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Boris live at Boston, MA’s Paradise Rock Club

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Over the past two decades, Boris have established themselves as one of the most prolific and adventurous bands in heavy music. The Japanese trio’s expansive discography engages with just about every conceivable iteration and combination of drone, doom, sludge, post-rock and noise rock, with left turns into everything from shoegaze and dream pop to a string of collaborations with Merzbow, the closest thing to a mainstream noise musician that exists. While the band has racked up a number of classic releases tied to particular facets of their sound (Flood, their ambitious drone masterpiece and Heavy Rocks, their finest hour as a full-throttle stoner metal band), 2005’s Pink stands out as Boris’ best summative work.

From the gorgeously plaintive opener “Farewell” to the title track’s earworm riffing and the wall of drone that concludes “Just Abandoned Myself,” Pink finds Boris at the peak of their many powers. The disc of unreleased outtakes accompanying this June’s reissue of the record demonstrates the kind of zone the band was in at the time, functioning more as a legitimate companion LP than a one-listen curiosity. In support of the new deluxe edition, and in celebration of the album’s tenth anniversary, the band has embarked on a tour performing Pink in its entirety. In typical Boris fashion, however, that concept isn’t as straightforward in execution as it might sound.

Perhaps to mark the significance of the occasion, the band chose particularly distinguished tour-mates for this run of shows: Washington’s Earth. Today, Dylan Carlson’s long-running project resembles something of a psychedelic folk-tinged post-rock band – a long way removed from its origins as a pioneering, Boris-influencing drone-doom outfit – but that rendered the trio no less complementary to the evening’s headliners. Performing as a two-guitar and drums lineup (with matching cowboy hats), Carlson, longtime drummer Adriennne Davies and newcomer Brett Netson (of indie rock mainstays Built to Spill) offered a measured, hypnotic set. Netson, who guested on 2014’s excellent Primitive and Deadly, came armed with an elaborate pedal array and added color to Carlson’s towering riffs and Davies’ impressively thunderous one-woman rhythm section. As a fitting lead-in for their hosts, Earth’s set closed on its heaviest note with a reach back to 1996’s Pentastar for “High Command”.

For Boris’ headlining set, the band emerged enshrouded in fog and, naturally, pink light. But rather than the opening notes of “Farewell,” “Boris kicked off a reworked Pink with “Blackout”. In an appropriate move for a band whose releases often exist in multiple contrasting versions with different track lists (Pink itself has at least four, counting June’s reissue), the trio took liberties in reordering the record’s original song sequencing and seamlessly working in a number of those recently unearthed outtakes. The result was a well-paced set subverting the standard practice of the album anniversary show, but still hitting its requisite marks.

The one-two of “Pink” and “Woman on the Screen” that followed “Blackout”’s brooding opening sent a packed Paradise crowd into a frenzy, and that level of energy was clearly appreciated by the band. Wild-eyed drummer Atsuo is always one to engage and incite an audience, but guitarists Wata and Takeshi also came across less stoic than usual. As for the songs themselves, the group sounded immense, nailing the setlist staples, deep cuts and “new” songs with effortless confidence. True to their reputation, Boris played loud. The droning climax of “Just Abandoned Myself” reached Sunn O)))-esque levels of low-frequency immersion that threatened to consume us all before “Farewell” brought things full-circle in closing the main set. An encore of the night’s only non-Pink cuts rounded things out nicely, ending an evening that commemorated one of Boris’ defining works in enthusiastically deafening fashion.

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Boris

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