Black Boboi - Agate


Black Boboi is an indie supergroup formed by three talented female artists Utena Kobayashi, Julia Shortreed and Ermhoi, who have combined their powers to release this E.P “Agate,” published on the independent label Bindividual (as in “binding individuals” together). 

While this may be a group consisting of three women, it does not seek to push a particularly feminist agenda – other than the pitch of the voices it may as well be “genderless.” Characterized by foreboding drum loops, exotic percussion and chanting, the Black Boboi experience is at once dark, haunting, powerful and surreal. This isn’t your typical “girls’ band,” and we’re not in Shimokitazawa anymore Coco.  

Black Boboi subject matter is confronting, but not freaky, trying to convince someone they’re not insane, cutting the puppet master’s strings loose, (not) existing in a daydream. Two of the members are half Japanese, and they made the creative decision to sing in English. While this probably works great on a Japanese audience, for an international audience it’s hard to derive greater meaning from the odd lyrics. Still, the words and melodies give the listener something to hold onto as guiding themes. The cinematic sound and measured pacing make it easy to feel the associated emotions and imagine being in the sand or breaking out of a cage, in slow motion black and white of course. 

Musically they use a very consistent, controlled sound to establish a distinct style. Most of this has been made on laptops/computers, and the three members take turns singing. Perhaps by design, the voices blend together and aren’t easy to set apart, which further reduces the focus on “lead vocals.” And to further downplay their image, they wear all black on stage (not going as far as uniforms or masks though). This puts more emphasis on the music, especially the beats. Far from being catchy loops repeated throughout, Black Boboi’s digital kicks land sparingly but with force, and the gradual builds allow for the beats to shift and change subtly for greater urgency, dramatic tension or release. This provides Agate with much of the character, because they don’t employ many organic instruments, complex musical solos or effects/samples otherwise. Regardless, Black Boboi know how to apply the pressure, and they really make you feel precisely what they want you to.

For a first substantial release, “Agate” is very restrained, most likely on purpose. It never threatens to go off the leash or explore vastly different moods. But like agate rocks, there are many layers and colors which look totally different depending on the viewing angle, and so it will be very interesting to see what other aspects Black Boboi reveal in the future. Meticulously constructed, Agate is an arresting, unique experience that demands your full attention. Taking the second meaning of the title, this is “a gate” into the world of Black Boboi – let’s find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Royce Leong