Out 20th November
Jesu (Justin K Broadrick) returns with ‘Terminus’, on his own Avalanche Recordings. His first full-length album since 2013s Everyday I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came and the experimental, glitchy, crystalline microchip soundscape Never EP, from January this year. Terminus is an example of this notion, this optimal artistic need. The notion of something new, something now. The need to shake chains, and shed skin.
There’s always some kind of pressure involved when coming to produce a piece of work about something, or someone with a History. There’s an entire timeline of material and experiences which preceded this very moment, and often it can lead to an overwhelming sense of intensity to make sure you do the artist in question service, but also make sure the written word is satisfying. Therefore, I suppose its important not to get entangled in the minutia of details and maze of events that transpired but approach the new release as though they were a new artist, or equally, an artist you have never heard of as a self-initiated strategy to avoid the eyes shattering to small stacks of glass and the head exploding from both sides.
This isn’t to say that what follows won’t refer to, with some stroke of referential knowingness and thirst for research, the Past (weird industrial prototypical post-metal giants Godflesh breaking up in the early 00s spawned Jesu soon after to venture into further territories of sonic possibility and experimentalism). It would be foolish not to. In some small part at least. But it’s not a fucking biography either.
This particular end is our entrance into Jesu. And this time, it’s an entrance into themes of rejection, dependency, nostalgia, and ultimate loneliness. These are the extremes sonically depicted by Broadrick. The past is something we are entitled to not be proud of but can be honest with all the same. And it’s safe to say, that upon being lured and pulled closer to the stations of the cross according to Jesu, a contemporary master of the melancholic arts, an advocate for the states of play and psyche according to Streetcleaners and Slavestates and rally for the externalization of that dark, internal whirlpool which whiplashes us into a million shattered pieces. That substantive sense of such devastating dispositions which dig into and rip us apart on a daily basis and understands the effigies of existence can crumble apart quicker than they can be built, and do so in a way, as a conduit, to channel that maddening angst, that exhausting deal to feel euphoric about something more ephemeral and empty than we care to admit.
And we witness such aspects of modern life unfold before our very eyes. When I Was Small, or, when we were all, unknowingly, even in the company and comfort of other people, who were also small, Alone – commenting on, with a hauntingly deformed rawness and irresistible hypnotic weight, the islands of the times we sometimes find ourselves isolated and abandoned on. The latter chimes and radiates with ethereal, intellectual electro-pop motion. A musically pastoral piece of work, perhaps a homage to Dead Eyes from the 2006 EP Silver in it’s jubilant, otherworldly decorations, alluring gravitational density, and sublime, pop radiance. Broadrick’s delicate and defiant vocals seem to levitate and briefly leave earth, but always return, crippled below a sudden collapse of an entire constellation, in order to provide the final, harrowing swoops, amongst a kaleidoscopic collision of other spiritualized voices, each with a blighted mind, always in a state of somatosensory mutation.
There are what one might call quintessential Jesu, or furthering the retrospect, Godflesh-esque moments on the album. Yet even more impressive is the insistence that things don’t rest in one place for too long, that the art amounts to more than an assemblage of old ideas rehashed and reshaped for the modern age but ignites with fire in the belly too. Such moments, although are peppered throughout to various degrees, on Terminus could well include the penetrating rocket guitars, unleashed with that uncomfortable but deliriously addictive chromatic path. Each robust puzzlement of riff, each dizzying, distorted chord from the coldest world (specifically one from 1991), slamming against and sliding into the other. A wall of wonderful noise, rage against the day with brilliant bombast of distortion, entrancing the senses like pulsars contained in effects pedals and an entire cosmos kept sealed up, until its’ unfurling in an amp rig, approaches from all corners as the local, lost Slateman in the Spiderland (yes, I know dear nerd – Slint, 1991) arduously raves his weights away, caught in the middle of a cubist industrial stupor in a hope he sprouts wings and absolves the tragedy of a yesterday which has shaped his current state of self.
All the while unleashing a hard, tectonic crunch with immense tonnage, in order to bend, to break, to bleed, to blend all elements attracted and assembled, from different, disjunctive dimensions and see what occurs. Jesu approaches each miniature detail with the importance of everything else which swirls around it. An appetite for experimentation when the possibilities of sound are perceived from the eyes of wild pioneers of dreamy engineering, showcase the progress of the designs in pavilions as multicolored projections blasting patterns on the pyramid walls. They trudge through the mud, decomposing but still thrust forth, dissonant with every fragmented intonation, and still able to unearth some tremendous, trembling force resounding throughout the airwaves.
The spacey, neo-psychedelic sound effects, sprawl and spring and reverberate throughout the airwaves, decorating the body of the song with lush, luxurious sonic quality. Each spiraling signal from one cavernous machine, communicating to the other, drenching rainbows in gasoline, and tossing a match at one end watching the fucker go up in flames and the horizon engulfed in smoke. The subtly rupturing industrial mud of Sleeping in, in all its spellbinding beauty, rapturously dazzles, taking one’s hand as eyesight is concealed by blindfolds and we are magnetized to the center of a dreamland dominated by bedazzlements of neon forestry. Regularly moving between variegated atonality, and moody intonations, a handful of all things hallucinogenic and hypersensitive, catastrophic, and cacophonous, in others more polished and prismatic.
