Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Impossible to be bored

When I first strolled past them on the CD racks, I thought that a group calling itself "The Boredoms" is clearly not aiming for the mainstream market, and so I did kind of wonder what they might sound like. So when Lucas posted a bit about them on my friend Marty's Facebook wall, and I followed a few links, I needed no more encouragement to go out and add something of this incredibly interesting Japanese experimental rock band to my collection. So today, their album, Seadrum/House of Sun joined my pile of new purchases.

It's a funny looking album. Apart from some slightly messy silver and gold artwork on the front of a blue cover, there is nothing to tell you anything about the band, or the music, at all. Everything else is bare. There are no liner notes, not even any track listings. If you look really hard on the disc itself, beyond the single gold ring on a green background, you will see a very tiny printed anti-piracy warning, but that's it. So you need to actually stick it into your CD player even to learn that it's a two track album. I can only presume that one of the tracks is called "Seadrum" and the other is called "House of Sun".

But, really, you don't need any more than that to be able to get into this music or, more to the point, for it to be able to get into you. It's amazing music and, insofar as it speaks at all, it speaks for itself.

The first track, which I presume is the one called "Seadrum", begins with some wordless, even tuneless, chanting - a female voice rising and wafting, directionless, for a minute or so, when suddenly a battery of percussion joins in, pounding away with amazing force and ferocity. The drums beat away pretty well for all of the rest of the 23 minute track, frenetic and ferocious. I don't know if this was all recorded in one take but, if it was, I hate to think what the drummers' gym bills must have been for them to have got themselves fit enough to perform this. It's just phenomenal in its power and unrelenting force.

It's joined before long by a piano, doing the sorts of playing that someone else described, in a review I read today, as being like a cross between Alice Coltrane and Liberace. That's probably pretty accurate - except that I would add that it's Alice Coltrane and Liberace after they've both taken some very, very good drugs. It's just wild: insanely fast glissandi and amazing jazz-influenced improvisations, all the while with the mad beating of the percussion, and still the strange female chanting, mixed in with it all.

The music takes hardly a moment to catch its breath, and neither do you. I was really quite literally gob-smacked by the whole experience.

The second track (presumably "House of Sun") was different altogether. It was a strongly Eastern-influenced piece, with what sounded like quite a big ensemble of eastern instruments, along with guitars and strings and pianos and goodness knows what else, all building this incredible monolithic wall of sound that somehow conjured up for me an image of the earth forming amidst swirls of molten rock, or smoke and mist floating slowly but endlessly in some infinitely vast oriental land.

And for some reason this music also reminded me of an incredible piece by English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis - his 40-part motet, Spem in Alium in which 40 separate solo voices all do their own thing in this amazing feat of complex counterpoint writing. That's what this is like - countless instruments, it seems, going everywhere, and the whole thing coming together in this phenomenal torrent of sound.

I know I am trying to be enthusiastic about everything I write about on this blog - but this album really did just bowl me over. I think absolutely everyone in the world should listen to it, but I realise, too, that there might only be a pretty small handful of people who will actually like it. It's very unconventional, and there is not a tune to hum along to anywhere in its entire 43 minutes. If you play it loud (and you really should play it loud) chances are the neighbours will call either the police or the local emergency mental health assessment team.

But I would not for a moment let any of that unsettle you or deter you because, if you do find that you can connect with this music, it will just leave you awe-struck. Thanks Lucas for the stunning recommendation!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ian
    This sounded so good that I've just sampled a few of their albums on i-Tunes. I think that the same person has reviewed all six of them; they are as enthusiastic as you are, so you might enjoy reading the reviews as you, too, listen to some samples. The most recent CD there is 'Super Roots 9', which borders on the melodic! Mellowing with age, perhaps?!

    Some elements remind me of Wire - a very strange band from the late 1970s, whose albums ('Pink Flag [1977] and 'Chairs Missing'[1978]) have been re-released (mercifully untouched) since.

    Coincidentally, in light of the title of your next post, the Boredoms 1989 CD is called 'Onanie Bomb meets the Sex Pistols'!

    And now for something completely different ... The first album by Crosby, Stills and Nash has been remixed and re-released. The re-mix is much, much clearer than the original, heightening the magical 3-part harmonies still further. It comes with so-called bonus tracks, one of which is a charming accoustic version of 'Teach your children'. If you don't know the album, I suggest you listen to some samples. It's not Tallis, but it's terrific.