Sunday, August 5, 2012

Black Sunday: Sleep - Dopesmoker (2012) & Boris - Absolutego+ (2010)

It's all one song! So proclaimed Neil Young on Year of the Horse and, yeah, while he made a neat point in a philosophical sense, the two LPs - across a total of four 12" records - up for this Black Sunday truly are one song. Except for when they're two. Or three.

It was not by design but instead a happy coincidence that recent receipt of what is quickly being acknowledged as the definitive release of Sleep's magnum opus collided with a massive Omega Music haul, all product emanating from doom-laden Southern Lord Records, and I ended up with two double-LPs each housing sixty-plus-minute single songs.

I've owned Dopesmoker since 1999 when it was six eponymous tracks dubbed Jerusalem and again when it hit CD with its current (and, apparently, original) moniker in 2003 and it is this version that has been newly mastered and  repackaged with new artwork and an additional vinyl-only live bonus track, "Sonic Titan" (which was the extra track on the '03 version... the new CD swaps this out for a twelve-minute live "Holy Mountain," making the wax version the most complete collection yet of this era's material). For my vinyl acquisition I had no option but the dominant green variation (3,500 pressed - there are apparently 1,000 picture discs, 1,500 black, and 2,000 clear, all 180g) and I cannot complain. It sounds bright and, more importantly, big. It certainly could harsh the proverbial mellow to get up and flip a disc not once, not twice, but thrice but the massive, interstellar nomadic artwork (complete with shrouded figures in spot gloss and purple planetscapes continued even inside the gatefold sleeves) gives plenty to ponder while the riffs thunder along.

Dopesmoker comes sealed in a perforated plastic sleeve with the Sleep name stickered on the outside. It's a pity you have to partially destroy this piece of packaging to get to the music and, of course, be careful to nurse the nametag when filing the record. The photo insert and individual record sleeves are uninspired black and white photos of the band in motion and some studio scribblings, neither a match for the colorful paintings on the gatefold and, overall, a downer. It's a great package, worth the price, but really somewhat short of the excess I would hope for given a reissue of this stature.

Absolutego+ presents Japanese dronemeisters Boris' 1996 debut (the Absolutego part) as well as an extra track, "Dronevil 2" (the +, itself predating a similarly named double-LP from 2005 but whose inclusion dates back at least to Southern Lord's first CD release of this record in 2001). Absolutego+ is no Dopesmoker, leaving the latter coming off like a frenetic parade of pop by comparison, and provides a largely unvaried workout for your woofers. Whereas Dopesmoker, though, felt a larger work composed of subtly defined movements which found reasonable spots to flip a record, Absolutego+'s side changes feel arbitrary. And while the live extras on Dopesmoker feel like extras, "Dronevil 2" is, to this listener, pretty indistinguishable from the main set and sounds like more of the same. This vinyl set features new artwork more reminiscent of - and superior to - the original release (though, while it appears to incorporate elements from both, not as appealing as that on the 2001 re-release). The vinyl pressing was limited to 1,000 red records and 2,000 black, both 180g. The red vinyl picks up on the minimal splash of color from the sleeve but ultimately comes across as nearly as dull as the jacket design and, ultimately, the musical content within. I've got about a half-dozen Boris records and never know how I really feel about them, often leaning more toward both Heavy Rocks and the like than the droning, experimental material, the most extreme of which is represented here. All that said, Southern Lord also gave Amplifier Worship the same reissue treatment in 2010 and that record remains on my watchlist as well.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I've never heard Boris' music, but I think you know by now that I'm obssessive over Japanese music. On second thought, both records look great...