Both demonstrates and develops upon the major moments of Boris’ sonic architecture.
For nearly 30 years, Boris has been defining the edges and limits of popular and unpopular music, conjuring noises that suggest explorations in scale as much as sheer musicality. This newest release is no exception. The range of sounds this Japanese trio can bring forth from their instruments is remarkable and often molded to suit a range of genres, from bone-crushing drone and noise to the gentlest dream-pop and ambient moments. All of this is present on the double album LφVE & EVφL. This is not some half-measure, a band on autopilot after the incendiary Dear, their farewell-that-wasn’t from 2017. Instead, the new album offers a complex, detailed and careful collection.
“Away from You” opens LφVE like a gentle post-rock-informed pastoral, the light high-pitched fuzz that rises between the verses the only indication that there’s a barely restrained energy behind the gentle lyrics and oceanic swells of sound. As the song moves through its sections—and it’s not really appropriate to consider these verses or choruses in the standard songwriting sense—the fuzz turns into a howl that’s woven through the strands of the song. Indeed, there may be no better introduction to the compositional range Boris is capable of than “Away from You”.
“Coma” is a contrasting beast, a wide peal of drone and feedback that rumbles and draws noise into itself. The track might seem an impenetrable wall but yields to repeated listens in the same way that noise project Merzbow does (Boris has collaborated with them on at least seven albums). Paying attention to the subtle shifts in tone and color, the ebbs and flows of sound and volume, reveals in the details the hands of the makers. If “Away from You” is a delicately crafted object where the unrestrained violence of the guitar is utilized and largely contained in order to serve the song’s overall purpose, “Coma” is its noisy and, ultimately, melancholic twin, the sound of sound feeding into itself.
“EVOL,” which occupies the entirety of side two, treads familiar aural ground to Spacemen 3 in its opening. But the bright metallic drone-fuzz is quickly joined by a panoply of percussion and what sounds like the squeal of train brakes with accompanying yelps in the highly reverbed background. Guitars pulse in time with the rhythm and sampled voices can be heard but are unclear, woven effortlessly into a cohesive whole. After nearly three-and-a-half minutes of gathering rhythm and noise, a series of overlaid drones emerge and become the sole bright thread that links the first section to this new piece. As we progress into “EVOL”’s second movement, the fact that this song is using an orchestral structure rather than a popular music form becomes clear, even as the message of the song’s lyrics, in Japanese throughout, remains out of the grasp of most Western listeners. At eight minutes, the song’s third section starts, snares and pummeled cymbals introducing a soaring lead guitar solo over a glorious spine of noise. Lyrics rise and are held—it’s all very anthemic, and just at the point where the possibility of cliché starts to emerge, the fourth section overtakes, the vocals doubled, modulating from side to side but clear and firm throughout. “EVOL” might have a series of interconnected sections, but it’s coherent and complete, a tying together of the bright and dark of the first side’s two tracks.
“Uzume” opens the second album, EVφL, with roars of feedback and crackle, white noise hissing over growling chords and the squeal of guitar strings, drums clattering. Where the songs on the “LφVE” disc offer spaciousness, “Uzume” is far closer in feel, much more intimately urban, if still desolate, an exploration in grinding interference. “LOVE,” the first single to be released, immediately offers a rhythmic, drum-led doom metal reply, pulling order up from the bleak starting point of this second disc. It’s still squealing, still demanding, but familiar with verses, choruses and refrains, however grim. “In the Pain (T)” returns to the post-rock chimes of “Away from You”. The song opens out to include birdsong and the sounds of children. It’s almost peaceful before a sudden end and the fade-in of more guitar drones and hum for the final song “Shadow of Skull”. A single guitar playing single notes, growling into the vocal wails, drums and bass, creates a sludgy doom-filled 11-and-a-half minutes on a track that, surprisingly, manages to preserve space between its elements and finishes with a high-pitched note that stops dead in its tracks. The compressed atmosphere of “Uzume” has been left behind and “Shadow of Skull,” along with “In the Pain (T)” return to the spaciousness of the album’s start.
LφVE & EVφL both demonstrates and develops upon the major moments of Boris’ sonic architecture. This, their 25th album, is a key document in their catalog and the rarest of beasts: a perfect introduction to a band and, at the same time, a marked movement forward. It is, unquestionably, essential listening.