Absolute authority in the field of psychedelic music on Japanese soil, the Tokyo power trio returns to this country with the baggage of 30 years of uninterrupted activity. Crossing any boundary imposed on the possibilities of rock, the band formed by Atsuo, Takeshi and Wata continues brave and tireless, on the road and in a countless number of releases by labels such as Southern Lord, Hydra Head, Third Man or Atsuo’s Fangs Anal Satan, projecting a panoramic view on forms, languages and means for both elevation and suffocation. From their beginnings stuck in sludge and the most thunderous drone, Absolutego and subsequent electrified onslaughts on records with titles as self-explanatory as Amplifier Worship or Dronevil have been marking the ground in steps of volume, distortion and screaming from the bottom of the pit through the voices of the three members. Metallers in headtrip, headbanging as meditation. In the same breath they rescue the guts and spirit of the proto-heavy metal of the 70s and of the most hallucinated garage of the previous decade to give them new life, postulated in the first Heavy Rocks from 2002 or Akuma No Uta from 2005, in a conscious and self-referential effort to hoard all the music that runs through minds and bodies.
This same voracity and exploratory eagerness is evident in the list of collaborations they have had over the years: from various records with Merzbow, to Altar with Sunn O)))) in cosmic alignment, from Keiji Haino to the surprising meeting with Ian Astbury – the only band able to bring together the king of noise and the vocalist of Cult in the same Discogs entry. Pink, thrown into the wider world in 2006, expanded their universe of listeners and brought a beauty and contemplation hitherto only hinted at, echoing memories of shoegaze, and along the way landing on the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch’s Limits of Control and gathering awe from all fronts. From there, nothing else was left but to creep along, opening doors that opened from the cavernous doom to the ethereal dimension of dream pop, from the ecstatic improvisation to the containment of the drone, from the tics of hard rock to the speed and abandon in punk, all very well documented, as in the various live records that are appearing on Fangs Anal Satan. A collecting activity with as much in common with devotion to the Grateful Dead as from the restlessness of free jazz.
Outside of those accounts, and excluding the efforts of the third Heavy Rocks and the return to the denser drone swamps of Fade, NO of 2020 and W of 2022 take pride of place in that immense discography. In itself an achievement, considering all that lies behind. Complementary albums, both NO and W emerge as the band’s possible response to the pandemic and its continuing effects. The first is like a roar, a primordial cry in the face of the isolation and confused torpor of these times, operating with the band’s most punk and libertarian instincts, while W, their first album for Sacred Bones, spreads itself through more placid ambiences, where Wata’s beatific voice takes centre stage through haze of noise, layers of contemplative guitar and aching rhythms, where the light is still contaminated by some shadow. We’re not off the hook yet. As Takeshi summed it up so well in a 2020 interview: “The World will keep changing. Like a reflecting mirror, Boris will keep evolving”. Here we will be. BS