JK Flesh :: Rise Above (Electric Deluxe)

The tracks on Rise Above utilize sparse, repetitive beats, heavy bass, distortion mixed into a swirl of murky, hazy tracks that thud their way into your ears.

JK Flesh :: Rise Above (Electric Deluxe)

Justin Broadrick is a living legend whose musical output which spans from the genre spawning Godflesh to more ambient works as Final to the genre-splicing Jesu which sounds like a mixture of Godflesh and Boards of Canada. Let us not forget his contribution to Techno Animal and also work with The Bug. He is as venerable as he is famously paranoid.

I’m not sure if I heard of Godflesh before seeing them live but once I did I was an immediate fan. They played the Channel in 1991 on a bill with Napalm Death and Neurosis if I’m not mistaken (to name drop if I may—I saw the show with Nick Forte of Rorshach who later released some great albums on Kranky, Schematic and Sublight). The show was incredibly powerful despite Godflesh’s Alesis HR16 drum machine crapping out and all the beats being reprogrammed by Broadrick only hours before the show on a borrowed BOSS DR550. I saw them again in 1996 when they played the long lost Rathskellar in Kenmore Square and Ted Parsons played live drums. There I’m proud to say I got in such an animated conversation with Justin Broadrick that he gave me the flu. The show was worth it.

All this is to say when I heard there was a release coming from him on Joachim Paap (aka Speedy J’s) Electric Deluxe I immediately pounced on it. This combination could only be amazing. I’m finally prepared to say it’s puzzling and somewhat underwhelming but ultimately worth it.

After a few cursory listens it’d be too easy to say it bears a remarkable resemblance to the work of Andy Stott. The tracks on Rise Above utilize sparse, repetitive beats, heavy bass, distortion mixed into a swirl of murky, hazy tracks that thud their way into your ears. Tracks like “Tunnel,” “Defector,” and “Swarm” could easily be placed among the tracks on Stott’s We Stay Together EP or his album Passed Me By and pass for work by the latter artist. I have to be honest and say this saddens me.

Those tracks have some subtle differences to them which are revealed upon repeated listens (which is ironic given that the saturated distortion in them gives them as much subtlety as a concrete wall collapsing on you during an earthquake). They bear some of the melodic elements of Broakrick’s Jesu and Final persona but these are easily lost underneath the noise.

It’s not even until the album’s fourth track “Conquered” that the distortion lets up and we hear a bit more of the grinding bass work and beat mastery Justin Broadrick is known for in his Godflesh persona. There’s a challenge for established artists like Broadrick making music in a genre he helped create but is also a part of; it’s a challenge similar to what Kraftwerk faced when synthesizers and samplers became cheaper and fell into the hands of people who fed their hungry ears on the music of the mensche-maschinen. How do you plow into new territory in a genre you created without rehashing old works or copying from those who followed you?

Well, Broadrick does do some good music here. “Trinity” takes a rough two note sample of distorted bass, working it over beats to nice effect. “Rise Above” hammers home grumbling bass and whispy drums with some nice reverb breaks. “Cast” could be a Godflesh track without guitars, incorporating Arabic drums into the mix of concretized bass notes and distortion drenched synths; ultimately it works into a hypnotic groove with bass synth echoing along as the drums plod the beat into oblivion. The album’s closer “Low Alloy” begins with the heavy and ends with the light and airy as if the machines have stopped fighting once the ghosts left them. Perhaps the battle was too much for them in the end.

Rise Above is available on Electric Deluxe.

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