Those familiar with Jesu won’t find it such an arduous or farfetched parallelism between what is mediated here, in 2020, and from 2007’s Sunrise/Sundown EP. A luminous timeline we can trace across states of lucid curiosity, which reflect the kinds of propulsive musical projects undertaken by Jesu, infinite and phantasmagorical, never really drawing to a close, but always moving on. A couple of sprawling, seductive, magnetic epics in sound, with their own bruised network of electronic components, performing as conduits for additional instrumental organisms, aerating and ascending at their own erratic pace in order to reach those celestial peaks. Compositions, and combinations, casting a shadow across over 30-minutes’ worth of despondent post-rock, with their own equally pharmaceutical groove, their own intermittent ambiance, and utterances, their own ways of breaking the magic spell, always crackling like a voice lost to the diffusion of static in the night, sedated and sleepy, and always about to crack apart.
Jesu approaches each miniature detail with the importance of everything else which swirls around it. A means of making sure the kinds of conditions we are kept in (the nostalgic flash, the retreat of rejection, the desolate chambers of depression, the crest of loneliness, and its eventual crash upon us), are articulated with impeccable detail.
From the perspective of astronauts crashing through earth’s barrier, Consciousness according to Jesu on this album glistens and groans with a similar corrosive and holistic vibe. Sounds resurrected from the depths everlastingly expand then shrink and grow stronger, taller, tougher again. It yields a similar, bustling, bubbling undercurrent to Broadbrink’s project he formed in 1990 wth Kevin Martin, operating consecutively to Godflesh, called Technological-Animal. In that, there is the presence of some evolving, ominous noise, the joints of a Techno Animal, running under the city streets, a sewer system of sonic exploration with a sophomoric, lorazepam chant. Here though, seldom is the supple, deep, dub bass and explosive, breakbeat energy, but still possesses the strange, motorway ambiance, the narcotic technoid freneticism of Monosphate, and the exhaling machine beat of Athrazite, from The Brotherhood of the Bomb album in 2001.
The primitive fizz and kick of drums dissipate and disappear but return to keep the percussive muscles essential in all their solid, simplistic, foundational footwork. Above which exists everything else, a pair of Disintegrating Wings. And within which exists everyone, caught up in the panoramic snapshot of tidal waves and black holes, with a longing to not be so lost, a dependency on the belief that wounds will heal for those who wait in the pouring rain long enough. Less an experiment in soundscapes and twitchy, tortured, minimalistic electronic trickery. Less about how many pedals can be turned on at the same time, blistered and mangled by lofty droplets of igneous, insurmountable guitars with an immeasurable amount of strings and tunings and signatures – but more akin to The Scream by Edvard Munch. A Terminal Man with a terrible fate ahead.
Those holy vocals, sometimes whispered like the look of an animal’s eyes, mourning over the fact they are not human but desire to be treated as equals, sometimes spill themselves to the extremity that the lungs they leap from turn to piles of dirt and split the body down the middle with such powerful, exhaustive, exertion. An unrelenting sonic sensorium, conjured from the pit of one’s being and regurgitated before the twilight, flickering in and out of focus amongst the thud of distorted and the force of rotten, rotating drums. All the while silvery, sticky guitars are both beautiful and difficult, mathematically damaged and delayed to the point a whole decade has past and we are still dragging it from behind in their oscillating, incessant wobble and continuum of bright, beatific energy.
Heavier without being aggressive, haunting in its lonesome melodicism, walking amongst the ghosts on an isolated astral plane, Don’t Wake Me Up calls upon us aloud from the distance, the proximity of Broadrick’s untouched voice perched upon each shoulder, the warmth of opiates and the heavenly ascension of shimmering guitars, a surge of immersive electronic noises glowing and afloat which cradle us as though caught in some dreamlike sequence of thoughts, maneuvering themselves amongst a loose, procession of drums and an inflated, droning, diaphanous spirit.
Terminus can be viewed as the logical meeting place between what Jesu has endured previously. An intermixing melancholic pop production but pushed to the extremes of untamed, electronic flourishes and hazardous guitars. A symbiosis of early nominal genres, all of which are mutilated and manipulated with the wisdom of someone who knows how the anomalies of music can synergize to create something remarkable, alchemical, and still leave us raw. And although one would hate to specify, exactly, what kind of colors are dolloped on the palette Broadrick paints with, we can hear that droning, haunting hum of early shoegaze with a kick of hardcore punk attitude alongside it.
This album is an act of balance and opposition, swinging with its own set of non-specific skills, styles, and instincts; swaggering with a sophisticated, downtempo buoyancy. The terminus as the end, the finality, the accumulation of happenings which meet in the middle, the inevitable full-stop after a journey. But of course, the terminal of something is actually the start of other trajectories and adventures which break and bloom and throw us against the wall and watch the pieces which remain intact float upwards or fall into place. Because now we know, having endured and undertaken and absorbed what another day demanded from us; a day such as the 8th December 1994, when the eponymous Jesu album was released, – that Friends Are Evil.
A similar, yet trippy, glitchy affair, Give Up, terminates our journey from one end of the tunnel to another. Motorised percussion from the center of some dystopian metropolis dance below a cloudburst of photons and a seismic barrage of semi-precious metals sliced into filings at the behest of meaty, behemoth guitars charred the crossroads we are confronted by on the other side.
But in other places, and inspiring experiment at building cathedrals with sound, about the experience itself as an instrument, about creating avalanches with pressure and space, about synthesizers as glaciers, about the architectural consistencies of dreamland concealed beneath a façade of a corrupted, corrugated, composite, consciousness, rather than as a simple song. Rock ‘n’ roll to microdose to.
Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton his archive can be found online here.