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Bo Ningen
Bo Ningen Richie Troughton , November 11th, 2010 11:07

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The opening crashes of cymbals and dizzying wall of fuzz that begins Bo Ningen's debut album is much like the immediate spectacle of the live experience. Here, the energy of their exhilarating gigs is successfully transferred onto tape, as the Japanese four-piece wrench damaged shards of delayed feedback out of their battered instruments.

Having met and formed in London a couple of years ago, Bo Ningen have since played numerous shows at pubs and clubs in the capital and beyond. Their well-deserved live reputation was secured with a show stealing performance at last year's Offset festival; they were heavy, far out and they destroyed everything in their wake. By the end of the set members were either rolling around the floor in the debris of trashed drum kit and scattered fuzz boxes, or hanging upside down by their legs off one of the poles holding up the tent they were playing in. On their return to the festival in September they sought to repeat the feat, this time on the main stage. When wild-man drummer Mon-Chan terrified his band mates by climbing the entire outer frame of the stage, he made sure the name Bo Ningen was once again on the lips of witnesses afterwards.

As if beamed down from 1970, Bo Ningen's free spirit, long hair, colourful threads, and incendiary live psych-outs remind you what watching a rocknroll band should be about. And this LP has managed to capture that woah-what-happened feeling; mind-blowing and over too quickly to fully register.

First track '4 Seconds To Ascension' lifts off with spectacular wails of flailing feedback held down only by a crashing barrage of motorik trap work, before exploding into its sleek pile driver riff, pummeling away until the song comes to a close in under three minutes. But wait, that's just a false ending, and they're off again. Guitarists Yuki Tsujii and Kohhei Matsuda don't so much play their instruments as throttle them; echo-drenched and in the red.

Nothing is quite as it first seems in the hands of these self-styled "far east enlightenment activists". For all their molten rock moves, Bo Ningen are not simply just another band from the cosmic inferno and for every gonzo freakout there is an underlying pop sensibility. As early as the second song, they catch you off guard with the catchy stuttered choruses of 'Yuru Yura Kaeru'; immediate and sun-kissed, albeit laced with acrobatic guitar playing and layers of fuzz smeared on top, as it falls into walls of barely contained noise. Bass and drums hammer out a krautrock groove, as astral guitars float into the cosmos

Bo Ningen, or the "stick men" as their name translates, describe their sound as "cosmic lullaby and chant". 'Gasmask Rabbit' fits the bill, dreamy and slowly hypnotic, but deceptively speeds up instead of drifting you off to sleep. The familiar deadened bass drum stomping intro of Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man' is resurrected and extended on 'Post Yohkai'. Over 10 minutes the music builds playfully on surreal lyrical themes of mischievous pixies with supernatural powers before trying on some more for size from the Sabbath riff cupboard.

Previously released on last year's debut 10" single, 'Koroshitai Kimochi' explodes out of the speakers; its simple descending intro riff far slower and heavier than before. Frontman Taigen Kawabe sings in Japanese about "when the usual turns unusual" as the verses jerk to a no wave judder. The phased-out sonics of the live performances are much more prominent on this recording than on the earlier version, as on 'Maguro', which also resurfaces from that EP.

The cool, reverb drenched, 'Yuruyakana Ao' (gradual blue) brings welcome calm towards the end, surfing in slow motion towards the lapping waves and seagull calls of epic finale, '∆'. Clocking in at 15+ minutes, over a repetitive bass line, it starts slow and reflective, before breaking into a monolithic riff, every bit as energetic and chaotic as the live show. You can almost picture them trancing out on the studio carpet, as guitarists swing their axes round and round in front of cutting out amps for the eventual destructo-noise breakdown.

Indebted as they may be to the fuzzed out mantras of Les Rallizes Denudes and stoned riffs of Acid Mothers Temple, Bo Ningen have reined in the excesses of their spiritual sonic warrior forebears into contagious nuggets of pop mayhem. If you like your guitar sounds wild and free and falling apart, you couldn't ask for a more fun psychedelic ride.

Tim Russell
Nov 15, 2010 8:40am

Great bit of writing this. I've never heard of the band and they don't even sound like they'd be my cup of tea, but Richie's review really makes me want to hear them. Good stuff Quietus.

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