June 1, 2009

Boredoms – Vision Creation Newsun (1999, WEA Japan)

Boredoms is a project by a group of Japanese experimentalists who've been active in the noise scene since the '80s, and achieved some modest recognition in America in the early '90s on tour opening for bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth. In the mid-'90s however, Boredoms shifted their style from crazed, boredom-induced freak-out noise to a more song-oriented, well-produced psychedelic and kraut-rock inspired tribal project featuring multiple drummers and a constantly changing group of musicians. I encountered the epic “Vision Creation Newsun” in record shops in Japan in '00, but at the time it was only available in a box-set that usually sold for around $100, including a bonus white t-shirt with white graphics printed on it that could only be seen in blacklight, and a small chip that made weird buzzing sounds when the box lid was opened. I was lucky enough to see the brain-bending music video for the title track on Viewsic, Japan's MTV channel, and I had the fortune of seeing Boredom's side-project OOIOO open for Sonic Youth there as well. I collected what material I could find (and afford) at the time, mainly side-projects as Boredom's material was very collectible and hard to find in Central Japan. When I came home to the US, I was pleased to find that Birdman Records had issued the album domestically in '01. “Vision Creation Newsun” is a dizzying voyage through cosmic psychedelic trance territory by way of pounding tribal drumming and distorted guitars, with Boredom's distinctive processing, editing and effects mixed in. The music has a fast, pounding rhythm, catchy guitar hooks and melodic patterns, and enough form to fend off total chaos, but with tons of experimentation along the way. This is some of the most psychedelic rock music I have ever heard, mainly instrumental except for some occasional whoops and hollers by front-man Yamatsuka EYE, who I also got to see perform several near-deafening DJ sets during my time in Japan (did you know he did the cover art for Beck's “Midnite Vultures”??). By taking the Japanese noise aesthetic and production methods and blending them with expert musical composition and song-writing, Boredoms set the experimental/noise bar VERY high and have continued to release innovative albums regularly, as well as tour in the US several times, all of which I have regrettably missed. The many members of Boredoms have all released a huge catalog of solo-albums and side-projects, many of which explore similar psychedelic territory as well as more ambient, trance and noise variations. Favorites of mine include OOIOO, Hanadensha, Psycho-Baba, AOA, and Rovo, and I will undoubtedly review several of them in the future!