Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Boredoms / Michael Gira @ Shoreditch Town Hall, 26 October 2007

We were late to this gig due to a nail in my car’s tyre and an quick spare wheel change, which meant that most of Michael Gira’s set was missed. This was no bad thing though. I’ve never like the Swans much, and the four or five songs we caught of Gira’s acoustic set seemed to be pretty much an acoustic approximation of his former outfit’s sludgey dirges. Sure, going to an evening that’s part of the 25th anniversary celebrations for Wire magazine, you’re not expecting tunes, but Gira’s minimum chord pummelling is not for me. Still, I liked his braces and hat get-up.

However, the Young God label boss wasn’t the attraction for my friend and me on Friday. It was The Boredoms, Japan’s premier ever-mutating oddball exponents of free rhythm and musical chaos. I wasn’t at all familiar with The Boredoms, and really was there because of my friend’s wild enthusing about this band. But as I expected, it turned out to be enthusiasm well-founded because it was a storming set, and maybe the best gig I’ve been to this year. That’s because it’s not like anything I’ve been to this year. Or maybe ever.

When describing new music, we usually make comparisons – “it sounds like such-and-such a band” etc. But with the Boredoms you’re in new territory. I can’t think of any similarities with anything else I’m familiar with. Words like ‘improv’ and ‘free jazz’ don’t even begin to get close.

Basically the set up for this, a performance of a something they call V∞redoms, was a low stage in the middle of the venue (the wonderful faded Victorian grandeur of Shoreditch Town Hall) with three drum kits, a keyboard, some vintage synths and a what looked like a carefully-constructed ‘wall’ of guitar necks (see this pic for an idea). The band took to the stage led by main man Yamantaka Eye, with him wielding two huge light bulbs, which he proceeded to toss in time to rapid-fire percussive blasts from the three drummers. From there on in it was one hell of a trip. Eye orchestrated the proceedings, sometimes operating the synth, other times dancing around, screaming like a madman, and the rest beating the crap out of the guitar necks with drumsticks and broom handles. It was an amazing noise, which rose and fell, sometimes stopped, but not quite. And most importantly, underneath all if it was the amazing mass drumming, the sense of rhythm made it impossible to stand still. Thankfully there were a good few people here who contradicted what could potentially have been an evening of cooler-than-thou posing by the crowd, into a display of crazed dancing. I’m not as young as I was, but even at my distance, I couldn’t keep still. It was just amazing.

The closest they came to a conventional song is one where Yoshimi P-Wee (yes, it’s her that the Flaming Lips album was named after) took vocal duties in what seemed like their take on Japanese pop, but like all their material, it’s a particularly twisted take. Although The Boredoms were on stage for about an hour and a half, it seemed like it was all over too soon. And given that this is not the sort of thing than can ever be replicated on record, I’m going to have to hold out till Eye and the gang are back in town to experience this magic again. It’ll be worth the wait.


No downloads here I’m afraid. As far as I can detect, V∞redoms isn’t available on record (and it shouldn’t be either). Plus, nothing I post can really represent the greatness of this gig. However, I have taken some recommendations for Boredoms albums to pursue (Vision Control Newsun seems like the front runner) so after I do some more checking out, I’ll report back. This is not the last you’ve heard of the Boredoms on this blog!

Pics of the gig from unresttwothree and _imax's Flickr photostreams. I didn't take my camera to this one. Wish I had now.


Anonymous said...

No no. Vision Creation Newsun has nothing on Super AE. It is more similar to the newer live shows though.

Victoriasjukebox said...

Oh no no no! I missed Michale Gira! I can't believe this has happened.

How can you not like Swans...the music is beautiful.

Keep up the good work.


JW said...

V∞redoms is actually the bands' name for the post 2001 incarnation; the V and B sounds are identical in Japanese so there's not much distinction for them. There is a recording of a Christmas 2004 show with a vocal ensemble that is pretty similar to the current stuff -- Super Roots 9

The Daily Growl said...

Thanks for the tips. As far as I can see, Super AE isn't available from my usual sources (Rough Trade, Boomkat) - any ideas of where to get a copy? Otherwise I might start with Vison. Will try to track down Super Roots 9 too. It's a whole exciting new world of discovery...!

JW said...

There's a live DVD and CD coming out in Dec too. LIVE AT SUNFLANCISCO

Anonymous said...

If you really want to get a taste of what the Boredoms are like get yourself a copy of Soul Discharge,(this is early boredoms from the mid 80's completely different kind of music but still equally as unique) Super ae, Vision Creation New Sun, and House of the Sun/Seadrum. Also try some of eYe's previous bands, Destroy 2, Hanatarashi, Concrete Octopus and UFO or Die( in this case UFO stands for Unlimited freak out) Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

also if you're having trouble finding boredoms albums, ebay is the place to look.

p.s. The first time i heard Soul Discharge, was the first and only time in my life music has made me physically scared...its the best album i've ever heard. I mean i put it up there with Pet Sounds.


Anonymous said...

Super AE moves mountains out to sea. Play the first fifteen minutes or so at absolutely full volume and you'll see. I still remember seeing Boredoms in MI in '99 at an absolutely phenomenal show, even taped it. They are on the current wavelength that Sun Ra and the Arkestra traveled. Who cares about Gira? Saw Swans once in the '80s, they cleared out the hall with their feedback and distortion, and it was an otherwise receptive crowd. What stupidity on the band's part. Post some Boredoms live mp3 material to wash away any thoughts of the execrable Swans.

Anonymous said...

Soul Discharge is rather stunning, but advanced listeners might prefer AE or Chocolate Synthesizer. When I first got it (new), I turned it up full volume, and during Ac id Police, the vibrations sent books flying from my shelves.

Anonymous said...

Swans always sucked, Boredoms rule.

Vision said...

Chocolate Synthesizer, Super AE.