Boron - The Beige Album

Back when I first started writing for Killed in Cars, I heard a bit of the first Boron release on Field Hymns, "Decrresscenndo." That album was a focused affair, loaded with squealing, throbbing, rumbling oscillations from a Moog iiip (press for the album calls that synth "the size of a room," but isn't that just a suitcase model?). With the addition of a few well-placed classical samples, the music concentrated on the extremes of Moogscapes, falling somewhere along the vibes of old tape-music from "serious" music circles but with a bit of 8-bit retrocool vibe mixed in.

On The Beige Album, Boron expands in many directions at once: vintage synth abuse remains at the nucleus of the project, but there are lots of synth tones from other eras at work in these pieces--I think I'm hearing a lot of Casio/Yamaha tones and percussion pads from the early 80s, if my memories of stretching my little arms to bang on the tiny blue drum pads of those old Yamaha department store machines serve me correctly. As before, samples get employed occasionally on this record, and field recordings seem to pop up, too: nocturnal outdoor/jungle sounds on "Moons Over My Panamax" and wind/fire sounds that occasionally dominate "Sunset Tunnel," etc. Vocals and guitars have prominent roles in several pieces, as well. And guest musicians are featured on roughly half of the album, taking Boron's sole member Dan Nelson in new directions.

There's a bit of every extreme in electronica represented on Beige: if you want subdued textures and environmental sounds, a little ominous but left at a low, exploratory volume, you'll dig the "Moons Over..." track mentioned above. For something louder and more aggressive, try "Borong" a few tracks later, which itself segues into a more docile exposition of similar textures in "The Boroner's Report." The first few tracks on the album feel like close cousins of the "Decrresscenndo" music, while there are some more melodic ideas heading in the direction of projects like Giant Claw in tunes like "Tomato Upload" and "G-Rated Grope" (though this stuff is weirder and less heavily-arranged than the 'Claw).

A few of my favorites here take the basic Boron sound into new dimensions: the almost operatic female vocals of "Glamour Science," coupled with its waspy bass drones, remind me of early Residents mixed with early Zappa vocal writing in the best of ways, but with a more modern, self-aware feeling. "Mountain Dewd" starts with a retro-cheeziod synth drum/bass groove, which gets molested by some seriously reverbed-out psych guitar overdubs: think Acid Mothers Temple robbing a GameStop. And "Boron Squad" is a seriously bizarre surprise in the middle of the album, a full "song" evoking the spirit of Snakefinger crashing at an Occupy camp with beats, guitars, and hilarious f-bombing vocals. Mic Check!

As the album stretches in so many directions, one subtle-but-cool technique for establishing continuity across the seas of Beige is simply to re-use bits of sound in contrasting pairs of songs. For example, "Nonsensebeard" and "Clamburgler" both use a "Yeah Boron" sample; "Moons Over..." and "Sunset Tunnel" use similar nocturnal/outdoor sounds, and "Viking Ballet" re-uses a strange popping passage from "PongSong," which I think is made by smacking a microphone running into an envelope filter. It's a great way to introduce a little cohesion to such a multifarious batch of music. Altogether, this is a strong record that succeeds at almost every deviant style it tries, and I'm going to go back and explore the sophomore Boron release "Aria Statica" to get some more Boron in my speakers.

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