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Jesu – Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came

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Jesu - Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I CameAs I write this, Lou Reed is freshly dead and the streets are littered with fallen branches from a storm widely tipped before its appearance to herald the Apocalypse. (Spoiler – it didn’t). What is called for is something elemental, something riddled with loss and sorrow, but also something that fucking kicks ass. What is called for, essentially, is Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came, the new album by Jesu, Justin Broadrick‘s ultra-heavy shoegaze outfit. And it’s a fucking killer.

A quarter of a century ago, Broadrick was already taking relentlessness to the limit with Godflesh. You’d think that had to be the end point, really. As Nigel Tufnell said to Marty DiBergi, “You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?” Tufnell’s solution to the problem was to go to eleven, but for some that’s still not enough. There’s a progression in brutality, a long way to go after reaching ultimate noise, and a lot of different roads you can take. Swans went off into space, carving out great empires from black holes and dying suns. Om sought refuge in the desert, taking big fat Sabbath riffs on endless spiritual pilgrimages. And Justin Broadrick just kept going all the way round until he met My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless coming the other way, and that’s where he set up Jesu.

MBV are an obvious reference point for Jesu (as are Slowdive, who are the ghost at opener “Homesick”‘s feast), but also quite a lazy one, as it doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story. There are surface similarities, but the key difference to my ear is this – MBV take fragile, delicate songs and throw them into a hurricane. Whereas Jesu take fragile, delicate songs and crush them underfoot, leaving them to poke tentatively up through the surface, like flowers on a battlefield. (At this point it’s tempting to make an opium poppies connection, but bastarding Sting‘s only gone and done that one already, so fuck that).

And the flowers are growing. Broadrick’s voice is ever-so-slightly higher in the mix this time round, making these easier to think of as “songs”, rather than “pieces with vocals.” But it’s not a massive change in direction; just a slight shift in focus. The arrangements are deeper, too, with more electronics, string sounds and piano to offset the crushing guitars of doom. The centrepiece of Everyday… is “The Great Leveller” which, as its title, not to mention even the most passing knowledge of Broadrick’s oeuvre would suggest, is epic, crushing, and really quite beautiful. Starting with some stately and majestic piano (because, let’s face it, honky-tonk piano ain’t really Jesu’s style) and strings, it goes through several movements over the course of its well-justified 17-minute running time, with some of Broadrick’s chunkiest riffing since 2006’s “Friends Are Evil,” recalling that Godflesh grind carving its way through chiming harmonies and basically kicking your head in. It’s very much like a storm in itself, with occasional lacunae of tranquillity in which to try to reassemble your ears before the onslaught begins anew. It builds, and drops, and builds again until an almost heartbreaking final passage which shows just how much he’s broadened his palette since the inchoate howl of Godflesh’s Streetcleaner.

Although to take tracks in isolation is to lessen the experience – like previous Jesu albums, this is a thing that demands to be listened to from end to end, to be experienced as one. I’ve always thought of Broadrick, like Kevin Shields, or Merzbow, as more of a sculptor than a builder, taking a huge block of unrefined sound and carving it out into haunting and abstract forms, rather than starting from silence and progressively adding sound to it until there’s a structure there. Yeah, I know this probably isn’t an accurate representation of what goes on in the studio, but it’s a lot cooler.

So, y’know, it’s not Broadrick’s acoustic showtunes album or anything, just the next leg of his journey down whichever road he’s laying down for himself now. And it’s a hell of a ride. You should hop in. There are crisps in the back.

-Justin Farrington-

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