Boris at Union Transfer
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“We don’t feel comfortable calling Dear a return to our slow and heavy style,” says Tokyo’s amplifier worshiping experimental metal institution Boris. “We’ve been heavy since day one.” And it’s true. From the droning thunder of their Absolutego debut and through the cinematic crescendo of albums like Flood, the bombastic licks of the Heavy Rocks records, the punk rage of Vein, the bottom-dwelling psychedelia of Akuma no Uta and Pink, and the grimy thump of Attention Please and New Album, Boris has always attempted to search out new ways to level listeners with their sound. On the 25th year of their existence, the trio delivers Dear, an album they describe as “heavenly—far beyond heavy.”
Though Boris has traversed a broad swath of sonic territories, they have always been consistent in their embracing of excess, pushing their myriad of approaches and stylistic forays to points of intoxicating absurdity. But a time came in the early years of their third decade where the band wondered if there were any new horizons for the band to explore. Consequently, it was decided that the band would begin jamming on material for what was planned to be a record that served as a formal goodbye to fans. In a strange twist of fate, being unencumbered by expectations and having an open-ended approach to the writing process reinvigorated Boris. The renewed vitality yielded an album that fortifies their monolithic wall of sound while also allowing the individual band members to explore the nuances and intricacies of minimalist riffs played at maximum volume.
Album opener “D.O.W.N. –Domination of Waiting Noise-“ sets the tone for the record’s glacial pace and seismic rumble with vast swaths of sustained chords underscoring oscillator pulses and Takeshi’s soaring vocals. Songs like “DEADSONG”, “Kagero”, and “The Power” take the glacial doom of their early records and broaden the expanses of empty space to allow the chirp of amplifier tubes, the groan of strained speaker cabinets, and the sizzle of cranked distortion to transform their dirges into macrocosms of textures. It was a premeditated strategy, with the band deliberately scaling down on instrumentation in order to allow more color, detail, and tension to emanate from their protracted riffage. The galloping chugs and acidic guitar leads of “Absolutego” provide the most rock-oriented moment of the album, even though the song’s crushing timbre is cataclysmic even by the most down-tuned and heavily doped stoner rock standards. Brief moments of respite from the dimed amplifiers can be found on songs like “Beyond” and “Memento Mori”, where the band juxtaposes their deluges of fuzz with hints of ethereal dream pop.
Songwriting for Dear initially yielded three albums’ worth of material by the end of 2015, but as the band was slated to spend a large chunk of 2016 on their “Performing Pink” worldwide tour, they decided to hold off on releasing any new material. The tour further rekindled their passion, and when the band returned home they wrote several more songs and scaled the three records down to one. “At the very first moment, this album began as some kind of potential farewell note of Boris. However, it became a sincere letter to fans and listeners… you know, like ‘Dear so-and-so, this is the new album from Boris’ or something like that. We feel so grateful we can release this album in our 25th anniversary year.” Adding to that sentiment, Sargent House is grateful to release Boris Dear to the world on July 14, 2017 on CD, 2xLP, and digital formats.
Helms Alee’s music is exactly the sort of mutant, fantastic hybrid that used to only occasionally erupt out of small, isolated scenes, uninformed by trends of the day — instead inspired by the band’s own collective contributions. The Seattle trio’s unique amalgam of metal, art rock, pop and punk is charmingly reminiscent of the fertile creativity that groups once had before the Internet seemed to instruct bands to only copy one another. Helms Alee’s third album, Sleepwalking Sailors sounds like many styles combined into one, and none of it concerned with any notion other than creating vital, urgent and uniquely characteristic music.
Bassist/vocalist Dana James, drummer/vocalist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis and guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen combine a vast array of ideas within a single song, while still sounding entirely cohesive. Their songs are undeniably heavy, but also freely roaming through icy post-punk and warm melodic haze at any given moment. Any given song can be pummeling one moment and then subtly shift into triply harmonies without the listener even realizing what has happened.
“The weird thing about it,” Verellen muses, “is that we’ve got three different people contributing lyrics, parts and melodies to each song. So, they end up being disjointed by our individual input. We spent 3-1/2 years writing the songs for this album, so it’s thematically all over the place.”
Sleepwalking Sailors was recorded with engineer Chris Common (These Arms Are Snakes, Pelican, Chelsea Wolfe) in Seattle, with intentionally built-in limitations. “We recorded the album to tape in order to confine ourselves from ProTools refining every detail. We ended up with something that sounds really big, but also a bit more aggressive.” Helms Alee’s previous album Weatherhead was released in 2011 to much acclaim by their longtime label HydraHead just before it went under. Undaunted, and as a testament to the band’s strong fan base, Helms Alee originally crowdfunded Sleepwalking Sailors, eventually raising an impressive recording budget. Upon hearing Common’s early mixes, Sargent House quickly offered to bring the band onto their management roster and release the new album. Throughout the course of the album’s creation, the band’s independent aesthetic becomes clear: a dedication to truly representing themselves, regardless of trends and outside influence.
Album opener “Pleasure Center” kicks off with churning riffs and staccato drums that repeat and morph in a constant build that’s equal parts Gang Of Four as it is early Soundgarden. The slithering and perfectly meshed distorted rattle of James’ bass with Verellen’s climbing, chiming single notes on “Tumescence” lead off with Neurosis style heft, but soon give way to compelling minor-key vocal harmonies laid over the proceedings. Elsewhere, James’ and Matheson-Margullis’ even more pop-hook leaning vocal harmonies lend a transcendence to the proceedings. “Pinniped” pits near chamber-pop group vocal harmonies against screaming, wailing guitar blasts and thumping tom drum beats. Throughout the album, Helms Alee prove that their unique creative spark is its greatest asset in creating incisive and insightful music.
Sleepwalking Sailors will be released everywhere worldwide on LP, CD and download on February 11th, 2014 via Sargent House.
Japanese experimental acoustic collective from Tokyo
First gathered in 2007 in order to bring a decisive rally on contemporary extreme music. In addition to a conventional band formation of vocal, guitars, and drums, there are two additional electronics performers, allowing them to create harsh, distinctive sounds in various chaotic mix of styles ranging from noise, hard core, black metal, industrial, to grind core, through an absolutely physical embodiment of pure hard core mentality. Their staging can be characterized as a plethora of physical and acoustic momentum, with destructive performances involving self-mutilation and bleeding, receiving high critical acclaims in the underground live scenes and are touted as one of the most exciting acts.
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123