Boris: Heavy Rocks

The essential Boris

Smoke detector: Boris at Mohawk last fall
Smoke detector: Boris at Mohawk last fall (by Sandy Carson)

Tracking down every album released by Boris makes finding a needle in a haystack seem like a time (and cost) efficient endeavor. The Japanese trio has released countless recordings through labels on both sides of the Atlantic, from Drag City, Important, and Hydra Head in the U.S. to Japan’s Inoxia, Daymare, and Diwphalanx. Making matters more complex, each pressing differs in some way from the one that preceded it, with changes ranging from subtle (the color of the vinyl, the cover art) to the extreme (the actual track listing).

“In a lot of ways, some of this material is not meant to be readily available,” notes Southern Lord’s Greg Anderson. “Boris looks at music almost as art projects. They need to create and get things out of their system so they can move on to the next idea.”

Thankfully, Boris tours with an incredibly expansive and well-organized merchandise booth, occasionally even carrying albums from White Heaven and the Stars, along with solo efforts from You Ishihara and Michio Kurihara (all of which are worth every penny). As a general frame of reference, the band traditionally identifies itself either as “BORIS,” to signify more song-structured rock & roll albums or as “Boris” and “boris,” to denote more experimental recordings and collaborations. Here’s a guide to the more readily available imports you may come across on Saturday at the Mohawk.*

Keiji Haino with Boris
Black: Implication Flooding (1998) A collaborative live album, culled from two hours of improvised chaos recorded at Koenji 20000V on August 31, 1997, that finds prominent experimental noise artist Keijo Haino strangling his guitar and unleashing his trademark vocal contortions while Boris magnifies the sonic terror. ***

Flood (2000) A hypnotic and meditative 70-minute tidal movement, comprised largely of impressionistic guitar akin to Michio Kurihara’s Sunset Notes, that ultimately gets washed asunder by a high tide of heavy psych. The ripple effect echoes for 20 minutes of ethereal soundscapes. ***

Heavy Rocks (2002) Morphing temporarily into a classic power trio, Heavy Rocks finds Boris’ Disraeli Gears firing on all cylinders, melding Blue Cheer with Kyuss’ desert Blues for the Red Sun, particularly during the raucous instrumental “Rattlesnake,” Stooges rave-up “1970,” and sludge-feast “Death Valley.” Easily the band’s most consistent and accessible work to date. *** 1/2

Boris at Last – Feedbacker (2003) This seamless five-part, 43-minute composition represents Boris’ perfect storm: a foreboding guitar drone beautifully building towards a catastrophic crescendo of Jap-psych that peels the paint like the closing moments of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.” The last two movements cipher through the rubble and bask in the afterglow. *** 1/2

Boris with Merzbow
Sun Baked Snow Cave (2005) Unlike previous collaborations together, this 62-minute experimental composition for U.S. indie Hydra Head doesn’t reward repeat listens. Merzbow layers electronic sheet metal over an acoustic guitar passage that feeds into a cavernous den of distortion, but the piece never really pushes forward, only deeper. **

Mabuta no Ura soundtrack (2005) Translating roughly to “Backside of the Eyelids,” these 12 cinematic abstractions score only the images conjured by the music: “White Warmth,” “Melting Guitar,” and “The Slow Ripple of a Puddle.” The scenic backdrops adorn some of the most delicate guitar work in Boris’ catalog, recalling a transcendental flight between Brian Eno’s Music for Airports and Pink Floyd’s More soundtrack. *** 1/2

The Holier Grails
Boris/Barebones split (1996)
Boris/Tomsk seven-inch split (1997)
Boris/Choukoku No Niwa split, More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape (1999)
1970 EP (2002)
Boris with Merzbow, Megatone (2002)
Boris/The Dudley Corporation split (2003)
Boris with Merzbow, 04092001 (2004)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 1 (2004)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 2 (2006)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 3 (2006)
Vein (2006)
Boris with Merzbow, Walrus/Groom (2007)
Boris/Doomriders, Long Hair and Tights (2007)
Boris/Stupid Babies Go Mad split 10-inch, Damaged EP (2007)
Wata/Ai Aso split, She’s So Heavy (2007)
* All dates refer to initial pressings.

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Boris, Michio Kurihara

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