Bo Ningen - Bo Ningen

This is music that owes as much to early metal as it does to krautrock.

It had just been raining a bit when I saw Bo Ningen live at Offset this year. I remembered Farris from The Horrors had mentioned them ages ago, and on the strength of that I bought some rare CD thing from Rough Trade. Apparently there were only twenty copies, but I lost it so can’t really tell you. Anyway, I listened to their music, thought they were OK but a bit difficult and got on with my life, until my friend at Offset dragged me to their set, insistent that they’d be amazing and put on an amazing show. Not only was she right, she also made me ‘get’ them. Before I didn’t get it, I was confused by the singing and the fact it made so little sense, it all sounded to me like some band had listened to too much Sabbath, smoked something highly illegal and recorded the sounds they made at 4am. I still think that, but it was the live show that managed to convince me, actually, that’s a really good thing.

Their live performance precedes them; if you’ve heard of Bo Ningen, you’ve probably heard of their onstage appearance and antics - long hair, long psychedelic shawls, skinny jeans, smashing up the stage, each other’s faces, any instruments and climbing on everything. A proper punk performance is always in order, something that’s sorely missed in this era where a proper stage show is hard to come by. This is music that owes as much to early metal as it does to krautrock, and isn’t something to be dismissed.

As for the album, it follows the same influences and styles. There’s a nice bit of psychadelia in the guitar work, motorik beats surfacing from the sludge of the guitars occasionally to ride for a bit, before sinking again, allowing the pulsing, reverb laden guitars to throw their way through the songs again. Take ‘Yurayura Kaeru’ - there’s the krautrock beat, there’s the intricate guitars, there’s everything. If Popul Vuh, Harmonia and Black Sabbath jammed together, they’d come up with something like this.

It’s not all heavy stuff. ‘Gamask Rabbit’, for example, is a real turn of influences and sound. A chilled out, fingerpicking piece that’s closer to some of the early Shibuya-Kei stuff than it is to their usual early metal influences. It builds up and smooths out, keeping the same riff all the way through to half way before breaking down into a psych metal jam to make something that Hawkwind would have been proud of.

With every track as strong as the next (‘Post Yohkai’, their epic slow burner, breaching the ten minute mark, is especially good) Bo Ningen create something of a psych metal opus, a look back at what the era and style mean in a time that’s more fixed on punk as their heavy guitar output. It’s an album like no other out there at the moment, and that’s why it’s great.

Tags: Bo Ningen, Reviews, Album Reviews

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