A Musical Journey with Nicklas Part 16 – Boris – Flood – 2000
There comes a time – when you’ve been exploring the dense jungles and fertile soils of music in whatever form it takes with all aural receptors open, driven by little more than a curiosity that would make a cat seem careful and a quest for the next big kick in the head – where you starts to feel like you’ve heard it all before in some form or other, that there truly is nothing new under the sun. You’ve dived into the salt-water pool of free jazz, swum the oceanic depths of 20th century orchestral music and modernist composers, drilled into the very bedrock with concrete and electronic music. You’ve seen it all heard it all and you can just barely remember when you last had that sweet buzz from a truly mind-expanding experience from music. You’ve almost given up the quest, ready to accept that you’ve reached the end of the road.
That’s when you pick up the next album that will rip you a new one and open up a whole new world, or at least break new land for you to plow, seed and reap with great pleasure. An album that might perhaps not feel like tasting chocolate for the first time, but at least like a first taste of carrots. That’s when Boris hits you with their sludgy feedback-driven drone riffs and textures, heavier than the molten metallic core of the earth. Boris is almost like a musical china-syndrome.
I was recommended to check out their début album Absolutego in 2002 after a late night of online conversation about the genius of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and its both mind-expanding and stress-relieving effects as meditation music. Don’t ask! I’m pretty sure you don’t really want to know just how fried your brain has to be to classify 64 minutes of electronically manipulated feedback-loops meditation music. Then again; some people find thunderstorms to be quite relaxing. Perhaps trance-inducing is a better word than meditative. It doesn’t really matter. My conversational partner was surprised by how I had somehow managed to avoid hearing the “Japanese Drone Metal Maniacs” Boris who he then after a moments pause went on
to compare to what Pink Floyd could have sounded like if they had made Umma Gumma or Meddle at the turn of the millennium instead of a good three decades earlier; and of course if they had been Japanese. Between these two diametrical opposite points of reference there lay an ocean of possibilities that I actually could not fathom or even begin to imagine.
At the time I worked at a book store with a rather large music department attached to it. So; come Monday afternoon I went into work a couple of hours earlier than usual and went looking for Boris. I found Amplifier Worship, Flood and Heavy Rocks which had just come out at the time. This made for three out of four albums released. Of course I also ordered Absolutego before I went for lunch. I had brought my portable CD player along just in case but in light of the two points of reference I had to go by; I decided that this was music that would need my full attention to fully appreciate and time to just float off to wherever my mind chose to follow it. And that could not be achieved in the context of a sunny early summer’s day in a bustling college town with the prospect of going to work in just over an hour.
The work day seemed to drag on endlessly but finally came to an end and soon after that I found myself on a thick warm quilt laid out on the floor of my living-room, eyes closed and ready to experience the full force of Boris for the first time.
Why I chose to begin with Flood I don’t really know but I suspect it had to do with the fact that it is an album long piece in four movements running for just under 70 minutes, much the way the aforementioned Lou Reed album does and with that and the conversation that lead me to start exploring Boris in the back of my mind it was nothing like what I had expected.
The first movement builds up from a quirky repetitive minimalist riff played that is phased and manipulated through a multitude of channels and delay effects. Quite hypnotic; especially when the amp-noises begin to fade in and break like growing waves against your eardrums; half way through the first part as a build up for the drums to go ballistic and drive the music into a virtual inferno of pure rock-noise. The dynamics of the first part can be compared to the way a heavy thunderstorm builds up with the rain sweeping in as a herald for the still distant thunder until you are standing right at the very epicentre with the thunder rolling all around you; or at the eye of a hurricane or some other extreme weather phenomena. Any which way you look at it the sensation of insignificance in the face of the full force of nature is quite poignant.
After the cataclysmic conclusion of the first movement the calm clean chords of the second movement are like a near transcendental experience of floating without direction on a desolate wilderness of water surrounded by the debris that used to be your consciousness before Flood I tore it to shreds. You don’t really care though because you are approaching a different kind of consciousness, more serene and humble. Carried by Wata’s insanely beautiful solos and when the thematic riff from Flood I return you know you are in complete harmony with the universal energies and you. Call it nirvana if you like.
At this point as Wata bends that final solo from Flood II I had realised what the guy who recommended Boris to me meant by his Pink Floyd reference and I smiled at the warm fuzzy feeling of having been granted the experience.
Flood III begins in the same mellow soft style as Flood II but the calm is deceptive. Not only because the sensation nature’s beautiful chaos of Flood I still resonate deep within you but more so because of the ominously distorted guitar that starts to fade in after jus a few minutes, embracing the haunting guitar riff like a blanket of fuzzy velvet before the second wave hits you with a gravity that pulls you down below the surface. This is perhaps the “rockiest” part of the album but created with sound textures that I can only describe as reminiscent of an earthquake.
The bass riff that connects Flood III to Flood IV is so heavy and deep that I’d dare bet it could slow down your heart rate to a bare minimum. Wata’s feedback exercises in the background always makes me feel like I’m free-falling from somewhere in the very limits of the atmosphere to a quaking earth that is cracking up with new oceans and new landmasses. Excruciatingly slow this sound-quake progress towards a calm as abrupt as the eruption was. Wata’s delayed guitar textures, droning feedback and de-constructive echoes bringing back the transcendental serenity of Flood II as the aftershock subsides leaving your spiritual landscape in a state of complete calm on a rocky shore with a light breeze blowing ripples across the water. The first time I listened to this I don’t think I realised when it was over, just that sometime after nightfall I began to regain some level of control over my consciousness.
I went out into the warm summer night and lay down in the dewy grass in front of my house watching the stars. And I remember only one conscious thought from that night: “It’s like the world has been reborn, fresh and untainted. And me along with it.”
Dynamically there are few albums as perfectly conceived and executed as Flood in my opinion.
Listening to Flood with as few distractions as possible and letting it carry you along without expectation to the very end is like living through an exhibition of nature’s beautiful chaos. It is like seeing the full spectrum of the universe from big bang to the final decay of matter into energy and energy into nothingness.
I also highly recommend the live version from “Leave Them All Behind 2012” show in Tokyo, Japan on November 3rd 2012 . And even if I do miss the minimalist build up of the original album the live version is shorter but more intense especially because of the structural and dynamic change of the noise movement at the beginning. It changes the complexion and dynamics of the album but also showcases Wata’s mindblowing E-Bow technique and in the end leaves you with a similar sensation of having ridden a tornado through a thunderstorm.
For the original 2000 album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBP_CJ6C3a4
For the 2012 live version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f91bDvTPKIU
Av: Nicklas Enkström, Landskrona