Tag Archives: Earth

Extended review – Boris: Dear (Sargent House)

For a record its creators started work on in the belief it might be their swansong, this album doesn’t half seethe with energy, rippling with a vigour more typical of a group in their infancy rather than in decline.

The sessions that yielded Dear – whittled down from three albums’ worth to this set of 10 cuts, which still weighs in at more than an hour and occupies four sides of vinyl – also resulted in a renewed conviction that there are galaxies in the heavy music universe that Boris, a group currently celebrating their 25th year, have yet to fully explore.

And while Dear pulses with long-established characteristics such as bombast, abrupt shifts in EQ, extreme sonic juxtapositions and abysmal sustain, all of which underpin the Japanese trio’s tribal affiliation with Melvins, Sunn O))) and Sub Pop-era Earth, there are new stars being born here, new bridges to rock absurdity being built.

Perhaps the defining factors that single out the album from more recent predecessors such as Heavy Rocks and Präparat are an emphasis on the rudiments of rock music composition – the chord, the drum fill, the strained vocal – which elevates their importance almost above the music itself, and the adherence to a pace that, while nimble by the standards of Sunn O))), remains extraordinarily slow for the most part.

The vocal performances, which are significantly greater in number here than on previous releases, come mainly from guitar and bass player Takeshi Ohtani and drummer Atsuo Mizuno, with a brief, fragile contribution from guitarist Wata on the benumbed and deconstructed pop of Beyond, a second cousin of The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep) from Altar, the high-water mark collaboration with Sunn O))) from 2006.

The bulk of these songs emerge from a simmering broth of guitar so titanically mangled that the notes almost play second fiddle to the sizzle of the valves the signal is fed through, after it’s gone through a fuzz circuit so cranked it ought to come with a health warning.

Opening track DOWN -Domination of Waiting Noise- sets the (lack of) tempo from the off, with an immolated power-chord shaking the life out of the speakers for what feels like an eternity, the accompanying metallic rattle hinting at serious technical damage. On Kagero, as he does on DOWN and elsewhere on the album, Atsuo enters the fray with spasms of percussion and washes of orchestral gong as downtuned guitars throw control to the four winds and spiral chaotically into space.

Amid the haar of drone and bug-eyed metal excess, on Biotope Boris’s affinity for a peculiarly skewiff variant of shoegazing surfaces, bringing with it welcome contrast. The song unashamedly follows a template outlined by My Bloody Valentine but lathers on a degree of guitar noise that even Kevin Shields might have stopped short of.

The 12-minute Dystopia -Vanishing Point- starts from a queasy lullaby played out on melodica and accordion before Takeshi sings a trippy ballad over Space Echo-hazed guitar meanderings. Peace at last, you might think. But seven minutes in, the band unleash a berserk vision of power rock gilded by a caustically bonkers guitar solo that Prince would surely have approved of, the notes cocooned in a batter of fuzz before being plunged into foaming oil. It’s exhausting – which, you suspect, is largely the point.

After this, the title track sucks the air out of the room with a crunching, dismal riff topped by a malevolent vocal, fluttering drum fills doing little to puncture the gloom. Eventually the group begins to lurch as one amid crashing gong and sickening feedback, the overall effect being that of a purgative ritual, ridding the listener of any bloat brought on by the preceding hour of excess. Ideologically it’s at one with the sonic code the band perhaps inadvertently christened on the earlier sturm und drang of The Power, a paean to the riff that rivals the very best excursions into maxed-out heaviness.

Dear could have been the end of the trip. But a quarter of a century in, Boris remain alert at the controls as they pilot their craft into uncharted galaxies, boldly going where no group has gone before.

Watch the official live video of The Power below:

This article first appeared on The Quietus website.

Review – Drcarlsonalbion: Gold (Oblique)

“There are no second acts in American lives,” wrote F Scott Fitzgerald, with no little sourness.

Well, that was a crock of shit, wasn’t it? For irrefutable evidence look to Dylan Carlson, whose artistic resurrection in the 21st century after his late 1990s meltdown – chiefly fuelled by drug addiction and his infamy for lending Kurt Cobain the shotgun with which he killed himself – is nothing short of an epiphany.

Following the rebirth of a more expansive Earth in 2005 – Carlson being the sole survivor from their Sub Pop incarnation – with studio albums Hex (Or Printing In The Infernal Method), The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull and the Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light diptych, besides sundry live and mini albums, Carlson has become something approaching a guru to those for whom coruscating tone, dogged repetition and patient minimalism form the bedrock of all that is good and true.

Gold – surprisingly, Carlson’s debut soundtrack and one that accompanies the story of German pioneers in the Canadian west, a few hundred miles north of his base in Washington state – is a logical extension of the aforementioned Earth long-players besides his more recent voyages under the moniker he employs here, a guise in which he has indulged his curiosity for arcane English folklore and the music it has birthed, some predictable – Fairport Convention, Mr Fox – and others less so (PJ Harvey, The Kinks).

As any convert to Carlson’s post-millennial gospels might anticipate, within Gold there are few nods to the fuzz-saturated ecstasies of Earth mk1 that compelled Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley to form and then name Sunn O))) in astronomically abstract tribute to Carlson’s group (the Earth revolves around the Sun, or some such) and even christen a track after him (side three of The Grimmrobe Demos, subtitled A Mere Offering On The Altar Of The Puget Lord).

Instead, Gold unfolds as a series of 24 vignettes, a tribe of related yet disparate guitar figures – some cousins, others bearing more imprecise kinships – with sporadic percussion the sole accompaniment. The titles might be prosaic – Gold I, Gold II and so on – yet the questing therein is anything but. The heathen might condemn Gold as mere noodling, but spend a significant amount of time with its incantatory power and devotion is all but unavoidable.

Carlson picks out a languid riff here (Gold XI), lets his guitar and amp breathe with minimal intervention there (the atonal phantasm of Gold IV); at other times he engages bottleneck to conjure a sunburst of alarm (Gold VII), all the while remaining true to the goal that seems to propel him in his second act, his afterlife – to author a new genre, a medicinal, elemental blues with few virtuosic flourishes but bottomless levels of empathy. This is guitar playing as an investigation on an almost microbial level, magnifying and atomising degrees of the spectrum rarely acknowledged by the majority, let alone deemed worthy of anything other than fleeting attention.

The sonic prism through which Carlson’s inquiries are thrust only serves to add heft to their persuasiveness, principally comprising glutinous Uni-vibe, loops and envelope filters that bestow nuanced levels of nausea, narcosis and – yes – newfound hope where appropriate. One moment the mood is desiccated, trapped, fearful; the next, a rain has come and slammed the dust out of the air, decaying notes the only reminder of what was but is no longer. There is a point, it seems to say, in weathering the storm.

Trailing two further albums by Carlson due to emerge in 2014 – Primitive And Deadly, Earth’s first release since 2012, and Drcarlsonalbion’s crowdfunded Wonders From The House Of AlbionGold marks the first surge in a flood of output from the godhead of drone, one that will likely be judged his annus mirabilis. No second acts in American lives? What a crock of bitter shit.

Listen to Gold below.

Originally published by The Quietus.