Review: Boris With Merzbow – 2R0I2P0
National Music Reviews
Boris With Merzbow
Boris With Merzbow = Pink Floyd + The Melvins
The year 2020 has relentlessly tortured us with heavy, choking, haunted air. No need to recap the carnage here—we are all still drowning in it, a shared trauma. The devil will always be in the details, and the devil will soon rotate numbers to give us another year. It’s time to let go of 2020, and who better to celebrate this than two legendary Japanese underground noise artists.
Boris and noise icon Masami Akita (Merzbow) will team up again for the eighth time on the album 2R0I2P0 (the title is a merger of 2020 and RIP). The record is mostly a reimagining of Boris’ 2019 release LOVE & EVOL, a cover of The Melvins song that gave Boris its name and another cover of an elegantly crafted trainwreck of a ballad by The Novembers. 2R0I2P0 isn’t the same earth–quaked rattle house as Boris’ early 2020 record, NO. It is, in fact, a Boris canvas that Merzbow paints with his sharp-edged rhythms and claptrap noise shenanigans that draw just as much out of a song as they do to blend into the fold.
French composer Claude Debussy once said that, “Music is the silence between the notes.” In contrast, Boris and Merzbow have never found a silent space that they didn’t shove everything they could into. Whenever they collaborate, it’s memorable—you remember the weight of it more than anything. Their shared vision is like defining space and time. Just when you attempt to define it, it all collapses into something else. Boris is composed of three artists: Takeshi (vocals, bass, rhythm guitar), Wata (vocals, lead guitar, keyboards) and Atsuo (vocals, drums). Together, this trio provides the all-consuming growl, and Merzbow lets loose his chaotic ambient drifting that weaves in and out of every song.
The record’s opening track, “Away from You”’ sounds like two different things: a broken down boat drifting on the ocean and a click-clock wood chime sound hanging in a light breeze. Either way, it doesn’t matter. It draws you in nonetheless. Boris and Merzbow then deliver whispery and swirling far-away vocals that hang like clouds. It’s at this point that Merzbow begins to thread in his scratchy buzz, and the album opens up like a roaring flower. On the track “Love” the guitars show up in full force. Wata is easily one of the most interesting, innovative and underrated guitarists in modern music. She has a crushing and overwhelming style that has provided Boris with their unique and all-powering sound for decades. Wata has a way of leaning into psychedelia—she can make a song sound psychedelic in new psychedelic ways. She does just that on “Love” with a beautifully cathartic and gracefully chaotic performance, the Boris/Merzbow way.
Midway through 2R0I2P0, Wata shows up in vocal form on the track “Journey,” where her graceful butterfly vocal style sounds like Kim Deal trapped under sonic sludge. It’s a beautiful moment in its lightness. 2R0I2P0 ends with the only new track on the record, “Shadow Of Skull.” The track sounds like how we all feel at the end of 2020, like a freight train carrying maximum weight up a gradual incline. Boris and Merzbow have successfully delivered a soundtrack to a year colored by a drunken absurdist. And maybe they’re right—all we need is a reimagining of a little love and evil. –Russ Holsten