Boris With Merzbow - Sun Baked Snow Cave (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Boris With Merzbow

Sun Baked Snow Cave (2005)

Hydra Head

If you're at all familiar with Japanese masters of all things noise Boris and Merzbow, (not one band, but Boris the band, and Merzbow just one person), then you'll know that anything noise music-related in Japan runs through one of these two. With minimal instrumentation relying heavily on drones, bleeps and glitches, the two have teamed up on Sun Baked Snow Cave in one epic, hour-long saga of a song. Take that, Mars Volta.

Now, this presents several problems. Namely, how do you hold somebody's interest in one song for that long a duration of time? And I'm going to be upfront and say, it probably won't. Most people are going to hear about 5 minutes of this and just say 'fuck it.'

But that's fine, as those aren't the people it's aimed towards.

Now, if you're still reading this, and are still interested, how enjoyable this is is all based on what you make of it. The song takes a long, long time to develop, and a lot of people still, just won't 'get it.' And maybe there's nothing to get, anyway. Boris and Merzbow are the kind of artists who make music for just that, art. They're not songs so much as they are compositions, the catch being, this particular composition takes a while to actually unfold. In the first fifteen minutes of the self-titled track, all you're liable to find is feedback and the occasional piano keystroke. Soon after, the droning becomes louder, and much more intense, and you feel like you're on the cusp of something prime to let loose.

But it doesn't.

The Isis-like droning continues on, with some eerie guitar work and crackling that won't stop getting louder. Now this is when things do pick up. Right around the half-an-hour mark, that droning reaches its peak, as the glitches and beeps come back in and everything appears to be just one giant, loud, muddled mess, which is just how Boris and Merzbow like it. This is no beautiful orchestra piece, no shiny pop melody, just the right combination of sounds to make any listener actually feel the music rather than listen to it. And that person is a different kind of music fan, one that can appreciate what most will refer to as mindless noise. That's fine with them, because what they take out is far more than others can detract. At its height, the reverb reaches a fevered pitch, with more crackle, pop, and screech than most can handle. Around forty minutes, it subdues a good deal, starts to fade into the closing stretch. And the combination of various ambiences is made to keep that interest peaked, far after the crescendo has passed. Whistles and the sounds of wind resonate through the speakers, and the journey is nearly complete.

This album, or song really, is an interesting trip if nothing else. I know that three years ago, I'd have heard 3 minutes of this and probably said "this is the worst shit I've ever heard in my life." Thankfully, I've broadened my horizons enough since then, enough that this release won't pass by the wayside. If you're at all familiar with Boris or Merzbow, you'll want to add this to your collection. A definite departure for them, offering more drone than destruction, but it was an enjoyable journey for me. As for the rest of you, only an ear will tell.