Friday, 23 March 2007

Album Review: Rainbow

Boris are seldom straightforward. Having released a forthright garage burner, Pink, the band re-released Dronevil, their two-disc answer to The Flaming Lips' Zaireeka, and the droning Sunn0))) collaboration, Altar, before allying themselves with Ghost's virtuoso axe-man, Michio Kurihara.

The combination of the Japanese three-piece and the Eastern hemisphere's most talented guitarist has led Boris to do something they've never done before: turn down the volume and produce a mellow psych-rock record.

Rafflesia begins with a short burst of bass feedback and a short drum fill that sounds unmistakably like Parting from Pink. It's probably the only similarity between the two albums. Droning, distorted, undermixed bass merges with slightly whiny, mellow vocals by Boris bassist Takeshi and minimal drums, until guitarist Wata and Kurihara join in for an extended instrumental jam about two minutes in. The combination of Wata's low, earthy guitar and Kurihara's starry hypnotic pitch-benders sets the tone for the rest of the album.

The title track flows neatly and quietly until Kurihara picks up his guitar and hammers the dreamy, slinky vocals by Wata (only her second vocal track in the band's catalogue), with some moody fretwork. Kurihara's bluesy style continues into Starship Narrator, with a blazing, mangled guitar solo.

My Rain is a short, damp interlude that precedes the dark-psych creepiness of Shine. With a foreboding picked acoustic guitar, minimal background percussion and Takeshi's lamenting vocals, it forms the closest approximation of Ghost's fulgid psych-folk.

The seven-minute You Laughed Like A Water Mark is Rainbow's longest track and a relaxed, Can-esque two-note groove by Wata is eventually steamrolled by Kurihara's rampant guitar.

The soaring, backwards played guitar on Fuzzy Reactor would've made for a great finale, but inevitably Boris push further. And harder. Sweet No. 1 - Rainbow's heaviest moment - is a rambling rock dervish, saturated with a stutter-step guitar strut. It's an ear-splitting cacophony before the mellow, instrumental outro of No Sleep Till I Become Hollow.

Rainbow stands testament to Boris' ability to master any genre they choose; having nailed drone, sludge, garage and now psych, where Boris choose to take us next is anyone's guess.

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