Sunday, September 30, 2007

Boris: Wandering through Plato's cave

Boris is something of a chameleon in the drone doom community. Indeed, they might well object to any label being put on their creative output. While they do have songs in which single notes are drawn out until it seems they must snap and percussion is dispensed with as an unnecessary adulterant of pure tones and feedback, they also frequently display distinctly punk sensibilities, and are comfortable within the psychedelic rock idiom. Their vocals in particular display an intensity which seems rooted in political or personal concerns, rather than the existential terror or universal hatred which drip from the ragged edges of most black metal rasps. Being a drone doom aficionado myself, I think Boris reaches their peak when they veer towards the abstract and leave out the more quotidian vocals.

Their collaborations with Merzbow deserve particular mention. Merzbow seems to provide a textured but emotionally neutral backdrop against which Boris' pure tones can shine out like jewels. I've sometimes compared Ulver's Nattens Madrigal to being awoken late at night by a ringing telephone and picking up the receiver only to find God Himself on the line. The connection is poor and the line full of static, but it is abundantly clear that this is not the all forgiving God of the new testament, nor even the vengeful but rationally-minded God of the old testament. Rather, this is a being of wrath divorced from mortal notions of reason. Lovecraft's idiot flutist Azathoth blares into the line, barely constrained by the medium's bandpass filter, calling down an apocalypse which represents not moral judgment but the inevitable triumph of entropy. Just as Ulver conjures a deranged deity thrust into the modern world through the most banal tool of communication, Boris and Merzbow bring us into Plato's cave. The rough-hewn walls are solid, but devoid of intellectual or emotional presence. Against their mindless physicality dance pure ideas, freed from their earthly trappings by the stabilizing matrix of rock surrounding them. While the mental and the physical are inextricably wed, Boris and Merzbow draw the connection into a thin thread. The abstract and corporeal move independently, throwing each other into deeper contrast.

In their independent efforts, Boris provides this tension with the abstract through alternative routes. Mental and physical intertwine more tightly, but the result is a dance between yin and yang, rather than a uniform composite. Soaring notes reach out, only to be drawn under by the crash of cymbals and feedback. Their music often has an agitated energy which feels almost carnal, like the buzz of amphetamines, limbs vibrating and twitching of their own accord while the mind wanders elsewhere, only loosely coupled to the pumping pistons of the body. Other times, the music retreats into a contemplative fugue, acoustically fleshing out quiet corners of the world, speaking to lost moments spent alone, almost divorced from the self. In all cases, the result screams craftsmanship and quality.


Anonymous said...

ha! i was listening to sunbaked snow cave when i read this post. cool site.

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