Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Relapse Records
Genre(s): Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock
No strangers to experimentation, Japanese acts Boris and Merzbow present their third collaborative studio album, Gensho. The release has been designed so that the listener may choose whether to listen to the contributions of each artist separately, or simultaneously; Merzbow’s four tracks stretching perfectly across Boris’ nine. Boris’ efforts are largely drone-heavy and drumless, beginning with a version of Farewell, a track which Boris and Merzbow had previously reworked for the Rock Dream album.
When taken together, these records offer ever-varying degrees of light, dark, power, and emotion that wash over the listener. Creatively, Gensho is so rich and expansive, fans of both acts should find it indispensable..
Genius does not happen by accident. Combining two caustic elements together with the intent of creating something that is both destructive and beautiful requires special attention and care. Merzbow’s claim to fame hinges on the fringes of music’s tedious labels, often found categorized in the “noise” section of your local record store. However, to reduce Merzbow to either noise or experimental lacks the insight and perspective when trying to understand his entire body of work.
Gensho, the latest sprawling collaboration from fellow Japanese experimental giants Boris and Merzbow, seems made and marketed to elicit the attention of Gizmodo or Mashable. The set splits 13 tracks unevenly between the artists; Boris takes credit for nine, while Merzbow can claim four. But compare the track lengths—add them up, even—and you'll notice that, collectively, the running time for Merzbow's contributions essentially equals that of Boris' drum-less recreations of its greatest hits.
Musicians are always doing weird shit, and that’s especially true in the noise world. Whether bending over backwards to out-weird the other avant-garde by taking a weed-whacker to a guitar or making a field recording down at the local Western Sizzlin’, musicians are inclined to embrace the more bizarre aspects of productivity. Once the names “Boris” and “Merzbow” pop into the equation, you can also assume things are about to get loud to the point of “Hey now, kids.
When we affix an “outsider” descriptor to some aspect of culture, we’re really saying that thing is undervalued, underappreciated, or under the radar — and the more open and accessible culture becomes, the easier it is to overlook the strange and unusual. What is popular (usually) dominates ….
The Japanese rock power trio Boris and the noise musician Merzbow, a.k.a. Masami Akita, both make simple work with intent and power, and both produce a lot of albums: for Boris, 23 over the last 20 years; for Merzbow, more than 200 since 1980. They have recorded six collaborations since the late ’90s. This double-disc joint album could be understood as merely another, but for the challenge inside it.
Experimental psych-metal act Boris and noise emperor Merzbow shatter sound thresholds at the drop of a megaton guitar pick, but the first disc of Gensho, the Japanese peers' seventh collaboration, is instead surprisingly accessible. Merzbow adds white noise to classic Boris sweetness like the shoegazing "Farewell," droning "Akuma No Uta," and a dreamy "Akirame Flower." Then the sound sorcerer takes lead on disc two, putting his screeching static front and center. Rough going at 75 minutes, but it's as pure an expression of Merzbow's vision as the first half is of Boris'.