Boris with Michio Kurihara
n general, there are two kinds of Boris records: 1) The fearless, focused, concept album that fully commits to a single idea (Absolutego, Feedbacker, Sun Baked Snow Cave, Altar) 2) The hybridized, genre-obliterating, “rock” record (Akuma No Uta, Pink). Rainbow is the latter; a record that crystallizes the band’s blissed-out moments into a glorious platter of epic guitar-anthems, psych-rockers, and hushed instrumentals.
2006’s Pink was a watershed moment for the band both commercially and musically. It introduced Boris to a new generation of western fans and distilled their Melvins-derived sludgecore into a concise, rock framework. Rainbow plays like a sequel to Pink in its further condensation of the Boris sound, but most of the swaggering cock-rock is gone and in its place are a mysterious batch of contemplative, moody, art songs.
“Shine” and “Rafflesia” are the epic focal points of the record and their histrionic swells recall the psych-tinged shoegaze of Slowdive and Ride—minus the latter band’s Brit-pop posturing. Wata and Kurihara’s guitars ascend wildly while Takeshi and Atsuo ground the rhythm section in a steady pulse of bass and drums. Boris’s interpretation of shoegaze is grander and more dissonant than most of the bands typically associated with the genre, reflecting their early drone-rock explorations and doom-metal tendencies.
The Japanese underground has a very distinct way of manufacturing western rock ‘n’ roll forms, often emphasizing the music’s mystical and spiritual elements instead of its sleek, outward accessibility. Bands like Ghost and Nagisa Ni Te have spent their careers exploring a more hallucinatory version of stoner rock and their influence is tangible throughout Rainbow. “Fuzzy Reactor” builds its groove upon a layered foundation of feedback and spliced, backwards guitar. Its pulse and drone are quintessential ’60s psychedelia and the buried vocal chants take from traditional Indian forms.
“You Laughed Like a Water Mark” is Rainbow’s definitive pop song. Its sleepy groove and listless vocal delivery evoke the late night subway rides and beer-soaked barrooms of downtown Tokyo. Kurihara plays the role of Neil Young, foiling Boris’s Crazy Horse simplicity and injecting the song with a heroin-shot of distortion and icy dissonance. “You Laughed” is the most effortless and instantly rewarding composition in the Boris canon and it is evidence of their rapid maturation as traditional songwriters.
Or is it simply the addition of Michio Kurihara? His influence on the overall sound and execution of Rainbow is enormous. His years of experience in the Japanese underground have made him a venerated elder statesman of the scene, and Boris seems to be soaking in all of his wisdom and worldly knowledge. The influence of Kurihara’s wonderful and frustratingly overlooked 2005 solo album Sunset Notes, manifests itself in Rainbow’s contemplative title track and chiming instrumentals (“My Rain” “…And. I Want”). There is a focus to this album that is clearly born of the collaboration between a disciplined veteran and a wildly experimental younger band.
Note: The Drag City release of Rainbow disturbs the Japanese tracklisting by replacing the beautiful, album-closing “…And. I Want” with the dull resonance of “No Sleep Till I Become Hollow.” (Imagine the US version of Loveless without the oblique strains of “Touched.”)
Reviewed by: Matt Kivel
Reviewed on: 2007-05-22