What would you do if you knew that anything you could ever meet in life has already happened?
It’s like sitting for half an hour in the waiting room at the doctor that just gave you eight minutes to live. ‘Terminus’ is a kind of autobiography of a terminal illness, one brutal yet such highly evolved recording of the tenderness and subtlety of the human demise still longing for one more life’s reprise. A post-human cadential signpost for a new beginning beyond doubt, suffering, and fear. We all strive to leave traces behind, challenged at all times by the inexorable moment when life is given up, the moment of letting go when a reversal occurs. It is not so that the whole being dissolved into nothingness, but rather a state of diminished density develops, so relief and liberation can occur. Due to the experience of an unsatisfactory human reality subjected to rejection, dependency, nostalgia, and ultimate loneliness, the human being begins to seek a way out.
So I pull out, go in, and study from whatever’s available in this terminus space. Music’s primary function is that of an intermediary that activates our longing, time, and again. Weightless and horizontal I light my cigarette. I bite my fingers. I write and think of memories or unfulfilled actions, of all the places I got lost or trapped within, all the fists I hit my head against, and all the fingers that squeezed my heart. How I used to run away from a certain constant longing. Today self-medicate, one of the many ways that I used to know escape. How to avoid pain when all my life I wore it on my chest and in my bright eyes like a trophy? I thought this was what made me special, this predisposition towards sadness, sobriety, and aloofness.
And in the midst of this current lockdown’s imposed isolation and silence, and fear of average human touch, love and hope somehow kick in. Love and hope for an image I had of things to be. Being woke, this cannot be faked nor hidden anymore. As within so without. No reason to hide. No reasoning with the fists tonight. Still… I cannot express fully this pain, this longing.
But I am stirred by an absolute inner revolution, as I trace the battered image of this nearly shattering recording pouring elegiac electronics over distorted and reverbed vocals, some resuscitated in clear mantric patterns of an industrial mourning coloring, others drenched in fiery compulsive dream pop rhythms. Our hearing is the oldest human sensory organ and in the womb, it is the first organ to be formed. No wonder that my soul smiles in recognition of hearing its own poetry screamed by proxy in emotional tensions expressed and exposed by lo-fi atmospheric guitar textures embroidering a record that exhales a non-aligned mystique specific to the albums of the late ’80s, particularly post-punk albums.
‘Terminus’ comes through “the lens of this old guy who’s been making odd, so-called industrial metal for years, but also makes shoegaze, and who grew up as an odd kid on the industrial post-punk of the ’80s” to quote Broadrick‘s own self-depiction. His home is post-punk and this where the roots of all of his music lie.
In the latest Influences post on xlr8r.com, Broadrick revealed some of the songs that shaped Jesu in general, and the recording of ‘Terminus’ in particular. His ear dipped in repetition into the Beatles, Cure, The Longcut or Slowdive, Aphex Twin, M83, Cocteau Twins, Codeine, or Kate Bush. No wonder Broadrick described JESU as a flawed and failed interpretation of these musicians.
JESU is indeed the collaboration and corroboration of the sonic worlds Broadrick inhabits and constantly manifests, formed as a vehicle to explore the dream pop, shoegaze, and electronica that soundtracked much of his experimental youth.
Since very young he navigated aggressive but assertive artistic realms with Napalm Death and Head of David, released five full-lengths and several EPs and Singles with Kevin Martin (God, The Bug) as the industrial hip-hop group Techno Animal. But he’s best known as the founding member of Godflesh, one of the first bands to combine elements of extreme metal and industrial music. Resiliently he created and released hard techno music as JK Flesh, while he worked at and released albums with Jesu, Pale Sketcher, the Graymachine, and the industrial noise project Final. Lest we forget, Broadrick also extended his sonic prowess as a producer, crocheting the sound of records and remixes for supergroups like Pantera, Isis, Mogwai, and Pelican.
Fast-forward to the present moment, ‘Terminus’ is the first stand-alone album from JESU since 2013’s ‘Every day I get closer to the light from which I came’ with which Broadrick started exploring concepts like longing and homesickness. Concepts with tremendous power that can turn into an agony that gnaws, saps, and torments the human mind. Broadrick has long been battling hypersensitivity and anxiety for the whole of his human experience. He never lives in the now but in the future all the time. Such a basic act as getting out the front door might be an issue causing massive and grave anxiety. So naturally fear of performing led him to self-medicate with alcohol or weed. The period before hitting the stage is always the worst, but with it comes a sense of relief as the performance begins counterpointed by deep breaths in an almost meditative state as to achieve the letting go. During many early Godflesh performances, Broadrick would be totally depleted after literally imploding in the first two songs, leaving him in total fatigue because of the anxiety and build-up it took to finally get to that sense of release and relief. And then, he would just be shocked in the aftermath during the entire rest of the set. Nevertheless, music is his tremendous way to express his experience with anxiety, communicate it, and use its negativity to make extremely swollen with loss music. The part about using music, or self-medicate to cope with anxiety in particular really hit home. It’s rather comforting to know an artist you look up to is fighting the same battles I am.
