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Album Review

What do you get when you pair the most diverse Japanese power trio with one of the same country's most inventive guitarists? Rainbow pairs Boris, a band who makes so many different kind of records — though all of them in their way are "heavy" — and Michio Kurihara from Japan's longest running freak scene band Ghost, who are also known to change sounds, themes and operational M.O.'s each time they record. The end result is a series of psychedelic songs — yes, songs (albeit sung in Japanese with lyric translations in the booklet) — that provide the Boris trio of Takeshi (guitars, bass, vocals), Wata (guitars, vocal, glockenspiel) and Atsuo (drums) an opportunity to do what they do best: invent spooky, time-shifting soundscapes for Kurihara to play off of without drowning in jam band fever. This does not sound like anything from other Japanese bands like Musica Transonic, White Heaven, Mainliner, or Stars. It's a memorable and disciplined series of songs that feel more like something Ghost would do than anything else, but Kurihara is restrained in his primary band behind Masaki Batoh; here he gets to cut loose with some of his more involved six-string freak-outs and electric humbucking sickness. Parts of this set, such as "Starship Narrator," are up-tempo wailers that go right for the heart of the psychedelic beast. Atsuo's drums are heavy in the bottom end, and a muddy, hissy noisescape provides open space for Kurihara's guitar explorations and extreme wah wah pedal, whammy bar, and finger-flying intensity to break the track into pieces with his solo. Beautiful. Contrast this with the next cut, "My Rain," where the soft, melodic interplay of guitars floats over backmasked tape and subtle outside-the-frame distortions. It's simple, beautiful and brief; a break in the Maelstrom. While everything here is worth hearing, especially since the way the tracks are sequenced makes this feel like an album, one tune leading to another, moving forward into an unknown that is sensual, spacious, multi-textured and beautifully articulated. "You Laughed Like a Water Mark," where acoustic guitars, muted drum kit, controlled feedback and Kurihara's fuzz warped guitar cut through the lyric line to underscore and bring home the poignant words. It's poetic, driven and hypnotic in its seeming monotony, though there is so much going on it's impossible to note it all in one listen. "Sweet No. 1" is pure Boris style freak-out sans drone. It's heat-driven rock that pushes Kurihara to let that knife-like tone soar above before he is driven to his wah wah pedal and complemented by Takeshi playing back in call and response. It's freaking nuts. There are vocals but they are more shouted than sung in the heart of the beast that this wailer is. Rainbow is the most cohesive collaboration Boris has ever done. It towers over their recording with Sunn 0))) and is a completely different animal than anything they've done with Merzbow. It's a sign of their sheer musicality and dynamic diversity as a group. As for Kurihara's place, this album was a vehicle for him to shine as a player, as a creator of textures and tensions, but also to engage with a band that fully "gets" his other side apart from Ghost. This is what great, uncompromising neo-psychedelic rock is all about: it draws from the past and points ever forward into the unknown future.


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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Rainbow, Boris
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