• Boris With Merzbow - Gensho

    Boris With Merzbow - Gensho
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Released on: March 18th, 2016.
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    Boris, the Japanese metal band made up of Takeshi no vocals, guitar and bass, Wata on vocals, guitar and echo and Atsuo on vocals, percussion and electronics have an interesting history of collaborating with other artists (the Sunn O)))/Boris album Altar being a prime example). So too does Masami Akita, better known as Merzbow (take the Melt Banana collaboration Merz-Banana for example). So in a strange way it makes sense that these two very different artists would find some common ground on which to get together. And that’s exactly what has happened with Gensho, the new full length from Relapse records, being released as a 2xCD/4xLP set (they previously worked together on Sun Baked Snow Cave, a 2005 release from Hydra Head). At almost three hours long it’s an almost punishing release to tackle, but if you’re in the right frame of mind for it, it’s totally worth it. And just to make this bizarre album even more bizarre? Boris and Merzbow have intended that both sides be played at the same time. How exactly you’ll do this is up to you, but the results are interesting when you try it that way.

    The ‘Boris side,’ which is literally a collection of re-recorded tracks taken from their back catalogue performed with no percussion, starts off with Farewell, an eight minute opener that is basically the calm before the storm. It’s serene, a wave of noise in the background with some calm guitar plucking – until we close in on the two minute mark when things get predictably heavy. That wave stays there, the vocals move in overtop and there’s this sense of oil meeting water in that the song stays calm, controlled and even soothing but at the same time is a ridiculously heavy number done at an obscene volume.

    Huge, an eleven minute track, is more assertive from the start, blasting us with feedback and drone while the guitars and waves of noise careen about like a tidal wave. And that’s really it – this is an instrumental piece that uses noise to create sonic sculptures of a sort, and it’s an incredibly atmospheric and trance inducing piece. Resonance, an aptly titled four minute number, with pounding noises placed against silence at intervals that at first listen seem completely random and on repeat listens actually do resonate in interesting ways. Rainbow is six minutes of some slightly more traditional sounding music, there’s a rhythm here but it stays low in the mix over which some abstract guitar soloing winds up making up the bulk of the track. Sometimes (a cover of the My Bloody Valentine track of the same name) nears the ten minute mark, beginning with some pulsing keyboards and then building into a barrage of noise for the first couple of minutes. Vocals croon overtop in a fairly beautiful fashion – if you’re familiar with the original version of this song you’ll appreciate what Boris does with this cover. They make it their own but it’s still very recognizable as Sometimes.

    Heavy Rain will take up eight minutes of your time with sheer, unadulterated noise. Guitars crunch and feedback and distortion spins and reels through the mix. Around the two minute mark that calms down and once again the vocals some in and give the chaos a calming effect before bringing the track full circle with a noisy big finish. Akuma No Uta is a long one at just short of twelve minutes, and it stays calm and quiet for a good five minutes until, maybe somewhat predictably at this point, the guitars go way up in the mix and bury you for the duration of the track with riff after riff after riff. Akirame Flower begins with some weird abstract sounds, it almost sounds like something bubbling, but as the tempo increases and the vocals begin, the guitars once again bury things, albeit in a fairly amazing way. Played slow, deliberate and heavy, this is one of the stand out tracks on the Boris portion of the record. Last but not least, the band’s rerecording of their infamous Vomitself fucks with your head for ten minutes. It’s more aggressive and crunching than anything else Boris contributes to this release, simultaneously sounding like something out of a horror movie and like a reasonably basic doom track but with some wailing and unexpected sounds accenting the track’s intensity.

    The ‘Merzbow side,’ four all new compositions, begins with Planet Of The Crows, a nineteen minute noise track where synthesizers and sequencers collide with feedback and drone to create something wholly overwhelming. The screeching reaches a fever pictch nine minutes in, then gives a brief reprieve before picking back up and fading to its finish.

    Goloka Part 1, which is over twenty minutes, and Goloka Part 2, a nineteen and a half minute piece, work best as one massive track. Again, there’s distortion and feedback and piercing, grating sounds all mixed together here in a way that will likely alienate those not already into his work. This is abrasive, hard to listen to and pretty fucking insane. Prelude To A Broken Arm finishes off this side of the record with sixteen minutes of caterwauling clamor, the levels building fairly quickly to the point where its inside your head whether you want it there or not. It only gets wilder and more intense from there, at first deceiving you into an expected calm but then throwing everything at you all at once. This track is nothing if not punishing.

    And that’s where it gets interesting. When played over top of one another, the weird, almost trippy shoegazer sound that Boris have adapted for this recording contrasts with Merzbow’s completely destructive sounds in interesting ways. It makes for a really strange way to experience the record but it works quite well, particularly if you adjust the volume to levels you appreciate more (personally I liked the Merzbow stuff turned down with the Boris stuff heavier when I tried this but tastes will clearly vary here). Regardless of how you listen to this, the end result is trying, but rewarding enough if you’re into experimental heavy music and are in the right frame of mind to go somewhere completely different with your listening experience. Best enjoyed with the lights off, your eyes closed and the volume up.