November 18, 2004

The Boredoms: Seadrum/House of Sun

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The Boredoms were perhaps the most consistently challenging and provocative band of the 1990s, beginning their career with brutal, punk-noise somersaults and then suddenly exchanging their aggression for a wild, joyous experimentalism. Their last two albums, 1998’s Super Ae and 2001’s Vision Creation Newsun bask in iridescent synths, detonative guitars, and acrobatic tape-shredding. They’re perhaps the only modern rock musicians to completely sever any ties to other forms of music. If anything, they might be compared to The Beatles or Frank Zappa, not for their sound, but for the sheer number of ideas that ricochet across each song.

Unfortunately, the original group broke up around 2001, leaving only mastermind Yamatsuka Eye and drummer Yoshimi P-We. Recruiting two additional drummers, ATR and E-Da, Eye insanely and arbitrarily changed the band’s name to V(infinity)redoms and conducted a few one-off concerts, befuddling and abusing acidheads with their searing, tribal pandemonium. Confusingly, then, the new album, Seadrum/House of Sun, is released by “The Boredoms,” although it appears to feature the new line-up. While the 40-minute album is somewhat underwhelming considering the epic lunacy of the group’s last two albums, it seems to offer hope that these are merely Newsun b-sides or preliminary beginnings to another classic album. The latter seems particularly plausible, since the album is roughly structured by thesis and antithesis: the first track wields swift, spasmodic percussion and the second drowns in meandering, beatless atmospherics.

The 22-minute “Seadrum” is an enrapturing excursion through flittering xylophones, owing minor debts to Steve Reich, Betty Carter, and Javanese gamelan. A fragile female voice dangles perilously between be-bop and Inuit throat-singing before hitting an unbearable pitch, prompting cascades of drums and flurries of keyboards. Vastly more subtle than any of the Boredoms’ prior pieces, “Seadrum” is nevertheless akin to Mickey Hart and Keith Moon dueling in a Thai monsoon. That’s before everything gets knocked out by a sweltering funk break.

“House of Sun,” on the other hand, is entirely devoid of vocals, beat, or even momentum. The first second is exactly the same as all the others. It makes Eliane Radigue’s most ambient song feel like Black Flag. Full of middling registers and muddy colors, the most fascinating thing in the course of this endless drone is a barely perceptible hiss 10 minutes through. Who knows whether it’s brilliant or boring? Like everything by the Boredoms, it just is.

Archived article by Alex Linhardt
Sun Arts & Entertainment Associate Editor