By Jeff Moses
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It's hard to think of a band more gloriously schizophrenic and prolific than Japanese band Boris. The group dropped two records in the United States on May 24, Attention Please and Heavy Rocks (which shares its title with a 2002 album from the group), and is scheduled to issue a third, New Album, on November 25. Three records in one year is an accomplishment, but listening to the records back-to-back-to-back proves that there's more than just dedicated studio time at work here: The records encompass everything from sludgy, Melvins-esque riff rock (Boris takes its name from a Bullhead track) to My Bloody Valentine-meets-J-Pop bliss, taut dance grooves, and blown-out Sonic Youth at their poppiest.
"Right now, we are feeling and considering 'What is Boris?'" says drummer Atsuo via e-mail, expressing that even the band wonders about its diverse output. "It would be great if listeners feel significant differences among those three albums and possibilities what they can feel from there, differences and distances between recorded work and live sound."
The "differences and distances" exist within the band's recordings. Disparate sounds sprawl across the three discs: gorgeous trip-hop like "Pardon?" sounds like the work of an entirely different band from the headbanging "Riot Sugar," and the electronic clicks of "Hand in Hand" couldn't be further from "Flare," which could be the theme song for an imaginary anime film. While past collaborations with Merzbow, Sunn O))), The Cult's Ian Astbury, and avant-garde guitarist Michio Kurihara revealed a band that actively shrugged off classification, the trio of 2011 releases represents artists intent on shaking even some of the basic perceptions of the band.
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"Boris [has not been a] heavy metal band at all. From the first day, we have never called ourselves heavy metal," Atsuo says. "However, we are totally fine if everyone calls us a heavy metal band. We have been doing what we like, and, as a result, we welcome it if everyone says so, puts a tag on us, or categorizes us a in specific genre."
In a 2008 interview with Pitchfork, Atsuo discussed the band's fascination with the "fakeness" of Japanese glam rock from the '80s. "Sometimes, fakeness is even better than the real thing," he told the site, and with New Album's embrace of Vocaloid, a Japanese version of Auto-Tune, the band is clearly exploring the idea of "artificial as compelling."
"[Vocaloid and Auto-Tune] are totally different and the exact opposite," Atsuo says. "Vocaloid has a definite shape as an individual character, then the creator puts soul and meaning into it; Auto-Tune seems to be a method to symbolize the real thing."
The three albums also offer the band a chance to explore differing textures with the same songs. Versions of "Hope," "Les Paul Custom '86," and "Spoon" appear on both Attention Please and New Album. "These are not re-recorded versions," he says. "Re-arrange' seems to be fit more here. It seems for me when people say 'song' it actually sounds [or means] 'song arrangement' most of time. Maybe it is hard for them to imagine a tiny treatment of just one fader when mixing would lead to a totally different impression."