Hulking, Monstrous, Ultimately Frivolous
Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours Gensho, the latest collaboration between sadistic noise god Merzbow and amplifier emperors Boris, is an absolute mammoth of an undertaking. Gensho often tests the limits of music by fluctuating between a friendly conversation and a prison stabbing. Fans of Boris will be quick to note that Side A of the record is chock full of Boris classics such as “Huge” and “Vomitself” from their seminal work Amplifier Worship. Unfortunately there seems to be little reason for this first half of the album. The studio remasters do very little for the already reverb drenched songs, if anything it cleans them out and sterilizes them, removing their once chainsaw like teeth and changing them for the downy soft pillows of Cocteau Twins and Beach House on tracks like “Farewell.” Tracks like “Vomitself” luckily still cling tight to their ferocity of their original recording. The crackling static and rumbling bass are sharper and more pronounced then they once were, the texture of the song like swimming in a sea of nails. These moments shine through in glimmers on Side A, but are ultimately reduced to an entirely unnecessary re-release of some of their most cherished works.
Side B then is the reason why people have come to visit, the Merzbow influence is full and pronounced throughout all four tracks, his piercing synth and static tornado cutting scar like swaths into the heavy thrumming of Boris’ array of amplifiers. On the plus side this may be new territory for some Boris listeners who had previously stuck to the havens of doom metal and drone artists such as Sunn0))), Sleep and Electric Wizard, even Boris and Merzbow’s previous collaboration Feedbacker stayed relatively reserved, only employing Merzbow’s punishing noise as an accent or flair. This side of the album therefore suffers in reverse of its predecessor, it is far too new, not nearly grounded enough for even many seasoned noise listeners, Boris is sorely missed on this half of the album, their dreamy reverb and crunching drone washed away by a tsunami of static and ear piercing whirrs. “Planet of the Cows” essentially sounds like an alien spaceship trying frantically to get of the ground, stunted ear piercing bleeps and liquid burbling synthesizers pierce the ear of even veteran noise masters, but do so for far too long to be truly interesting. The other tracks are much the same, however there are some brief moments of “pleasure” to be found in the beginning “Goloka Pt.1” where some light drumming, like rain from a gutter dripping into an empty bucket, lend some light rhythm and directive to the otherwise menacing twenty minute leviathan. “Goloka Pt.2” and its follow up “Prelude to a Broken Arm” at times feel like they may have been dragged directly from Pulse Demon, their unforgiving high pitch and lack of variety will undoubtedly test the sanity of all but the most sadistic of listeners. This half falls victim to the most common complaint about Merzbow, that being that he is simply not compositionally varied enough to accomplish anything beyond a long aural headache.
It has been postulated that each side is intended to be played simultaneously much like the Flaming Lips Zaireeka, leading this album to the same issue that Zaireeka suffered from in that very few people have the time, resources, or equipment to do so properly. Even if this is the case, the album is still little better for it, Boris’ tracks were created long before the “enhancements” that Merzbow has lavished upon them, leaving the tracks feeling like unnecessary out of place perversions of respectable songs. This method of listening is then only recommended to the most dedicated fans of Merzbow and Boris, and those with nothing better to do. The one saving grace of this unnecessarily complicated manner of listening is that it cuts the monstrous run time in half, having exchanged its needless length for needless complexity.
Gensho then represents the worst of the noise genre, further exemplifying its perceived frivolity to a larger audience. Merbow’s contributions to the album often are far too deafening and overbearing to truly be contributions, and while Boris receives a fair treatment on Side A, playing some of their most memorable and enjoyable tracks from over the years, is ultimately reduced to a mere footnote on their supposed collaboration. Side A serves as little more than a museum exhibit for the listeners strictly there for Merzbow, while Side B’s main purpose seems to be to scare away anyone who may be interested in Merzbow or even noise as a whole. Gensho unfortunately represents two (at times) brilliant artists at one of their lowest points, coming off as long, static, painful, dull and ultimately frivolous.