Thursday, October 15, 2009

In the depths of drone - Boris "Absolutego"

Given, after yesterday’s post, that I’m well and truly immersed in the darker regions of music, wandering around there with the sort of captivated horror that makes me think I might be even more freaky than I originally thought, I decided to stay on familiar ground today, however spooky it might be, and listen to some experimental drone metal.

Boris is a three piece Japanese band that moves across genres to some degree, but here, in their first album, Absolutego, is deeply immersed in the thick black sludge that is drone.

"Absolutego" is one massive track, starting with over ten minutes of droning bass guitar, and grinding feedback, until, before you realise it’s happening, drums and bits of vocal noise are added, the music cranks up, electronics add shades of grey to the black, and slowly the single line of drone grows into a huge, congealed mass of dark, doom-laden noise. Things seem to be going fast, and to be motionless, at the same time, as sounds swirl into one another, amorphous and impenetrably thick.

This is music that you have to listen to differently than most other music. It’s not about telling a story in words or sentences – it doesn’t have bits that you like better than other bits and play on repeat while you do the dishes – rather, it can only ever be heard, and absorbed, in its totality: a thing you experience not only by turning off the lights, but the clocks as well.

The foundations of this music are buried deep, deep below the surface but, if you’ve got reasonably good sound equipment, with a decent sub woofer, you’ll certainly feel, as much as hear, its rumbling drones. They’re dark and menacing, but they somehow give a kind of surety, a grounded base, to the music that pierces the eardrums from above.

But they don’t last forever and, in time, the droning bass has gone and we are left with what sounds like a huge choir of electronic alarms all blasting from a million directions, as if someone had broken in and stolen the earth itself.

In time, those sounds, too, die down – not in volume, but in pitch, descending back towards the subterranean drone that gave them birth in the first place but, before they’re even half way there, it all comes to an abrupt halt and everything is over.

This music takes you into a dark and dense region where time and space just don’t mean anything anymore – and so it comes as a bit of shock when you turn everything back on at the end of it all, and discover that it’s 65 minutes later than when you started.

The edition of Absolutego that I bought, issued by Southern Lord, also includes “Dronevil 2” – an 8 minute piece of intense, muscly drone that is powerful and impressive in its own right, with big heaving waves of sound. But, as happened when I listened to Klaus Schulze’s Virtual Outback some weeks ago (24 September) these two tracks need to be listened to separately. Both of them are too good to stand in the other’s shadow.

Absolutego shows us that even the thickest darkness radiates its own very unique type of energy. An overwhelming and sensational experience.


  1. 'Boris the Spider' by The Who's John Entwistle was meant to be creepy, but he could never have imagined some of this! In contrast to the doom, the electronics can sometimes save Boris tracks (e.g. 'Statement')from being just re-hashes of early Sex Pistols and Clash.

    I don't normally like remixes, but do you know the EP by Scion AV Remix Project/Boris? It consists of four versions of 'Buzz In' (from the Boris LP 'Smile'), each VERY different from the others and each a very rare instance of the remix being as creative and original as the original track. Even the 'boppy' Todd Edwards remix (Kraftwerk meets Bee Gees, anyone?) is interesting to hear in the context of the other three versions.

    Incidentally, the contrasts that you highlighted in your review of 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' set the scene, in my view, for much of Lou Reed's subsequent solo career. E.g. listen to his 'live' LP 'Rock 'n' Roll Animal' as against his studio LP 'Berlin'. Hard to believe it's the same man.

  2. Many thanks, Patrick, for yet another suggestion - there seems to be quite a lot of Boris to wade my way through and, while much of it seems pretty difficult to find, I'm making a little dent in it, having bought "Rock Dream" today, where Boris are joined by Merzbow. But the EP sounds fascinating. I am beginning to suspect, as I continue to make my way through this ongoing journey where everything is still new and wonderful to me, that some of these more extreme artists from Japan are looking seriously like defining my genre(s) of choice!!