Bosse-de-Nage – III – Profound Lore Records
by James Hibbert
Bosse-de-Nage is a dog-faced baboon who can speak no human words but “Ha Ha”, a traveller accompanying Dr. Faustroll who happens to be a man born fully-grown at the age of 63 who travels in a bed, which is not a bed but a boat and is not in actuality a boat but rather, a sieve that floats like a boat. Confused yet? Bosse-de-Nage is also a Bay Area based 4 piece who play a very particular and rather peculiar take on the black metal sub-genre and indeed, the latter is named after the former – a character from the French surrealist novel “Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician” by Alfred Jarry.
The Bosse-de-Nage I speak of in 2010 released their debut and self-titled full-length and soon after, in 2011, released their second outing “II” – each put out by San Francisco based the Flenser Records and each making clear thematically and aesthetically the post-modernist, surreal, absurdist and perhaps most significantly the minimalist influences present within the band’s psyche. Bosse-de-Nage “III”, on the other hand, released by Profound Lore Records in 2012, presents the viewer with a less stylistically minimal aesthetic than it’s previous counterparts, and indeed the listener is presented with a correspondingly less minimal audio affair; with the math rock flairs, drum patterns and musical awkwardness present in past studio endeavours becoming an evidently more prominent feature, and in many cases taking precedence over more traditional black metal sounds. Bosse-de-Nage are by no means unfamiliar with the unfamiliar however, and this experimentation with sounds and themes uncommon within black metal has been a consistent phenomena throughout their discography, all whilst maintaining a recognisable framework not too far reaching into the realms of experimentation.
Introducing itself to the listener with a wave of ear piercing feedback before launching itself into a drum heavy onslaught where fills reign supreme, interrupting the consistency of traditional blasts, “the Arborist” takes no prisoners in opening this release up. Following on from this the song slows down to a crawl resulting in a quiet and subtle break complimented by spoken word and concluded with an awkward yet brilliant percussive passage before returning to the songs earlier implemented formula. This sonically unpredictable approach to songwriting proves a consistent theme throughout the record and indeed, the drums are a particularly strong focal point. With this in mind the listener is carried into “Desuetude” with a somewhat Slint like math rock rhythm coupled with an almost jangly and indie influenced guitar tone that does little to take away from the desperate and chaotic atmosphere generated by Bosse-de-Nage’s strangled and tormented vocal approach. That’s not to say that everything here is claustrophobic, with the fourth track “Cells” being a comparatively reserved and almost entirely spoken word affair, alongside this the record opens itself up in each song to a multitude of sonic expanses and textures as part of a roller-coaster of ups and downs. The introductory five minutes of fifth track “The God Ennui” presents a blissful and meandering nature which despite it’s redemptive tone feels more alike a small ray of light shining hopelessly through a crack in the wall than the light at the end of a long tunnel and, of course light at the end of the tunnel it is not. That light is reserved for the end of this track with perhaps the most stirring and powerfully bombastic passage of anything Bosse-de-Nage have done thus far. Featuring soaring and majestic guitars being carried by a pounding bass and drum combination that results in a catharsis crushed by the inclusion of a spoken word phrase introducing and leading into the main body of the album’s closing track, “An Ideal Ledge”. Here it is stated that “there’s a ledge somewhere set against a deadly precipice, which Spring’s nostalgic winds never reach”. A crushing conclusion. Following on from this the song crawls along for a handful of minutes at a clear mid-pace by comparison to the previous five, and travels from here into a rather out of character and somewhat brief guitar solo. The remaining minutes of the album are subsequently pounded into dust at a slow and jittery pace before we’re sent off with that same feedback which drawn us in.
Everything here is carried out tastefully, nothing is over-stated, clichéd or “cheesy” and everything is in moderation – including that powerful dichotomy of hope and hopelessness present right the way throughout the release. Alfred Jarry from who’s writing the band take their name made frequent use of this same contradiction. External texts were incorporated into his corpus and real & fictional characters, art & life, were mixed together in order to create works so unusual that as much as half a century after their publication writers [Roger Shattuck in his introduction to the text] were still prompted to ask: “Is it literature?”.
Is Bosse-de-Nage “III” black metal? In some senses perhaps not, in many it is certainly but irrespective of whether it is or it is not it is a fantastically crafted and turbulent release that will without a doubt make a few 2012 end of year lists.
Get it here: Profound Lore Records