Left: Takeshi, Right: Touring Guitarist Michio Kurihara (All Photos by Daniel Ahrendt)
Japan has a penchant for hyper-imaginative integration of Western tropes. Be they topic American plot twists, infrastructure, toys, high art, etc., the surreal characteristics of Japanese representation do a fantastic job of morphing our output. When it comes to popular music today, few groups encapsulate this ability better than Tokyo’s Boris, a three-person genre-bending dynamo with a drone metal core. Neumos was swamped with enthusiasts pulling receipts and napkins out of their pockets for improvised earplugs. I pity anyone who left their ears unprotected in the face of the band’s frequent sludgy, Motorhead metal attacks. Well, I might pity them only a little. I’m sure it was just as awesome for them.
The band originally formed in 1992 with four members. The original drummer, Nagata, left in 1996. This resulted in Atsuo (lead singer from 1992-1998) taking up the drums and slowly phasing himself into a back-up vocalist. It also partially explains why Atsuo is the most audience-oriented member of the band and a master of extroversion in general (he speaks near fluent English and represents the band in interviews). While guitarist/keyboard player/vocalist Wata and guitarist/bassist/vocalist Takeshi stand about like performance stoics, Atsuo will frequently wave and fist pump at the crowd with his mouth perpetually open. He’s the quintessential rock musician; part excellent drummer, part stoked that you’re there, and partially his band’s biggest fan. When your band has released 17 full-length albums branching nearly two decades and everything from drone metal to J-pop, I can see why you would be.
Their set encompassed a good deal of their conglomerated styles, with most of the material coming from their most recent albums Heavy Rocks and Attention Please. Both albums were released earlier this year and share the same single, “Aileron.” This shouldn’t be confused with their 2002 album, Heavy Rocks. The cover is the same except the color (purple instead of orange) and the band wanted to use the name and design to “redefine ‘heavy’ music” in the context of their work over the last two decades. Accompanying this deafening combination of J-pop tunes and heavy hitters blasting through Orange and Marshall cabinets was every light on the Neumos stage and a prodigious amount of smoke. Not many bands pull off this saturation of stage effects so well. Their ability to do so with a dynamic musical set made this one of the most pleasing concert experiences I’ve had this year.
Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos
Master Musicians of Bukkake
Opening for Boris was Sacramento’s math-rock ADHD kids Tera Melos and Seattle’s own questionably named drone metal Bedouin Master Musicians of Bukkake. While Tera Melos are undoubtedly intelligent musicians, capable of churning through time signatures, experimenting with pop form, punk timbre, and a good deal of effects pedals, I have to say they lost me. Their experimentation with chord progressions and drop-offs in perceived cohesiveness frequently left the impression that they were master tinkerers, but not necessarily able to engage live primal reactions.
Master Musicians however, worked in the opposite direction through easily led psychedelic drone and an absurd stage presence complete with head scarves, aviators, and incense. There was a distinct improvisatory strength in the band’s treble instruments that elaborated on the ritualistic base. If only they had played on the ground instead of the stage. Everyone would have started moving like hippie women in an open field. The one concrete negative trait of their set was whatever they sprayed their drapes with at the end of the set. It may have been used to neutralize odors or something, but it made the stage smell like a Hot Topic store.