Something’s been going on musically in west Japan for decades now, and I’ve been trying to determine why for some time. These cats are playing louder and more ambitiously than everyone else is; they’re churning out more records in a year than most bands make in a career and sounding as if they’ve been chewing speed and methamphetamines while overdosing on Hendrix and fuzz-pedals. Rainbow is the product of a collaboration between Michio Kurihara — one of the guitar gods of this neo-psychedelia movement and a member of White Heaven, Ghost, and Fushitsusha — and the punk-psychedelic-drone masters in Boris. This is no implausible combination, but this exploration of layering melodic ambiance with Kurihara’s unambiguous ear-piercing fuzz-tones has resulted in the creation of a long overdue psych masterwork.
The cymbals come crashing down immediately on opener “Rafflesia,” the droned fuzz of the guitars cradling a cry to the heavens from Boris bassist Takeshi (who, like the rest of the band, eschews using a full name). During “Rainbow,” the sustained tom hammer builds around the wide-open space while Kurihara’s fidgeting creates an atonal tension that finally gets resolved with a whining shred fest. The building of tension and release by Kurihara’s guitar is played masterfully throughout the album, most notably on “Shine,” which starts out as a psych-folk hum and develops into a grandiose wall of sound that sends Takeshi’s vocals soaring along with the guitar strains. Backward tape loops are commonplace, found as the walloping backdrop of the pop melody present in “My Rain” and also in the drone-chant “Fuzzy Reactor.” Finally, we get our spastic freak-out, “Sweet No. 1,” which lets Kurihara off his chain to wail brutally around the grave rhythm wall created by the tom-pummeling of Atsuo and the hellish low end coming from Takeshi on bass.
Many have written off this Japanese movement just because the musicians are releasing so much material or because of other perceived notions — I’ve heard the word “pretension” coming from critics. But the members of Boris and Michio Kurihara are truly creating art for themselves, and it shows in records like Rainbow.