Review Summary: Attention please attention please attention please attention please attention please attention please attention please attention please attention please
On our quarterly Staff playlist back in December, this site described Boris’ “Drowning By Numbers”, our first glimpse into their new album W
, as a terrible lead single
unlikely to attract many subsequent returns. The accompanying register was humorous and earnestly excited, but honestly I’ll go one up and say that W
offers prospective new listeners such a terrible point of entry I refuse to give Boris an introduction for it. Get out of here – go read what some other hack has to say about Flood
and why their labyrinthine discography supports such legendary status, and don’t come back here without a fierce sum notches on your belt. Out!
That’s all the context we need: in we go with W
. Insofar as it has one, this album’s core is a prettier take on the typical groan and strain of Boris’ drone sound, loosely comparable to such not-fan-favourites as “My Machine” and “Endless”. It’s every inch a drone record, but a succinct one entwined with dreamlike aesthetics and electronic flirtations that (very) vaguely recall the band’s approach back in the New Album
era a decade+ ago. This may well be an attractive prospect, but its moments of excellence are fleeting; the bulk of these tracks are frequently underdeveloped, and all too often placed alongside one another without a shred of cohesion.
In particular, the first five tracks successively reinterpret the band’s ultrabroad downbeat brief in a thoroughly disconnected fashion, each pulling a hard reset on whatever palette and tone precedes one. It’s rare to hear an album this indifferent to maintaining any kind of dialogue across sequencing: at best, this pans out in standalone highlights that hardly require the weight of a full record behind them, as on the gorgeous early gem “Icelina”; at worst it’s anything from forgettable to irritating, as on “The Fallen”’s completely unheralded lurch into full-tilt metal midway through the tracklist. It’s an inoffensive, if half-baked track on its own, but it belongs in this tracklist like an armpit on a cobra. An obvious stumble, sure, but also symptomatic of wider fractures.
Fortunately, this run of immersion-breakers is limited: in unexpected confirmation that the U-bend on the cover of NO
was indeed a portent of a new Boris-patented filtration system, W
establishes a flow of sorts at the precisely point where many would consider giving up on it altogether. By far the most focused cut on the album, “Beyond Good and Evil” introduces a bleaker, more fragile tone that the following tracks largely adhere to, and yet this finds itself countered by another significant pitfall. Perhaps more frustrating than any individual weak link, the album’s moments of promise tend to prematurely curtail themselves the moment they hit their stride. “Old Projectors” is the worst offender here, shifting from a melancholy drone to the kind of heaviness that suggests however many incoming minutes of spellbinding drone/doom, only to be relegated to a short-lived afterthought; opener “I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…” and “The Fallen” are almost as guilty of similar truncation. It does not help the album’s already episodic form that so many of its tracks sound within themselves like excerpts of an unheard whole; the only one to feels thoroughly complete is the hazy closer “You Will Know”, a lovely Mono-esque burnout that can’t help but land as too little too late.
Writing in the hope that none but dedicated(ish) fans will still be reading by now, it is my duty to point out that this is the first Boris album since Attention Please
where guitarist Wata takes exclusive control of the mic. As that album proved with unfortunate clarity, Wata fares far better when her wavering delivery is supported by a show of muscle then when she’s assigned the mission impossible of carrying actual pop songs. However, her role here is more line with a shoegaze vocalist, better viewed as an additional layering than a particular focal point. “Beyond Good and Evil” and “You Will Know” hang a couple of stirring melodies on the edge of her whisper, but for the most part she’s easy to overlook here. This may be for the best.
Ultimately, I doubt W
will carry significant bearing on the way people view Boris’ supertapestry, positive or negative. Expect the unexpected
is practically their slogan; it’s usually cited with a complimentary valence, but I think there’s also an implicit understanding that the sheer quantity of eggs required to produce that many omelettes is going to involve the occasional face-to-face with an unchecked embryo. That’s W
: it’s got all the right DNA, but we’re looking at the unfortunate story of an unhatched chicken of drone here, destined for dusty exhibition in the Boris basement alongside the likes of Vein
, Love and Evol
, and if we’re being extra harsh, Asia
. Not much of an audience down there, but it could be in worse company.