In 2011, Tokyo’s Boris released three full-lengths — “Attention Please,” “Heavy Rocks” and “New Album” — plus “Klatter,” a collaboration with noise musician Merzbow.
Such prolificacy is rare — here, Japan or anywhere — but for Boris, which has recorded 17 studio albums, it’s the norm.
The trio — guitarist Wata, multi-instrumentalist Takeshi Ohtani and drummer Atsuo Mizuno — formed in 1992, taking its name from a track by Montesano, Washington’s seminal Melvins.
“In the beginning,” Mizuno recalls, with Seattle artist Yukako Amari translating, “I collected Melvins bootlegs, pirated versions, everything. Their style was new to me … so heavy. ‘Boris,’ the song, changed my life.”
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Like their heroes, Boris are heavy music masters, yet glancing at the group’s catalog — titles include “Amplifier Worship” and “Feedbacker” — tells only part of its story. They’re rock ’n’ rollers at heart, but with a serious avant-garde streak.
“Over time,” explains Mizuno, “we started hearing things differently, and gradually evolved into doing whatever we wanted.”
What they do is explore 20th (and 21st) century guitar music, from detuned doom-metal and muscular ’70s riff-fests to hardcore-punk thrash, confrontational noise and mind-expanding psychedelia. Beyond the Melvins, Mizuno cites similarly eclectic Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave as inspiration.
The shape-shifting band’s live shows — visually arresting displays of hair, sweat, gongs and double-necked guitars — are focused, intense and unforgettable. This weekend at Seattle’s Crocodile, they’ll play two.
Saturday promises a career-spanning concert — “a rock party,” in Mizuno’s words — while Sunday consists of 2000’s spaced-out “Flood” in its entirety, then an experimental set. As the drummer puts it, “we want to show our past, present and future.”
To single out any Boris LP as its best is a fool’s errand, but the meditative “Flood,” a sweeping four-part epic with New Age undertones, is a good starting point.
“We’ve never played it in the U.S.,” Mizuno says. “A lot of people there were introduced to us after ‘Flood,’ so they wanted us to bring it back.”
Boris threw those same fans for a loop in recent years, first with admittedly “uncool” prog-rock bombast on 2008’s “Smile,” then the J-pop-oriented “New Album.”
Of Boris’s ever-changing sound, “being too controlled kills the spirit,” says Mizuno. “We try to communicate openly, honestly and objectively.”
No matter the genre, the group has never lacked conviction. To many, Japanese bands are synonymous with otherworldly musicianship and showmanship, and Boris certainly embodies that ideal.
“Because we’re from Japan, we’re often viewed almost like we’re from space,” Mizuno says, laughing, “but we’re just people who want to have fun, be expressive, and see what exciting things happen.”
Charlie Zaillian: firstname.lastname@example.org