Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boris - Flood (a second opinion)

Drone is an interesting genre. If a person wants to, as they say, get into drone, they have to meet it's demands. Drone demands attention. Drone demands patience. Drone demands an open mind. It demands that you listen to albums in one sitting on speakers as loud as they'll go, and even louder than that. It makes you sit down, and pay attention to each and every little note and nuance it throws at you. And if you meet it's demands, drone music will reward you with an incredible listening experience. Arguably one of the most famous drone bands out there is Sunn O))), who honestly I'm not much of a fan of (aside from their most recent album - I'll have to get to that eventually). One drone album by a band not necessarily known for drone music is this one: Flood, by Boris.
Now I must admit, this album is more post-rock than it is drone. Still, all those demands I rambled off up there can describe post rock music as well. This particular album is one that certainly wants your patience. The album, which is actually one 70 minute song split into four long tracks, starts off with 30 seconds of silence. After this little period of calm, a simple guitar riff comes in. Nothing else, just a short riff played over and over and over. Still, it's somehow hypnotizing in it's repetitive nature, which will prove to be one of the albums' strong points. After a while you notice that the riff seems to echo itself. As time goes on this echo grows farther apart until the riff seems to be playing in double time. Then the drums come in. A single hit every now and again grows into rapid, echo-ey thrashes. These drums soon take over the guitar until there's nothing but rumbling. And then Flood II comes in.
Simplistic cymbals and snares come in, sounding like they just came out of a record from the '70s. Single chords play every now and again. An E-Bow hypnotizes you yet again with it's sustained notes. This is probably the most straight-forward piece of the album - downright beautiful guitars laden with reverb surround you in a hazy, wonderful world. All this while still maintaining the impossibly slow yet incredibly enticing nature of the whole album. Around 7 minutes in, the E-Bow disappears and a guitar solo blooms. Yes, it does take time for it to change up. But that's one of the things this music demands. However, it truly rewards you with incredible beauty. A second, more emotional solo comes in around 10 minutes. Have you ever listened to Maggot Brain, by Funkadellic? It's like that, only by a Japanese chick. A single screeching note brings Flood II to a close, and brings Flood III into life
The guitar riff is still present in Flood III, though the drums have gone away. More E-Bow sounds rise like bubbles every now and again. Then the first (and only) vocals of this album appear. As I mentioned before, these guys are Japanese, so they're gonna sing in Japanese. Even if you could speak Japanese, it's hard to make out exactly what he's singing. I suppose that's because this album doesn't use vocals as something to sing along to. The vocals here are simply another instrument, adding to the ambiance of the track. Sort-of like chanting, I guess. Around 5 minutes, the guitars start to become laden with feedback. It quickly snaps you out of the slow, soft beauty of the clean, reverbed guitar into thrashing drums and roaring guitars. The song is angry now, and it's taking it's anger out on you. There's still a hint of serenity in the noise though, a glimpse of what just was but is no longer. The vocals break through the noise around 8 minutes in, shining a light of the beauty in the past to balance with the horror that has been brought with these sounds. Eventually the horror overpowers the vocals, and brings along a new, epic guitar solo to scare you even more. This song turns you into a masochist. The pain, the horror, the torment brought by these thrashing instruments becomes a sick, twisted kind of beauty thats impossible to ignore. Around 14 minutes into this insanity, the drums die down, and only the guitar is left to trudge along with it's static growls. This is the point where the album has built as tall as it can stand. After nearly 50 minutes of build up, the wandering guitar pulls the brick from the bottom and watches in pain as the whole piece slowly comes crumbling down.
Flood IV begins with the dust and debris starting to bury the angry guitar from III in a muted cloud. Clean notes ring from a new guitar, rising with the hum of the ruins. This is when the album finally comes to a slow, slow close. The muted guitar riff continues to play, slower and more disjointed as time goes on, as the volume lowers ever so slightly, until it's barely audible.
This album is not something you'd listen to in the background. It's not music that would make much sense if it were played out of order. It lives. It goes from birth, through growth, to crippling old age, and slow yet peaceful death. It's certainly not immediately accessible. But then again, it doesn't try to be. It realizes what it is, and expects you to realize the same thing. It wants you to sit along for the ride, and see what it's trying to show you. And if you're patient, and listen with open ears, you will be rewarded with one incredible masterpiece.

Another thing to listen for on this album is it's concept. Like the music itself, the concept is slow moving, simple, and beautiful. There is a reason this album is called Flood.

Imagine you're standing in an enormous area. Nothing but concrete underneath you and grey skies up above

Flood I is when the rain starts. The looping guitars show the rain picking up speed and density. The crashing drums are thunder and lighting: scarce, at first, but soon overwhelming. As the drums get harsher, the water begins to accumulate.

Flood II is when the water has gotten so high that you're floating a few inches off the ground. The relaxation and near nirvana you experience in this world of water is beautiful.

Flood III is when you've been floating for days. Hunger begins to strike. Your body is weak. You start to sink. Though you're able to stay somewhat afloat, the water soon overpowers you and you're struggling for air.

Flood IV is when you realize you're time to die has come. Your body grows lifeless as water is sucked into your lungs. It stings, but after some time you go numb. You're completely underwater, and sinking slowly. You'd hoped that your life would flash before your eyes, but you're so cold and numb that you can't think of anything. However, you are at peace. You watch as the sun begins to shine in the world above the water, and you feel secure as it slowly fades to nothing. Your eyes close, and you slip into eternal darkness - safe, and calm.

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