Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Boris with Merzbow - "Gensho Parts 1 & 2" (Album Review)

By: TJ Kliebhan

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 18/03/2016
Label: Relapse Records


The album as a whole sounds incredibly well done. The dynamic range on this album is wide and no part of the album feels murky or cluttered. The dark layers of Boris guitar and bass with Merzbow’s agonizingly piercing sounds come through in vivid detail.  “Gensho” is Boris and Merzbow playing together and evidence of a partnership that has possibly maximized its given potential with a release that serves as a highlight in both artists’ extensive discographies.

“Gensho Part 1 & 2” CD//DD//LP track listing:

Boris

1. Farewell A
2. Huge A
3. Resonance B
4. Rainbow B
5. Sometimes B
6. Heavy Rain C
7. Akuma no uta C
8. Akirame Flower D
9. Vomitself D

"Sometimes" written by Kevin Shields, published by EMI Music Publishing

Merzbow

1. Planet of the Cows A
2. Goloka Pt.1 B
3. Goloka Pt.2 C
4. Prelude to a Broken Arm D

BORIS is:

Takeshi |Vocals, Guitar & Bass
Wata | Vocals, Guitar & Echo
Atsuo | Vocal, Percussion & Electronics

MERZBOW is:

Masami Akita | Electronics

The Review:

*This review is written from the perspective of someone playing both pieces at the same time and at the same volume.

The frequent collaborations of legendary drone act Boris and pioneering noise artist Merzbow subscribe to a specific formula. Boris comes to the table with some combination of old tracks they’ve reworked and new tracks while Merzbow composes original pieces of high frequency noise. Boris’ dense riffs and Merzbow’s harsh grating tracks make for an intense experience and in the past the collaborations between the two artists have felt a bit like two artists who genuinely admire each other’s work, but were experimenting with how to combine their two unique atmospheres into one cohesive piece. On the artists’ seventh effort, Boris and Merzbow have never sounded more satisfyingly synchronized, powerfully effective, or sonically layered as they do on “Gensho”.

Gensho” can roughly be translated to phenomenon in English which proved to be an appropriate title because these tracks themselves feel so highly biotic. Whether the pace is at a heavy trudging rhythm like “Vomitself”, a spiraling plod like on the cover of My Bloody Valentine’sSometimes” or the frantic and lively 

Akirama Flower” these tracks always are sounding incredibly active. This is largely thanks to the way Merzbow’s sounds both contrast and compliment this collection of Boris tracks. When Boris slows down the pace Merzbow is unrelenting. His high frequency noises and screeches are incredibly unsettling when Boris seem to be functioning as a safety blanket. While Boris play their expected repetitive sludge riffs Merzbow’s pieces are surprisingly dynamic and engaging. On “Huge” the rhythm and safety Boris creates is entirely disturbed by Merzbow’s tense noise, but the two acts do it in a way that keeps the listener always absorbing new subtleties. Merzbow’s pieces are winding and changing in such obvious and discernable ways, while Boris remains steady.  The contrasts between the two at times are incredibly effective and while they give Merzbow more of the spotlight the pieces would not be nearly as interesting if it was not for the atmosphere Boris was creating. The music can only co-exist in its greatest form because the other is there too.

When Boris decides to pick up the pace on tracks like “Akirama Flower” and “Heavy RainMerzbow’s noise functions perhaps even more importantly. All of these tracks feature no drumming or percussion of any kind from Atsuo, so Merzbow’s creations are what keep these tracks from bottoming out. While Boris’ vibrant guitar tones and walls of texture really shine during these portions of the songs, Merzbow’s compositions are vital to the sound’s monolithic ambitions. When Boris typically use heavy rhythmic drone pieces alone it can feel enormously steady and unchanging. Merzbow provide their drones with an unpredictable instability. A jarring and more unhinged effect is created as a result. The noise tends to drive the pace along with Wata and Takashi’s vocals rather than any guitar work on the record which serves more as texture than anything else.

These new incarnations of older Boris tracks feature nice ruffles that make them worth revisiting. Many of these tracks feature cleaner vocals than their older iterations or slight differences in the way they are mastered. Wata’s vocals on “Rainbow” and “Heavy Rain” feature a nice double-track effect that they did not have on the original mix which gives her soft delivery a bit more robustness to it. The album as a whole sounds incredibly well done. The dynamic range on this album is wide and no part of the album feels murky or cluttered. The dark layers of Boris guitar and bass with Merzbow’s agonizingly piercing sounds come through in vivid detail.

“Gensho” is the best collaboration Boris and Merzbow have done by a significant margin. The album perfectly encapsulates what Boris and Merzbow can both do at their best and also does a remarkable job of meshing these two styles together in a way that is enjoyable while also giving both artists an equal platform. Boris chose some of their finest tracks to remaster and Merzbow’s original compositions sound tailored to these tracks, but still are their own organic pieces. Other collaborations between the artists have suffered from a poor mix, live recordings whose master tapes muffled Merzbow’s tracks, or sounded simply like Boris and Merzbow playing at the same time. “Gensho” is Boris and Merzbow playing together and evidence of a partnership that has possibly maximized its given potential with a release that serves as a highlight in both artists’ extensive discographies.

“Gensho Parts 1 & 2” is available here



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