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Austin Psych Fest Live (Saturday): Boris/Masaki Batoh’s Brain Pulse Music

Mad scientists and psych-rock hurricanes
Michael Toland, 1:17pm, Sun. Apr. 28, 2013
photo by Shelley Hiam
Boris’ Wata, 4.27.13

Japan hits Psych Fest hard this year, with Acid Mothers Temple on Friday and this double-whammy yesterday.

Working without the apparently hibernating Ghost, the band he founded nearly 30 years ago, Masaki Batoh turns to music meant for healing with his latest project Brain Pulse Music. The quiet repetition and meditative sounds found on the album make it a tough sell as a live proposition, and Batoh’s smart enough to know it.

Putting an audience volunteer in the onstage couch and attaching a headset and goggles to her head (open the photo gallery), Batoh took the pulse that allegedly came from his subject’s brain and layered various noises from his desk full of pedals and knobs, adding the occasional miniature gongs and wooden flutes to the din. Twenty minutes later, his patient came out of her trance and Batoh – more mad scientist than musician on this trip – shut the experiment down to the puzzled interest of a sparse crowd.

Taking a break from its last few years’ worth of work with guitar god Michio Kurihara, Boris has been touring the States with a two-pronged show that’s one part experimental drone, with an emphasis on its early LP Flood, and one part more overtly song-oriented material. Given the furious psych rawk hurricane the band usually dispenses, the overall mellow vibe to this set came as a welcome surprise.

Clean guitars and bassist/guitarist Takeshi’s earnest singing took center stage on “Cosmos,” while he handed the vocal mic to guitarist Wata for the dreampopping “Rainbow,” which included an industrial strength guitar solo. Songs eventually gave way to pure sound, however, as the trio closed its set with the epic “Flood.”

Hell unleashed from the outset, Wata and Takeshi got their power chords on and drummer Atsuo held a tape recorder up to his cymbal mic to add to the chaos. The instrumental moves onto a quieter floor in the midsection, putting a spotlight on some remarkably pretty melodies. But heavy doom is never out of sight with Boris, and the deep grunge, guitar fury, and gong-bashing of the first section came roaring back.

Once all sternums has been vibrated and bowels loosened, Boris slowed its whirlwind down to a crawl, leaving enough room between notes to drive a Jeep through and letting the audience down easy.

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