Wherever I May Drone

Posted August 26, 2010 in Music

Japanese avant garde rock trio Boris ably meet the prerequisites of cult band status: (1) Club-level popularity (any bigger than that hurts the “cool factor” horribly); (2) Critical acclaim (their Pink album was named amongst the best of 2006 in both SPIN and Blender magazines); and (3) Celebrity endorsement (Boris opened for Nine Inch Nails in 2008 and their new EP, BXI, is a collaboration with The Cult vocalist Ian Astbury). Oh, and for bonus cred points, they’re named after a song by sludge godfathers the Melvins.


Yet Boris isn’t some enigmatic, remote phenomenon—they’re super-prolific in the studio and tour hard. They’ve released 14 studio albums since their 1996 debut, Absolutego, not to mention any number of live recordings, EPs and collaborations. Though relatively unknown back at home, they frequently tour internationally and their Pomona show on Saturday wraps over a month of U.S. and Canadian dates.


“That we tour so much and release so many albums, I think it is representative of what we’re about,” drummer Atsuo told Prefix Magazine a couple of years back. “Direct communication is something we’ve lost in this day and age. It’s a shame—[even] interviews are over [the] phone. I think it’s important to see people face to face—that’s why it’s so important to go on tour. It’s something very basic to humans that we’ve lost lately.”


Boris’s genre-hopping music takes elements from noise rock, psychedelia, shoegaze, drone metal, punk and minimalism. And while they certainly enjoy funereal tempos, they’re more than capable of frenetic work-outs (like Smile’s “Statement”) and Atsuo is prone to expansive, John Bonham-esque wig-outs behind the kit. In true experimental fashion, the three band members aren’t beyond a bit of role-swapping: Atsuo was originally the lead vocalist, then switched to drumming while singing lead, before letting band mates Wata (guitar) and Takeshi (bass) assume the main vocal duties. On stage they’re often joined by touring guitarist  HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michio_Kurihara" \o "Michio Kurihara" Michio Kurihara.


Though some of Boris’ recordings have only appeared in the U.S. years after their original Japanese releases, the band has steadily raised its profile here since signing with L.A.-based experimental metal label Southern Lord (also home to Earth, Goatsnake, Pelican and others). And while many Boris fans regard the band’s collaborations (with the likes of Keiji Haino, label-mates Sunn O))) and Kurihara) as amongst their finest works, their latest partnership has really raised some eyebrows. Teaming with a full-blown rock star (and not necessarily the most credible one) like Ian Astbury for the 4-song BXI is intriguing, if risky.


“We had gotten opening offers from The Cult a few times, but we couldn’t make it, simply because of schedule conflicts, though we would like to do something with them at some point,” Atsuo told Pitchfork in June. “During Boris’ own recording session early this year, we thought it would be cool if we could work with Ian on some songs.”


On paper, Astbury’s mighty, melodic pipes and his frontman aura could gel explosively with Boris’ adventurous music. The reality is that Astbury can seldom do what he does best over some rather uninspired shoegaze/drone backing, and Boris seemed to back-off, perhaps showing the once arena-filling Brit a little too much respect (yes, kids, The Cult sold millions of records back in the ’80s and ’90s). “Teeth and Claws” hints at what this combo could have created (and still might in the future) but, ironically, it’s the one song on BXI where Astbury doesn’t sing—a cover of Cult classic “Rain” delivered by gal guitarist Wata—that proves most effective.


Still, BXI might add another layer of anticipation to Boris’ Glass House show. With it being the final date of the tour, and with Astbury (who lives in Vancouver) a frequent L.A. visitor, might he pop up on stage? He did for a Boris show in Australia in May, so don’t rule it out. 


Boris w/Red Sparowes, Helms Alee and Future Static at The Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (951) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us, www.borisdronevil.com. Sat, Aug. 28. 7PM. $14 advance, $16 day of show. All ages.


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