The Boredom's previous record, 2000's Vision Creation Newsun, was an absolute monster: a pulsating, cacophonous, transcendent, rhythmic masterpiece. It was the sort of record that had music-reviewer types using seemingly endless strings of adjectives in an attempt to describe it (my apologies). A half-decade wait only increased expectations for Sea Drum/House of Sun. Boredoms fans worldwide eagerly anticipated what direction the band (now a foursome, led, as always, by eternal frontman Eye, a.k.a. Yamatsuka Eye, Yamantaka Eye and Yamataka Eye) would go next. A further exploration of tribal and trance sounds? A partial return to the band's chaos-rock roots? Deeper journeys into swirling outer-space Krautrock ambience? All of the above?
The most accurate answer, unfortunately, is that the Boredoms don't really go anywhere new on Seadrum/House of Sun. This two-track, forty-one-minute affair comes off more like a stopgap EP than some grand statement of purpose from one of underground rock's most visionary acts. It's a good album, sure, but from the Boredoms, "good" is almost a disappointment.
Opener "Seadrum" was rumored to have been recorded on a beach in Japan. This seems entirely possible. The song is the musical equivalent of waves gently crashing along the shore. A lone female voice starts the proceedings, as a wall of sound builds up around her. Piano, chimes and lots of lots (and lots) of drums rush into the mix, only to slowly drift back out ... back in ... and then back out again. On and on it goes, as soothing as the tide. The effect is hypnotic and engrossing, and the song is mixed exceedingly well, but the song seems strangely predictable from a band that has made a career out of being anything but.
"House of Sun" begins with the sustained drones of sitar, tanpura and guitar. Given the Boredom's recent emphasis on rhythm above all else, I expected the drums to come crashing in. They never do. The drones continue on (augmented by tinkling percussion and subdued piano) unrelentingly for the next twenty minutes. In the right frame of mind, music like this can be a thing of beauty, but many listeners will find that "House of Sun" is boredom courtesy of the Boredoms.
If I'm being too harsh it's only because I know the Boredoms are capable of making truly spectacular music. Is this unfair? If Sea Drum/ House of Sun was the debut album from some little-known psych act, I'd be hailing it as one of the year's best records, futilely piling adjectives on top of one another in an attempt to describe it. But from the Boredoms, Seadrum/House of Sun is nothing special. It's as anti-climactic as a single following a grand slam, the Magical Mystery Tour to Vision Creation Newsun's Sgt. Pepper's.