March 8th, 2008
I should have worn earplugs. It’s been four days and when I stop and listen to my skull there are still saws & scraping sheets. Muffled some by time & days of quiet music. Like floodlights absorbed by but still mostly soaking through heavy curtains.
Boris is a metal band from Japan, and I saw them at the Knitting Factory last Tuesday. They’re a 3-piece, they’ve been around since the mid 90s, & they just play catastrophically loud music which, whether fast or drone-slow, feels traumatically unhealthy to be standing in the presence of.
Their first song was “Farewell,” and after a few moments of set-up drone & swirling fog, there was this moment that still makes me shiver a little to remember. It was this breach, like the room split open. This vast gonging annunciation, this elemental sundering, and I was completely done in. Up until then I had been debating buying some plugs or snatching a bar napkin to tear into bits for my ears, but after that Rubicon all-chord I had no fucking choice. I just stood there, appalled and in love with all that snarl.
Then came Michio Kurihara’s solo (of the Japanese band Ghost, joining them for their whole set): gorgeous and wild, winding & carving in and out of “Farewell”‘s ocean of sound like an arctic sea snake.
Their whole set was just like that, a seductive corrosion, like some Rothko in rust; an irradiated cathedral that you probably shouldn’t kneel in for very long.
That acid-etch of it all, for me, is the music’s appeal. It bathes ears and skull the way whiskey washes the throat: the scrape & burn’s the draw, and what the burn confers: that moment of loss of self in bright blinding sear. Because artful noise — like Boris builds, like Sonic Youth or Swans or Les Rallizes Denudes deliver — can be no less than another means to achieving non-being. Pure noise can grant a kind of death, and that’s the brass ring we yearn for, knowingly or not, in arranging our moments of transcendence — a moment so deafeningly beautiful that it pauses life and all its fears and troubles, blacks it out, stops its breath.
But still, I should have worn some goddamn earplugs.
I think about my tiny ear bones — the stapes, the malleus, the incus — all still outraged by what I subjected them to, and I’m vaguely nauseous and almost ashamed. I want to assure them I won’t do it again, that I got caught up in it all. I want them to forgive me, as ridiculous as it sounds. The way you want your guts to forgive you after you’ve puked up half of dinner and a carafe of cheap white wine.
But then I think of being happily lost in pure noise’s red garden maze: standing there and feeling my substance shift while this terrific cocoon of crackling static closes in around me. Getting wombed in noise until you can’t even think.
And I just don’t think I would have done it differently if I had another chance. I’d probably still stand, close my eyes, feel that vast amped palm scoop and cradle me for an hour. Gentle & motherly & torturous & redemptive. Until the lights hit, the sound’s clipped and the last twist of maze is echoing behind me.
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2008
Photos from the show
Buy Boris Albums