ALBUM REVIEW: Bo Ningen – Sudden Fictions

Release Date: June 26th 2020
Label: Alcopop! Records


Bo Ningen have been a little bit quiet for the past few years, but it’d be foolish to mistake quietness for unproductivity.

In the six years since their last release, the Japanese four piece have done their fair share of tour and festival appearances – an important bit of upkeeping for a band so renowned for their captivating live shows. Now, they’re ready to slap some fresh tunes into the world with their fourth album, ‘Sudden Fictions’.

‘Sudden Fictions’ is definitely a culmination of Bo Ningen‘s growth and experiences as musicians. This is a group with no qualms about melding and merging inspirations from across the globe to create their own unique musical take. Originating from Japan, uniting in London, and travelling the world together will probably do a lot of the work for you.

From the get-go, ‘Sudden Fictions’ isn’t easily genre-lised. This is an album which starts with experimental bongos in ‘You Make A Mark Like A Calf Branding’, and things only get weirder from there. Bo Ningen take elements from musical styles across the globe; sometimes they sound like a grimey alt band found in any dingy pub basement venue, sometimes they end up as high-art psychedelic-jazz-rock fusion.

‘Zankoku’ psychedelically whirrs and growls in animalistic fashion, sounding more like an FM radio skipping through channels than a coherent song. Only Taigen Kawabe‘s vocals layered on top tie this track together.

Paying homage to Bo Ningen‘s extensive collaborative career is ‘Minimal’, which features Primal Scream‘s own Bobby Gillespie. It’s much more grounded in comparison to the rest of the record, probably thanks in part to Gillespie‘s lower vocal range bringing down the more ethereal voice of Kawabe. That, and they’ve toned down the acid rock for this one.

Bo Ningen are experts in taking in inspiration, and elevating the elements into impressive, sophisticated sounds. A basic arpeggio gets incorporated into a multi-dimensional, otherworldly soundscape of walking bass riffs and echoing, metallic beats in ‘Kyutai’.

This blend of familiar and experimental lends Bo Ningen an unnerving edge: how can they sound so well-trodden, yet so unlike anything before it? If you’re willing to experience the discomfort of a musical uncanny valley, it’s worth trying to work it out.