Bo Ningen: London – live reviewBo Ningen

Kings Cross Scala


10th Oct 2013

In the minutes before the stage erupts into a blur of swooshing waist-length hair, high kicks and Catherine-wheeling electric guitars, we’re treated to multiple slabs of classic heavy rock, which prepare us only partly for the brilliant Bo Ningen, who often – but not always – use Seventies riffola as an ear-battering backdrop for their layers of technicolour noise; imagine Black Sabbath in orange robes, on acid, and you’re almost there.

But only almost. These London-based Japanese exiles are explosively visual, darting around in their billowing ceremonial outifts, creating a weirdly ritualistic atmosphere, but the sensory assault is always driven by their heart-in-mouth sound; thrilling eruptions of fiercely amplified melody and Taigen Kawabe’s heavily reverbed Japanese-language vocals, flawless extreme tempo changes and strategically timed starbursts of feedback and distortion.

The band’s sonic armoury boasts plenty of killer tunes, but the four-piece are at their best when they escape the shackles of structure and settle into a stream-of-consciousness flow. Indeed, you get the feeling only the intros of their songs are formally defined, serving as launchpads for their exploratory forays into blistering psychedelic space jazz. The epic 32 Kaiten starts off as a pulsing guitar workout with a relatively conventional hook, but accelerates before vapourising into a brain-frazzling jam; Kohhei Matsuda’s and Yuki Tsujii’s shuddering twin guitars manage to actually sound like strobes as they burn like lights through mist. Elsewhere, Soko evokes the quivering freakbeat of early Horrors, while Post Yohkai’s doomy climax builds on the foundations of Black Sabbath’s Fairies Wear Boots.

Mostly though, Bo Ningen create their own uniquely nebulous sound, Daikasiei Part 2 is a dubby swirl largely defined by guitars that seem to exist in their own separate worlds, six-string maestros Kohhei and Yuki both freely soloing or firing off riffs apparently oblivious to the other, but interlinked by Kawabe’s circular fuzz bass and the extraordinary drumming of Mon-Chan, who could be the most eye-catching drummer since My Bloody Valentine’s octopus-limbed Colm Ó Cíosóig.

Intoxicating and dreamlike, pushing the boundaries, Bo Ningen boldly go where no band has gone before. All hail the new high priests of space rock.

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