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BORIS, live in New York

Live Review

Venue: Bowery Ballroom

Japanese noise legends blow up the Big Apple

Japanese trio BORIS have always been good at making noise, so it seems apt that the name they chose for their recently released album – their 19th in a 22 year career, no less – was just that.

Typically, for a band who are constantly evolving and changing their sound and style, Noise is actually (on the whole) a very melodic effort. Its eight sumptuous, swirling soundscapes are full of fizz and feedback yet still soar with graceful melody. Tonight, they play seven of those eight tracks in a set that transitions seamlessly between different moods and genres, often within the performance of just one song.

They launch their shapeshifting sonic assault with Melody and Vanilla – the second and first tracks, respectively, on Noise – both of which seem even more enlivened by the band’s physical presence. Drummer (and former lead singer) Atsuo is particularly energetic, smashing the huge cymbal that rests behind him to mark the start of their set, and proceeding to beat the hell out of his drums. He also peppers the more frenzied moments in their set with wild, discordant yelps.

There are lot of frenzied moments, too – not least the band’s frantic run through of Pink and the near-hardcore punk explosion of Quicksilver. Another song from Noise, it’s the one truly raucous track on the record, and BORIS certainly do it justice, whipping up a storm of intense and aggressive noise that it seems impossible for a trio to make.

Yet they’re equally at home with moments of quiet contemplation, too. Ghost Of Romance is a comforting, soothing tune which somehow manages to warm a room that, even though busy, is frigid from an overzealous air conditioner, while Angel is fragile and delicate, a song of slow-burning beauty that persistently gains fractions of moment until what was a lilting serenade has become a powerful surge of energy and emotion that’s played at full volume and feels like it’s shaking the foundations of the venue. It precedes Quicksilver, yet BORIS make that unlikely transition, from lullaby to nightmare, effortlessly and perfectly.

They end with the delightfully titled Vomitself, a constant barrage of feedback conducted by Atsuo until he jumps over his drum kit and dives, multiple times, into the crowd as the electronic feedback fills the room before returning to his place onstage and thwacking his gong again. It’s an emphatic finish to a gig that sums up BORIS perfectly – thoroughly unpredictable, but consistently exciting and inspiring.

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