Album: Christmas EP
Best songs: Christmas – Christmas (Pale Sketcher Remix)
For fans of: Godflesh – Isis – Envy
In a sentence: Music to space out to late at night
In this three track EP, Justin K. Broadrick explores a range of musical palettes, jumping from distortion laden guitars, synthy ambience and beat-driven electronica. While the EP is comprised of three tracks, it is actually one song and two remixes, all produced by Justin K. Broadrick on his lonesome. Track one is the Jesu we all know and love, track two is remixed by Pale Sketcher, his electronica project, and track three is remixed by FINAL, his long running and prolific ambient project.
How can one track fill a 28 minute EP I hear you ask? The answer is: easily, when done by a musician as talented and multifaceted as Justin K. Broadrick. For those who haven’t heard his work, Broadrick cut his teeth playing guitar on the first incarnation of the genre defining grindcore act Napalm Death, before moving onto sludgy industrial metal with Godflesh, and finally settling on his current main band, Jesu, which explores ambient, guitar heavy ‘pop’ music. Of course, the Justin K. Broadrick definition of pop music just happens to include chugging, detuned guitars and songs that clock in at 49 minutes (Infinity).
If you are new to Broadrick’s work, this might just be the perfect introduction, combining all the elements of his musical palette. That said, it doesn’t quite have the desperation and urgency of Godflesh or early Jesu, but then again it doesn’t seem like it was intended to possess it. The Christmas EP is a slow burn, with down tempo beats that would put dubstep to shame.
The first track, Christmas, is an 8 minute epic that wouldn’t sound out of place on Conquerer, Jesu’s second full length. All the core Jesu elements are here: distortion soaked guitars, soaring synths, epic, slow drum parts and Broadrick’s understated, mournful vocals. The song is is only vaguely Christmas related, with the lyrics referencing sleigh-bells, perhaps referring to the loneliness some feel around Christmas time. The highlight of the song is the shift into the dark, finger-picked bridge, which is backed by droning chords and bells ringing out ominous season’s greetings.
The second track is the Pale Sketcher remix, which is lighter fare than the original song. The track is defined by uplifting synths, ghostly vocals and heavily edited beats. Again, the tempo is in the sub-basement. If you were looking for heavy, sludgy guitars, expect to be disappointed as the only stringed instrument in the song is a looped clean guitar melody. Broadrick manages to make the remix both poppy and quite eerie and haunting at the same time.
The last track is the FINAL remix, a fourteen minute epic. There is no drums and almost no guitar to be found here; simply layer upon layer of synth, building slowly to crescendo after crescendo, before laying down for a minimalist outro. This is perfect material to read to, write to, or soak up on a train journey late a night, in fact the whole EP seems custom-built for such pursuits, without seeming boring or unchallenging.
Lord of industrial drone, Justin K. Broadrick is back with a Christmas themed EP of all things. Within lies three tracks of ambience and subversive melody, which doesn’t sound like that much, but considering it clocks in at nearly 28 minutes, you get your money’s worth. If droning guitars, melancholy melodies and intelligent drum programming are down your alley, pick up this digital-only release now. If you are new to Broadrick’s work, this might just be the perfect introduction, combining all the elements of his musical palette.
2. Christmas: Pale Sketcher Remix
3. Christmas: FINAL Remix
Running time: 27.9 minutes