The ways in which to heal are also boundless as Broadrick makes use of dissonance to express these extremes, sounding so sharp, a literal cry for a solution to distinguish between true longing and disillusion. Living in order to experience things implies living with longing and thus staying alive. I tried… I tried to see both sides but I failed… I failed to be the one, the one that’s meant to lead, the one who has no needs.
Coincidences do not exist. ‘When I Was Small’ is not by chance the opening track, with its significant recurring pattern of unpitched percussive hits that functions as a great regulator for the breathing, the heartbeats, and the energy of this whole record. The various forms of silences or pauses between the drummer’s beating rhythmical movements, the stops between each of his own inhalation and exhalation are directly related to the flow thematically. Facing the longing it’s eased by a sustained, enthralling, pervading no resistance to the pain. What surfaces is the understanding of how everything had its time and was good, and then changed into its opposite after its time had passed. Acceptance welcomes the letting go… beat after beat, track after track. ‘When I Was Small’, ‘Terminus’ and ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ are drafted on a release drumbeat, a release of that which no longer serves. The draughtsman of these segues is Ted Parsons, an American drummer most notable for his membership in bands such as Swans, Prong, Godflesh, or Killing Joke. His experience of playing with Swans, for instance, was a very structured one for a drummer, requiring a very slow pace as the space for the beats was more important than the actual beats. As this imposed technique was really strict, Parsons did not really like it because he was more into punk. But after spending years with Swans, touring and making records he understood how this group was very important in shaping drumming artistry. Swans, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, these bands coming out in New York were all crafting a new sound. Broadrick himself told Parsons when he joined Godflesh: “Swans were a huge inspiration for Godflesh!”
Albums like ‘Cop’ or ‘Filth’ were carved heavily into Broadrick‘s skin so there was the connection. Parsons realized how every beat he played was like it was gonna be his last. He played everything with intensity and purpose. Might sound simplistic to the contemporary ear but back then a new mindset was being drummed up, that of the silence in between the beats being just as important as the beats themselves.
There is another side of silence, manifested by ‘Alone’, a metal drop summoning from the start the Cocteau Twins in dreamy vocals and winding synth. While these sounds fill me with positive thoughts concerning all beings, I tend to regret the future sorrow of those whom I still love. This love is like the music of indescribable beauty and harmony, in which everything seems to bathe and by which everything is nourished. Still, nothing can be compared with what was known before when there is nothing to go by. ‘Terminus’ is where there are no signposts. A world of emptiness and fullness, impersonal consciousness where I no longer have any desires. Where I wonder why I did not know before what is natural and so close by. With ‘Sleeping In’ I become aware of stuck energy and I take comfort in a state of confusion that was working well for me. And so I drift far far away from breaking inertia in Broadrick‘s slumbered chords. I am cradled back and forth by familiar tidal guitar resonances, hushed, so silenced that my perceived consonance sounds like a chaotic dissonance mirrored perfectly by post-rock music. And in the background, always there, always present ‘Consciousness’. How convincing and linear Broadrick switches between ideals and reality. He tries to create his ideals but he is continuously pulled back to the reality of the gross matter. He tries to guarantee order instead of chaos and harmony instead of conflict, but new states of consciousness and a new pattern of life implies also new forms of sound and music. ‘Consciousness’ dub-techno architectural form exhales a state where the repetitive rhythmic structure is masculine, hard, and impulse-giving translated as major yang keys that submerge to yin minor keys, the emotional atmospheric spacial ornament which is elusive and filled with surrender. Techno music is the genre that kind of tells the story of people that have a hidden history. “I like the anonymity of it. I like the fact that I’m taking part in this ritual without being the center of it.” Broadrick once stated about his JK Flesh techno persona. I cannot but recognize its presence being felt here in perfect stylistic alignment. Through this Broadrick deliberately does not clarify the darkness, but rather makes it even denser by new paradoxes. Only through our consciousness are we able to observe and analyze what we call reality. The consciousness is like a binding agent, a strong glue, which harmoniously links all cells of the body to our thinking and emotions. And thus the consciousness detached from the body is no longer subject to the painful effects of the longing of matter. ‘Disintegrating Wings’ slowly releases a lullaby of twinkled washed guitars punctured by synthy syringes. Broadrick‘s mantric short-lined and simple rhymed lyrics often sound paradoxical or filled with refined irony. For an unprepared listener, they might be peculiar, vague, and unintelligible. But a pervasive longing comes across crystal clear in ‘Don’t wake me up’. It’s the tiresome realization of the uncertainty in having to accept change halfway the course as the song has its own beat change halfway through. It’s like playing and embodying this constant emotion of longing for a certain length of time to get what you want. Then beat change is where you are changing what you are doing to get to what you want. The beat change is the moment before you decide to move
you don’t care that things don’t stay the same
I fail to see that things will change
I don’t know who I may be today
I don’t know if I can stay away… from me… from you
towards the instrumental closing track ‘Give Up’ where action becomes emotion, a verb you can feel. In the flow words are obliterated, no longer necessary, cleansed by a wash of looped guitar and jingle synth.
This album is the expression of a great longing, and just as french thinker Victor Hugo noted: “Music expresses what cannot be said and about which we cannot possibly remain silent.”