Prolific Boris give Wata lead as she weaves tapestries of dreams on psychedelic-rich, numbing ‘W’

Photo by Yoshihiro Mori

I don’t understand how the legendary psyche-doom force Boris does it. I have a hard enough time trying to think of fresh things to say when writing pieces such as these several times a week, and it’s a significantly easier job than writing a record. Not only do Boris remain prolific, they continually make music that challenges them and the listener pretty much every time out.

The Japanese trio is back with their second record during the pandemic, the mind-melting “W,” the follow-up to 2020’s excellent “No.” This marks their 27th album (I’m trusting Wikipedia’s count because that site never has been wrong about anything), and it’s one that exclusively features Wata on vocals, as her voice takes you into a portal into space, letting your imagination run wild. This record features a lot of the sonic hallmarks that have made up other Boris records as the band—rounded out by guitarist/bassist Takeshi and drummer Atsuo—piles doom, drone, space rock, noise, and plenty of other sounds into these nine cuts. Wata’s vocal performance helps these songs advance into the stratosphere, making it one of the band’s most intoxicating records ever.

“I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…” starts as the first of many dreamscapes, Wata’s vocals swimming amid wonders and sedation, noises rising and teasing. The song swirls in a haze as squalls scrape, the power spirals, and a sudden jazzy intrusion at the end makes you tilt your head in blissful confusion. “Icelina” is gentle as Wata’s hushed singing works its way over you, glimmering over a canopy of starry sky. Rumbling and guitar zaps stab in, keys flutter, and the track drizzles its last, with each drop landing as frozen pellets. “Drowning by Numbers” is the most attitudinal of all the tracks, and it’s a fun one with Wata counting, “1,2,3,4,5,” as the bass slinks dangerously. The tracks gets more sultry later, a sound machine feels like it breaks and warps, and the music melts into time. “Invitation” is a quick one with drums echoing, the singing vibrating, and the whole vibe making you feel like you’re high as fuck, moving toward “The Fallen,” which is an absolute killer. It starts like a quiet torch ballad, Wata delicately using her voice to set the tone, making it feel like your destination will be pillowy, but it’s a trick. About halfway through, the power detonates, the guitars light up and fill your entire heart, and the tidal waves pull back with you left vulnerable and radiating.

“Beyond Good and Evil” has guitars building and the fog collecting and obscuring, scuffing up everything pristine. A moody darkness thickens like a heavy backdrop as the playing heads into noiry terrain, electric drone cuts through your entire soul, and the guitars pick up and gut, leaving you unsure of your whereabouts. “Old Projector” is the longest track, running 9:43 and just hanging in the air before the dreaming intensifies and takes you hostage. The playing pushes through stars and takes on a fuzz film that keeps layering, giving the song a My Bloody Valentine/Smashing Pumpkin sheen. Wata’s singing keeps your mind in the game as much as it wants to wander into the stratosphere. Sounds fold in as galactic wonder increases, encircling and floating off into planes not yet encountered by humankind. “Jozan” is a mere blip, a washed-out hiccup of slide guitar and echo, and that leads into closer “You Will Know (Ohayo Version)” where the weight of the world comes crashing down. Sludge collects and makes your sledding tougher, the playing floods your eardrums, and walls of psychedelic coating treats your mind and ailing body with colors and visions you never imagined before.

It’s been a long, challenging pandemic for all of us, but Boris have put these times to good use, following up their “No” with this otherworldly “W.” Wata’s performance is intense and sweeping as her voice is such a presence, but she isn’t here to steamroll you. Instead, she takes your hand and leads you through blinding sights and unreal experiences as she and the rest of the band deliver something to soothe your mind and help it find its way toward better things.

For more on the band, go here:

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