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Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.
Boris looked happy. The Japanese trio was tearing through "Just Abandoned Myself," a two-chord stick of dynamite blown to euphoric heights at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. They were celebrating a decade of the breakthrough album Pink with a sold-out crowd, playing it front to back. Just before hitting the U.S. last summer, Boris was ready to close out a 25-year career that shredded its way through metal, drone, pop, noise, punk and shoegaze, splattering its own neon rapture in darkness. The band wasn't sure it had anything left to say. But the month-long tour experience with fans and with their own past rejuvenated Takeshi, Wata and Atsuo. The result is Dear, Boris' most thrilling record since 2011's three-fer: Attention Please, Heavy Rocks and New Album.
Dear is 10 tracks culled from three albums worth of material, because when inspiration hits, Boris becomes a perpetual riff machine. Takeshi and Wata have always been sympatico on strings, the former doubling up on bass and the latter a sonic welder who deserves more recognition as a modern guitar innovator. On Dear, they conjure the molten sludge of Boris past on the crawling doom of "DEADSONG," the bucking space rodeo "Absolutego" and "The Power," an instrumental, slow-motion twin-lead chugger not heard since the likes of Akuma No Uta.
But for all of Dear's welcome feedback-ridden (dis)grace, Boris can't help but play with the fabric of its sound. The only track to feature Wata's gentle and mysterious voice is "Beyond," a patient piece of slowcore washed in Atsuo's cymbals and the sparest guitar that, halfway through, explodes into a doomgaze ballad. "Biotope" is almost an electro-pop song by default, strewn with digital detritus and Takeshi's soft coo, but buried under My Bloody Valentine-style guitar noise. "Memento Mori," one of the few new songs played on the Pink tour, is, to use Boris' own words, "heavenly — far beyond heavenly." This is the most inspired and forward-looking of Dear, a track that evolves without announcing its steps, like David Bowie in some magical heavy-prog phase we never had the joy of knowing.
Boris has always been thoughtfully outrageous, balancing its sense of drama with sharp purpose. While Dear is one of Boris' heaviest records in recent memory, you can hear 25 years' worth of experience in its exquisite sludge. To reiterate, may Boris reign for another 25 years.
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