Despite what the lion’s share of Merzbow’s discography would hint at, Masami Akita is able to take a foot off the speaker-shredding gas and, when called upon, play nice with others. As far as Boris is concerned, the Tokyo-based experimental institution has shown itself more than capable of creating some of the hardest rock to ever light the fuse on a Pabst-fueled land speeder as well as creating novel kaleidoscopic colours based on psychedelic freakouts and ambient chill sessions.
Similarly, guitarist/vocalist Wata, drummer/vocalist Atsuo, and bassist/vocalist Takeshi are no strangers to collaboration and opening the rehearsal room door to a variety of hippies, speed freaks, metalheads, and noisemakers. Boris and Merzbow have joined forces many times in the past – at least seven separate occasions going back to at least 2002 – and in order to put a stake in the heart of the worst 365 day period in modern humanity’s collective experience, they have once again engaged in a creative collision. The bio claims that, “This year was a period of trial for everyone in the world. This work becomes a monument to the requiem of the previous era. From here, a new world begins again.” More power to ‘em for pulling a positive from the stanky morass, even if what is supposed to be helping us all look to the skies doesn’t sound in any way shiny, happy, or happy-go-lucky.
The basic building blocks of 2R0I2P0 take the spacious, psychedelic, ambient, and stoner doom route which Boris is renowned for and has Akita, as Merzbow, heap on layers of woofer-walloping and tweeter-torturing electronic noisescapes to mixed result. In the end, the ten tracks comprising this album fall into three loose categories.
First, there are those tracks in which the combination works complementarily and well. “Boris”—which is actually a Melvins cover—is the band laying out their trudging doom/sludge card, complete with massive slowpoke riffs and crashing percussion elevated by jarring shards of mainframe explosions that are surprisingly musical. “Shadow of Skull” works in that Merzbow’s howling discord triumphantly fills the anticipatory gaps between the crashing power chords and funereal drums. Album opener “Away From You” showcases delicacy from both outfits—albeit Boris’ definition of delicacy leans more towards warm basslines and afternoon-in-the-park guitar cleanliness whereas Merzbow is more about low volume squelching and found-sound samples.
“Evol” and “Absolutego” both have crescendos of harsh noise matching the rising trajectory of lead guitar bends, anthemic vocal gymnastics, and those points in which the full band sing darkened hallelujahs propelled by banks of effects pedals. At a combined 17 minutes, the two songs are the album’s crowning moments of the entities moving as one laser-focused musical team. Like an offensive line shifting in unison for the purpose of creating holes for a running back, “Evol” is the cherry-on-top example of the effective synthesis of the artists’ worlds and “Absolutego” offers up an alternate definition of ‘noise rock.’
In the second category, there exists a greater sense of disconnect between what the parties are doing in relation to one another. Often time, the output either takes its sweet time revealing itself or ends up making for a wholly difficult listen. In the case of “Uzume” it would seem that a completed piece existed on one end and little regard was given for how the other party would gel with it until the last couple of minutes where Akita's gristle caresses the steady climb of tribal drums and rolling riffing provided by his counterparts. In “To the Beach” Merzbow’s glass-shattering electronic tinkle is at distressing odds with the massive amplified barre chords and china cymbal crashing.
In the third and final category, the most difficult listening experience of 2R0I2P0 comes when it appears the two parties weren’t even paying attention to what the other was doing. In parts of “Love” it sounds like computer and junkyard derived noise slapped on top of some form of instrumentation was given song status because an endpoint could be decided upon. A grating hum and buzz distressingly counter the minimalism provided by Boris on “Coma.” However, “Journey” is probably the record’s biggest offender in this category as an unsuccessful marriage of the trio's note-per-minute shimmer and the texture-less glitching electronica from Akita’s hard drive makes it seem like at least two songs are being played at once.
2020, as a year, rat-fucked each and every one of us in some way. And while 2R0I2P0 may not be the front-to-back, brass-knuckled sucker punch response needed to restore order and act as a salve to all of the wounds ripped open, who says doomy noise can’t be a portal to a better place? Let’s hope it’s at least standing guard at the gate.