Depending on how one counts, Gensho marks the sixth collaboration between Japan's consummate heavy rock trio Boris and noise wizard extraordinaire /countryman Merzbow. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- their mutual familiarity, their work together more often than not results in inspiration for the musicians, and discovery for listeners. On this double-length offering (over 150 minutes), Boris and Merzbow don't actually play together, but collaborate nonetheless. Disc one is performed by Boris, who reworked songs from their catalog without drums. The second disc is Merzbow at his riled-up, restless best with new originals. The idea for Gensho (a Japanese word for "phenomenon") was born from a one-off show in 2014 for Boiler Room TV. The two acts decided that the set was worthy enough to attempt to capture in a proper studio.
Boris have revisited their catalog before, but they've radically re-imagined these nine songs. They've slowed them to a narcotic crawl and adorned them with cascading chords, drones, and feedback. As a result, they often reveal poignant melodies, usually buried under all that hard rock power -- check "Farewell," "Rainbow," and "Akuma No Uta." They come off as a twisted cross between Jesu and early Ride, exponentially heavier than both.
Merzbow sticks close to his harsh, dissonant, power electronics over four long pieces -- the two centerpiece selections comprise a suite entitled "Goloka" but also employs a somewhat different aesthetic. His music remains extreme in aggression and humor (thank goodness), but his sequences are strategically constructed to create shorter individual passages. His sonic reach concentrates on frequencies in the middle of the hearing range rather than the boundary levels.
Though each disc can be enjoyed separately (and should be) like the show that inspired them, they were cut to be played simultaneously. Individual volume levels/weights are left to the listener's determination. No matter which one favors, the end result delivers tremendous force combined with blurry lyricism. Merzbow's aggression is balanced by Boris' melodic richness and languid approach. Merzbow, in turn, diversifies his hallucinatory delivery by adding agitation and tension. When adjusting volume balances, nearly endless tonal variations become possible. By transposing the track order, even more combinations present themselves for discovery.
When taken together, these records offer ever-varying degrees of light, dark, power, and emotion that wash over the listener. Creatively, Gensho is so rich and expansive, fans of both acts should find it indispensable. ~ Thom Jurek