The Hunt: Boris – Flood (2000)

The Hunt is a new series, where I will go through my queue of albums I need to listen to, and give my initial thoughts/opinions on the record after one or two listens. It’s a pseudo-review to help get through my endless list of music recommendations, expand my understanding of music I haven’t listened to, and hopefully do the same for you as well. Today, it’s on Boris’s record, Flood (2000).

As my first exposure to Boris as a band, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew they were Japanese, well-thought-of, and had a long discography; but that was it. My familiarity with drone metal, and the surrounding genres is also not the greatest, so in many ways, I was going into this entire realm of music blind. But through only two listens, Flood has shown to be a deep, intriguing, and ambitious piece of music, unlike anything I’ve heard before.

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Drone is typically thought of as loud, or at the very least, abrasive in many aspects, but in this specific case, it takes a new form. Of course, there are large periods of the album that display these sonic qualities, but in the context of the entire project, they’re shifted to a much prettier sound. This is mainly due to the start of the record. The patience immediately established through the first track, “Flood I,” prepares you for the long, extended, and continuously-developing cuts that follow. And it also acts as a microcosm of the project as a whole. The entrance is much more similar to a math rock record, than a drone one. The fourteen-minute-long song, is constructed almost entirely by the same guitar lick, repeated, echoed, and layered in and out of rhythm with each other. It’s pretty simple, so by the time you get to the ninth minute of this journey, it could understandably get stale. But at the same time, for those willing to sit through it, it starts the mindset the album attempts to create; one that’s atmospheric, meant for absorption and experience, more than enjoyment.

The likeness of the first track to the album, however, comes during the tail-end. What starts off as a subtle white noise, turns into heavy, overbearing drones that take over the previous guitar sounds. And as the album progresses, this pattern continues. After the conclusion of the rather simple, “Flood I,” “Flood II,” provides a lot more complexity. Once again, we’re gifted a repetitive base for the song. A few alternating, fluttery guitar chords are backed by some incredibly slow cymbal taps. But added on, are a variety of different guitars; these a lot more unique. The pitch of them is often so high, they sound like feedback, rather than notes. The smooth-yet-awkward transitioning of the notes also make it sound like the guitar is being played in reverse, and for all I know, it could be. Throughout the next, once again fourteen minutes, these two main tools are used to create a psychedelic, hypnotic, almost trip-inducing sound; something to close your eyes to, and imagine a beach, or an ocean (hence the title/cover).

Where things get even more interesting, though, is through the two following tracks that close things out. “Flood III” starts off with a continuation of the “Flood II” sounds and patterns, but is then surprisingly interrupted by a fading-in, heavy drone guitar, and some aggressive drumming to go alongside it. Vocals even come in for the first time, sounding chant-like, with the way they accompany the hefty instrumentals in front of them. The aggression begins to halt, though. And while the drones continue, the heaviness doesn’t as much. The repetitive guitar strums, and the syncopated drumming, that provided the more abrasive aspects of the drones go away, and instead, leave a once-again hypnotic sound. It just happens to be in a much darker tone.

The entire fourth, and last track, “Flood IV,” is then based around the fading-away of these hypnotic drones, back to the gorgeous, bright sounds we heard at the front of the record. The aforementioned, “Flood III,” begins with another continuous guitar lick, and it’s repeated toward the beginning of “Flood IV,” but on a distorted bass, rather than a bright guitar. With the now-much-darker tone, it changes the entire emotion behind the notes, so rather than get boring, it adds another layer of depth for you to explore in your mind. As soon as that starts to end, the droning is replaced with a tamer white noise instead. And the guitars are traded in for what sounds like piano notes. The harsh feeling goes away incredibly quickly, into a more melancholy and reflective state. From here on out, for about fifteen minutes, the white noise dominates more and more, the active parts of the track leave, and it become pure background noise, almost like how it started.

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Flood is certainly the first true drone experience I’ve been able to have, but it leaves me wanting more. I wouldn’t head into the album with a very active mindset of listening to vocals, or energetic and engaging moments. It’s something, instead, to drift off to; to think about, but in the depths of your own subconscious. It brings the often-cruel sound of drone to a much brighter, softer place, that both makes it more palatable, and unique. In that way, it reminds me a lot of Sunbather (2013), now one of my favorite records in general, and the key example of how to take darkness, and make it much brighter. It also has a very reflective, melancholy side, like a lot of older IDM, with the likes of Boards of Canada, and many others. Despite a lack of knowledge, experience, or expectation in the realm of music explored in Flood, I managed to enjoy it quite a bit, and will definitely be returning both to it, and Boris in the future. If I were to rate this initially, it’d be an 8.5, bordering on a 9. I would feature a favorite tracks list, but the four songs just feel like a development in the album as a whole, rather than separate entities.

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