many filled with noise-rock ruckus and tender melodies. Upon deeper investigation, I found Boris is known for completely changing their style with each album and keeping fans guessing as to what they will sound like. As one of music’s most prolific artists, this hazy entry into Boris’ billowing catalogue (over fifteen releases in two years) is sure to catch many metal fans off guard but will also excite and enthuse just as many hipsters and wannabes.
KILLER KUTS: “Rafflesia,” “Rainbow,” “Starship Narrator,” “Fuzzy Reactor,” “Sweet No. 1”