New Boris double album LφVE & EVφL is a dreamscape under strong winds, the moments of temperate bliss that open it constantly assailed by heavy waves of aural distortion. Weight is central to the album’s seven freeform tracks, on which the band draws out every note, every sound, every word — but it does not hold the music down. Boris is never a band to stay still, but here, the group is in slow motion, maybe sinking through the deep sea, maybe rising up through zero gravity. It’s hard to say just which direction — and how far in that direction — they’re going, but there’s no question that Boris is, if not always lively, still very much alive.
LφVE‘s opening track “Away from You” begins like a shoegaze ballad of gentle melody and soothing bassline. The high ringing that cuts through, however, makes clear that even here, drifting in the ether, there will be no long-lasting peace. Halfway in the feedback cuts through, leading us to second track “Coma”, a wall of sound with the subtlest variations from time to time, and little else to keep the track from being a singular sonic block.
The b-side is fully taken up by “EVOL”, as sharp a contrast to “Away from You” as one could possibly hope for. Its driving introduction is rife with persistent percussion and lyrics shouted into the void before fading into ominous resonance and cosmic guitar work. By the end of the track, chaos reigns once more.
“Uzume” is a ferocious, stretched-out nod to doom metal that continues thematically with “LOVE”, one of the album’s more melodically straightforward pieces, but one that still makes use of Boris’ fearless affinity for discord. The vocals unite, dramatically rising in high stakes atonality until reaching a sharp and sudden ending. “In the Pain(t)” returns to relative sedation, a minimalist exploration of wide open space that leads into “Shadow of Skull”, a final, 11-minute-long rock track that builds beautifully, but ultimately leads to another shrieking, unstructured abyss.
Seasoned Boris listeners know not to expect specificity from Boris, and that certainly seems like the best approach to LφVE & EVφL. Boris is an unpredictable band, as likely to introduce comprehensible melodies as it is to go headfirst into absolute cacophony. The unsolved puzzle on all sides of this double album, then, is one not of means, but of ends. What is our destination on LφVE & EVφL? Do we have one? Do we reach it?
This is an album with more buildup than payoff, a gas giant of atmosphere with little that is solid at its core. It feels like an unfinished experiment, one that sometimes excites but ultimately raises more questions before it answers any.
Perhaps more damning, though, is how seldom we get to hear Boris put their technical skills to work. In terms of balance, the theory far outweighs the praxis, the otherworldly scene set to sublime completion at the expense of plot. LφVE & EVφL offers wild and wonderful immersion, but once you’re in it, you’re on your own.