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Album Review

After being silent for nearly three years, Japan's Boris returned with a vengeance in 2011, issuing three albums, all of which reappraise to varying degrees their original rep as a noise metal power trio. Attention Please and Heavy Rocks (the latter an extension of an album with that title from 2002) were released on the same day in May. Those albums were assembled from material cut for an abandoned offering. In turn, over half of New Album contains revisioned material from those records. It was issued earlier in the year in Japan in slightly different form. New Album goes one step further by combining the spacier sonics on Attention Please with the overdriven power riffage on Heavy Rocks. To accomplish this unholy marriage, the band hired dance-pop arranger and producer Shinobu Narita, who makes the most of his opportunity, glossing up the proceedings with relish and even abandon — so much so, in fact, that less seasoned Boris fans may initially be hard-pressed to identify the band. Inspired by J-pop and its synthetic production techniques and sheeny surfaces, this mix places vocals way up front and guitars are moved more to a central rather than prominent place, save for a few tracks. It's a meld of dissonant rock harmonics, dance-pop, and indie pop, and it works — mostly. Opening the set is "Flare," a true standout. It's the beautifully warped meeting of J-pop anime soundtrack aesthetics and propulsive rockist urgency: guitars literally crash against keyboard loops and spacious ambiences amid an infectious melody. The intense 4/4 bass drum on "Party Boy" (from Attention Please), originally colored by low-tuned bass and guitars with electronic blips, has been fleshed out with angular sketchy keyboard lines and backwards guitar riffs here. "Spoon" (also from Attention Please) takes shoegaze pop and fluffs it up with woozy cloud-climbing keyboards, with brittle eccentric sonics tacked inside, and sends Wata's vocal and guitar drifting over the top. The U.S. version of New Album replaces "Black Original" with the frenzied, brilliant, over-the-rails production excess that is "Luna." “Pardon?” is spacious and jangly, with sparse jazz-like phrases from Wata. "Les Paul 86" suffers due to its elimination of the crazy metallic guitar assault that appeared on Attention Please's original. "Jackson Head" (Heavy Rocks II) is an insistent, cracking rocker with luxuriant textures — Wata's razored guitar solo attack and the frenzied drum and basslines of Atsuo and Takeshi, respectively, are uncut aural heroin. The set closer, the long and dreamy "Looprider," is redolent of Sonic Youth, and would have been right at home on Attention Please. Terminal hipsters and Boris' more heavy metal-oriented devotees might decry New Album as a failed experiment, but they're wrong. After 15 years, Boris are doing exactly what they should with fascinating if uneven results: testing their limits as a band and expanding their sonic horizons.


Formed: 1994 in Tokyo, Japan

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Japanese cult favorite sludge/doom rock trio Boris take their name from a song on grunge godfathers the Melvins' Bullhead album. They also have a lot in common with the Melvins musically, including a fondness for heavily downtuned guitar/bass tones and exceedingly slow tempos. But they also incorporate elements variously drawn from other sources, including psychedelic rock, punk, noise, minimalism, pure sludge-drone music à la Earth, and more. Also, despite the unpretentious psychedelic/stoner rock...
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New Album, Boris
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