Artist: BO NINGEN

Title: Sudden Fictions

Label: Alcopop! Records

Rating: 7/10

Words: Emanuel Matos

Sudden Fictions, the fourth album by London-based quartet BO NINGEN starts off with a call to arms. Opening track “You Make A Mark Like A Calf Branding” sets the pace with a marching snare drum that finds a rhythmic pen pal in vocalist-bassist Taigen Kawabe, a naked composition that feels quite distant from the band’s previous releases.

As the group sails off into the unknown, they sound oddly tame and uneasy, but you can tell they have the confidence to command the vessel.

As the group sails off into the unknown, they sound oddly tame and uneasy, but you can tell they have the confidence to command the vessel.The departure from the old gains traction as the tracklist unveils itself:  delay and reverb are notched down, and guitars and vocals are less embedded in the abrasiveness of punk, even if the arrangements feel urgent and impetuous.

 The unorthodox drum patterns of songs such as “AKA” and the jarring mixture of trance-inducing effects with tribal-influenced guitars and percussion on “Silenced” shows BO NINGEN in deep experimental territory, threading lightly towards jazz. The band’s proactive commitment to avant-garde is as authentic as it has ever been, but this time around they’re all in, and it shows.

“Zankoku” is perhaps the closest we get to BO NINGEN’s noise rock origins, an intricate push-and-shove exercise that gets followed up by a more pop-oriented single, “Minimal”, which features Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream. Here Gillespie comes as the alkaline to the group’s rougher edges, and the partnership works to a great effect.

Shortly past the halfway mark, the overall attempt at conveying an open structure both in terms of sound and cultural stimulus starts to show signs of fracture. Tracks such as “Kyutai” and “B.C” sound uneventful and bleary, which is never a good sign on a compact nine-track release.

Sudden Fictions finds the Japanese four-piece confronting musical norms with the defiant attitude of a film noir detective who pins pictures and draws lines on a board, trying to makes sense of a bigger-than-life conspiracy

To counterbalance the downward trend we get a slow jam that turns out to be the album’s best-kept secret. “Kuzurenai” fills up the room with its dense synths and seductive sparse guitars. The minimal and ushered vocals are expertly manipulated, making Kawabe sound like a mermaid luring you into a deep-sea comatose that feels treacherous yet irresistible.

To guide the listener through such an intimate search for musical language through time, we have the binding production of Drew Brown, who’s curriculum lists progressive names such as Atoms For Peace and Beck. Brown throws away the smoke and mirrors for most of the record, grounding things in a raw sound that puts you right in the practice studio with the group, closely monitoring their drums-fueled synergy.

Sudden Fictions finds the Japanese four-piece confronting musical norms with the defiant attitude of a film noir detective who pins pictures and draws lines on a board, trying to make sense of a bigger-than-life conspiracy. Their quest is not for coherence but rather historical fluidity, as they trace and interconnect non-linear influences in an attempt to redefine what a rock band can be in our present time.

To classify the album as eclectic would be an understatement. BO NINGEN lay to rest the determinism of music genres in favour of creating their own musical language, one that makes them feel less adrift while leaving enough empty space for improvement and innovation.

Sudden Fictions is out now via Alcopop! Records

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