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Boris with Michio Kurihara - Rainbow

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Artist: Boris with Michio Kurihara

Album: Rainbow

Label: Drag City

Review date: May. 11, 2007

Japan’s Boris, a chugging, claustrophobic, metalloid guitar rock three-piece, can be a bit much sometimes. Boris has been in the game since ’92, and when it finally got attention in America, it didn’t waste an eardrum or an eyeball. Since its stateside breakthrough Pink (the screaming color scheme that taught a thousand college radio DJs to say “the titles are in Japanese”), the band hasn't slowed. It’s collaborated with many esteemed contemporaries, including Earth revivalists Sunn 0))), its cousin in sudden ubiquity. It’s played straight-up noise. With every project, it’s nudged up its pain threshold a tad. Maybe Boris should check itself. A lot of people are getting marginally famous doing this shit, and soon enough, it’s bound to put out a record worth sleeping on, particularly if it goes all the pain-for-pain’s-sake way.

Not yet, though. Don’t sleep on this collaboration with Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara, a man tapped into a much mellower, more mystical patch of the “psychedelic” mountain, a man who references Hendrix and Deep Purple but may well have never heard of the Melvins. It could’ve been a mess. Instead, Kurihara prompts Boris to rise up off the gas pedal enough to exhibit some fresh capabilities. The mix of hippie psych and gloomball metal creates a sense of melancholy thicker and richer than anything either party has conjured before. Rainbow hisses like a spring rain, rumbles like thunder and sighs like a brain blistered by nostalgia. Kurihara’s melodic sense has only sharpened with time, and his influence proves Boris remarkably fluent in a prettier, less prankish language.

The portentous mini-epics may dominate (the slow-cleansing “Sweet No. 1,” the swaggering “Starship Narrator,” the air conditioner metal of “Rafflesia”), but the digressions are particularly striking. The drawn-out, understated “You Laughed Like a Watermark” is all halfway forgotten pain, set to a slowed-down memory of a pop ballad. On the eerie, lounge-ish “Rainbow,” guitarist Wata murmurs her way through a series of visual and kinesthetic prompts (“Something blurred that is off frame… Something swinging that could be a pendulum”) to chillingly surreal effect. Considering that a lot of Boris’s charm is normally lost on those who aren’t paying pretty close second-by-second attention, this record can be pretty damned compelling as background music, too. It’s got variety.

Only the mournful, echo-buffered meditation “Shine” quite invokes Ghost’s darker, more threadbare “folk” work, and it sounds gloriously out of place. But as a collaborator, Kurihara is on his job at all times. After 15 years, he opens a new perspective on Boris, and lets them show off another facet of their diamond-cutting discipline.

By Emerson Dameron

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