Review: Boris – W
National Music Reviews
Boris = Nine Inch Nails + Grouper
The last Boris release, 2020’s NO, was a beautifully noisy, sometimes crushingly loud, flower of a record. Takeshi (Guitarist/bassist), Atsuo (drums) and the great queen of riff mountain Wata (Guitar/keyboard) delivered a clamor, a clangor and a clatter of noise-rock perfection. After all the muscle and aggression, NO ended with the pretty, drifty and subdued “Interlude.” This is the exact place Boris’ stunning new album, W, begins. The opening track, “I Want to go to the Side Where You Can Touch…” brings the melody of “Interlude” back, connecting the two albums. W is a companion piece to NO (the two albums together spell out “NOW”).
With all the connections, W is still a completely different record. It’s beautiful, slow and at times ambient. The noise is turned down but always present. It weaves through the record in different ways. Occasionally, W drifts into Pink Floyd–style wanderings, breathing out beeps and bloops that resembles the control room of a submarine and the sounds of the ocean knocking buoys together. Wata takes on all vocals for the first time since Attention Please (2011). Her quiet vocal style glides across the mostly calm waters of these songs like a ripple.
Boris darken up the place with the hypnotic “Drowning By Numbers.” Wata counts down over-and-over in a Kim Gordon–style whisper on top of Atsuo’s meticulous and melodic drumming. Takeshi adds a controlled wall of sound with an eerie, droning bass line that turns this track into a hauntingly transformative masterpiece. The track’s accompanying video, directed by YUTARO and featuring dancer Yukiko Doi, is a visually mesmerizing treasure. I’ve mostly moved on from videos, but I can’t stop watching this one.
There is no question W is a Wata record. She expertly adds an ambient hush to songs like the gorgeous “Icelina,” “The Fallen” and the drawn-out nuance of “Old Projector.” There is a strange calm that sets in on W that, over time, becomes unsettling. It’s like playful, innocent splashing before a shark attack. Knowing Boris, the shark will eventually come, and arrive on the final track, “You Will Know (Ohayo Version),” ripping everything to shreds. It’s Black Sabbath meets a buzz saw, and it’s the perfect denouement to a satisfying album experience.
After 30 years, Boris still sounds brand-new, clean and pure. Most bands that have managed to stay together for a quarter of a century drown in predictability and compilation releases. Boris is still making new music. At a high level. I always look forward to new Boris records and projects because with each one they change the way I look and feel about music. I look forward to the next 30 years. –Russ Holsten