Boris and Ian Astbury: BXI

Given Boris's reputation, this unusual pairing is an idea so crazy, it just might work. Right?

Boris and Ian Astbury


Label: Southern Lord
US Release Date: 2010-08-17
UK Release Date: 2010-08-16
Artist Website

Whether you think Boris exploits the devotion of their fanbase by putting out release after release or that they're simply a vibrant, prolific rock band that's trying to make their audience happy, you can't blame the Japanese trio for at least trying to keep things interesting. It's gotten to the point now, 14 years after the release of the seminal Absolutego, that we simply have no idea what to expect from them next. Two years removed from their excellent studio full-length Smile, there's been no shortage of new material, ranging from double live albums, vinyl re-releases, and the quirky Japanese heavy Rock Hits seven-inch series, but still, for the casual listener it feels like the band has slowed down somewhat as of late, with none of their post-Smile miscellany really worth writing home about. When the band announced a musical partnership this past spring that nobody could have predicted, however, that buzz that Boris has always been so good at creating had returned.

As good as Boris' proper albums are, their collaborations are always just as intriguing, and sometimes just as good as their original material. 2006's Altar project with doom/drone lords Sunn O))) held up as well as anything either band had put out prior. Their albums with psychedelic rock guitarist Muchio Kurihara have been very worthwhile as well, most notably 2007's gorgeous Rainbow. As appropriate those collaborations were, though, nobody could have foreseen BXI, their new four-song EP recorded with Ian Astbury. That's right, that Ian Astbury, the powerhouse vocalist from '80s rockers the Cult and recent Jim Morrison impersonator with the Doors of the 21st Century. Juxtaposing such a classic rock 'n' roll vocalist with a style of music that never seems to lend itself well to bombastic, overtly theatrical singing would seem an awkward fit, but there's no denying it would be great fun to hear how BXI would turn out.

In some respects the EP is pretty much as advertised: Ian Astbury singing over slow, sludgy arrangements, but what is surprising is how much of a factor Astbury is, and how underwhelming Boris seems. If Boris isn't phoning in their performance, their sound sure is decidedly dialed-down. "Teeth and Claws", for instance, is a no-frills exercise in shoegaze, guitarist Wata underscoring her soaring leads with simple, palm-muted riffs, drummer Atsuo hammering the living daylights out of his kit, as if trying to channel John Bonham. Compared to anything off Smile or any of their previous releases, this is painfully rote stuff, but that's where Astbury's presence comes in. He's a master of rock melodrama, and he single-handedly transforms an ordinary song into something surprisingly affecting, bringing a level of passion to a genre that often relies on detached singing rather than raw emotion.

Less successful is "We Are Witches", primarily because Astbury isn't given much to work with, as Wata's metal-oriented, down-tuned riffing isn't very catchy at all. The subdued "Magickal Child" is a marginal improvement, as Boris gives Astbury a little more space to do what he does best, but again, the melody just isn't there like it is on "Teeth and Claws". Ironically, the best song on BXI is the only song without Astbury, the cover of the Cult's great 1985 single "Rain". It's a fairly straightforward reading of the song, but the trio cranks up the psychedelia, Wata adding layers of searing guitars over her heavy rhythm riff while bassist Takeshi adds a massive, hyper-distorted bassline. Wata's lead vocals, meanwhile, are far more akin to Can's Damo Suzuki than Astbury's, as she sings in a blissed-out, almost demure voice, her plaintive delivery giving the song a much more playful feel than anyone could have imagined. It's the one instance on the record where it feels like Boris is actually showing some imagination, and it's a shame they couldn't sound as inspired with the formidable Astbury at the helm.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.