In a clattering, chaotic hurricane of avante garde, psych-rock thunder, Japanese quartet Bo Ningen became unlikely oddities of the UK indie scene a couple of years back, opening for The Horrors, British Sea Power and Band of Skulls and leaving shell-shocked audiences mouthing “what the hell was that?” to each other. Though formed in the UK and regulars on the East London gig circuit for years, their frantic mess and sheer violent velocity left startled hipster crowds in utter awe and led to festival shows, tours of Europe and Australia and now support slots with Kasabian in the US. Quite what American Kasabian fans will make of the four pencil-thin creatures with waist-length hair, a basic grasp of English and outfits that look like they’ve been stolen from a Pagan overlord, is anyone’s guess.
Raised on a diet of prog-rock, black metal riffs and Sonic Youth dissonance, these bastard devil children of Yoko Ono and Ozzy Osbourne return determined to prove that once the shock factor has worn off, there is more to the band than novelty, alien weirdness. Third album III seems a less foggy, more distilled attempt at finding their own groove. Whereas before they chewed up King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Fugazi influences and splurged out storms of earbleeding, freaknik bedlam, this time there is a more honed, focused approach. Their legendary 12-hour jam sessions have crafted an understanding and unity that results in a clearer vision – it’s still a barking mad one though.
Jumping from clanging metallic chops to soaring, electro-charged blizzards and shrieks, opener DaDaDa is as discordant a beginning to an album as you’re likely to hear – and from there it only gets more cacophonic. Slider is a rumbling house of horrors ride that builds into a scorching Krautrock blitz, Maki-Modoshi a shift-changing slice of deranged post-punk that PiL would be of been proud to come up with, and after a recent spat with Crystal Castles, frontman Taigen Kawabe vents a caustic poisonous retort on CC (featuring Jehnny Beth from Savages).
The ‘psychedelic’ tag that the band are happy enough to embrace, seems to be have lost along the way. You won’t hear backwards sitar loops, flowery odes to the moon Gods or mentions of purple skies and tangerine hills – and they don’t really fit in with the hazy, shoegazy, stoner drone of psych-rock contemporaries Wooden Shjips, Black Angels or Suuns either. If anything, this is an LCD trip gone bad. A nightmare comedown had whilst stumbling through one of those neon Tokyo arcades, with flashing video games, sprawling noise collisions, crazed hallucinations and an assault on the senses at every turn.
The brooding, epic, post-rock bliss of tracks Mukaeni Ikenai and Ogosokana does calm the nerves a little and shows a sonic ambition beyond the crashing, incoherent free-for all, but there’s no doubting that III is a frantic, incendiary an occasionally terrifying experience. Good luck to all those Kasabian fans!