Record Review: Boris/Ian Astbury – “BXI”

Following the tradition of unlikely musical combinations, doom-drone experimental band Boris has teamed up with singer Ian Astbury of legendary rock group The Cult in a blending of genres and styles that can only be described as the soundtrack to a heavy winter night. With its combination of haunting vocals and lifting melodies, the collaboration yields songs that are enjoyable regardless of the genre they fall into. The four-song EP titled BXI was released in September and just in time to reflect the gradual shift of seasons, much like the shift in styles that compliment the album. While Boris are more accustomed to creating music that defies genre, BXI is somewhat generic of modern rock but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; they provide a solid stage on which Astbury’s vocals can realize their weight.

The opening track, “Teeth and Claws,” is characteristic of the sound of The Cult with Astbury’s simple lyrics and Boris’ swooping riffs. Although the lyrics are hard to decipher, the point is not the words themselves but the strength with which they are sung. There’s a very obvious Danzig vibe and whether or not this is on purpose doesn’t seem to matter as much as driving beat that holds the entire song together.

“We Are Witches,” is arguably the weakest on the entire EP. Boris in the background could easily be replaced by any other group with less artistic mastery and it would remain the same. Astbury’s weighted voice is replaced by something higher that does not at all fit into the drone of the music and is too obtrusive.

“Rain” is a cover of a classic Cult track. While the original feels dated and saturated with its 80s formula, the Boris and Ian Astbury version adds new life with a new vocalist: Wata, Boris’s guitarist. In contrast to Astbury, her voice is lofty and is sometimes lost amidst the wail of the guitars until it becomes and instrument by itself. But there’s nothing particularly new about the song and serves only as an update of a classic. Not bad, but not great either.

The final track, “Magickal Child,” is far more distinctive of the music that Boris is regarded for. On its own, the instrumentation is likely to be found on a previous album, relying heavily on distortion and a specific pattern. Astbury’s vocals fit perfectly along with the hum of the music, filling in the spaces in the best combination the EP has to offer.

BXI is an album that is better listened to when one doesn’t think too hard about who the contributors are. It’s leans more on the formula of The Cult than with Boris’ distinct style, sacrificing one for the other at times. This doesn’t render the album bad, however, merely a new direction in exploring music. Those seeking a less formulaic approach of music should check out Boris’ collaborations with Sunn O))) or Merzbow. For now, BXI remains a solid EP that is comfortable, but nothing genre-bending. – Sarah Luca

“Teeth and Claws”

 

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