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Boredoms - 77 Boa Drum

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Artist: Boredoms

Album: 77 Boa Drum

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Sep. 10, 2010

Although America first go to know the Boredoms through their participation in the 1994 Lollapalooza tour (back when Lollapallooza came to you instead of vice versa) and the patronage of Sonic Youth and John Zorn, they’ve turned into something that feels akin to Woodstock. It’s a pretty Aquarian act to convene a massive drum circle in the park while the sun’s going down. That’s essentially what they did on July 7, 2007, when the core quartet of Yamataka Eye, Yoshimi P-We, Yojiro Tatekawa, and Muneomi Senju convened an additional 74 drummers to play a dusk concert in Brooklyn, NY’s Empire-Fulton State Ferry Park. Arranged in a spiral with the audience around them, the Boredoms played a maximal variation on the music that they introduced with their 1999 album Vision Creation Newsun. Since then their output has leaned heavily on full steam ahead drum barrages swaddled in bright, swirling electronics, lusty chants, and Eye’s shamanic exhortations.

In a caption at the beginning of the DVD, Eye invites the viewer to see him or herself as the 78th member of the expanded ensemble. Such a framing device is necessary in order to bridge the essentially passive experience of watching something on a screen with the communal vibe of the actual event. Director Jun Kawaguchi has gotten certain things just right. For a start, his crew managed to record 77 drum kits without reducing the sound to mulch — that’s no mean feat. The performance is pretty swell; Eye is in fine form, conducting with gestures, yelps, and whacks of a staff upon a rack-mounted seven-necked guitar. The drumming is impressively precise; what could have been an inchoate mess moves quite smoothly from one section to the next. The video’s best moments come during extended passages where the surging, roiling music just carries you along. The live footage cuts between fixed and handheld professional cameras, with a bit of watery Youtube material woven into the mix. You may not quite feel like you’re there, but you can get caught up in the thrill.

But just as the Boredoms want their performances to be something more than mere rock concerts, this video wants to do more than simply show the event. It strives to impart the total experience and convey a sense of its significance, and that’s were things go wrong. The cuts between the concert and rehearsals held in the now-defunct No-Neck Blues Band loft space effectively show the process by which over six dozen drummers, some amateurs, learned the material. But the interview footage should have been subjected to a more unsentimental selection process. Questions like “Why did you join this amazing project?” inevitably beget answers like “Why did I do this? Because of the Boredoms, they inspire me. This is a dream I would never have had.” The filmmaker should have either introduced a more critical assessment, or skipped the gosh-wow chatter altogether.

77 Boa Drum is an intermittently exciting document of a mind-blowing experience, but it doesn’t really do the job. It feels more like a souvenir of the event. A more straightforward presentation, perhaps one that pairs a differently trimmed video with the double-CD album that is currently only available as a $100 Japanese import, might have been more satisfying.

By Bill Meyer

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