Justin Broadrick should need no introduction; metal and grindcore pioneer as part of Napalm Death and all of Godflesh, electronic producer as Techno Animal and Final, his recent waves have been made with shoegaze-metal project Jesu. Under that name he released a 2007 album of misfits entitled Pale Sketches, a collection of tracks that didn't fit with his final conception of Jesu. Here he launches his new alias, Pale Sketcher, with an album of "demixes" of that very Jesu album.
If it wasn't obvious already, Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed is an odd little album, sort of like the original on a steady diet of downers: namely, emaciated and lethargic. The album runs the gamut from ambient to post-rock to techno, but it's all touched by Broadrick's unmistakable idiosyncrasies. Take opener "Don't Dream It (Mirage Mix)," which melts down the monolithic guitar of Jesu into breaking waves of frothy saltwater, sprinkled with jagged shards of sampled chimes, strings and chorals, all held down by a reverbed-into-oblivion drum beat. You can get an idea of what the album sounds like from this, a languorous and deliberate crawl in-between genres.
The rest of the album plays somewhat to this theme, with minor variations. Sometimes the formula doesn't quite gel; "Can I Go Now (Gone Version)" is unbearably schmaltzy, cliched melodies brought to the fore through equally hackneyed sounds, and the same goes for "The Playgrounds Are Empty (Slumber Mix)," where slow-motion backwards guitar and Broadrick's vocal lines are given an unfortunate spotlight. The vocals work best when they contribute another layer of colour to the soundscape instead of being its focal point, as they do in the cascading layers of "Supple Hope (2009 Mix)," the album's highlight for its strong fusion of (almost) dance floor-ready rhythms and post-rock melodrama.
Broadrick's new project proves most interesting at its most stripped-back, like the barely-there "Cleansed Dub" of "Wash It All Away," where drums and a bassline are accompanied by heavily-filtered guitar and little else, an update on the Jesu sound rather than populist ambient pandering. The album's last two tracks are promising harbingers for the future, as if you can hear Broadrick figuring out his new alias as the album progresses: "Dummy (Bahnhoff Version)" nearly does away with the guitar and instead focuses on twinkling synths and a bobbing bassline.
Closing track "Plans That Fade (Faded Dub)" is breathtaking, the one track here that lives up to Broadrick's shapeshifting reputation as the elements are melted down into unrecognizable drones that swirl around the gorgeous, affected vocals. After hearing the album, it makes sense that Broadrick is entering the next phase of his career recontextualizing work from his past, and despite the deconstructive implications of the title, Broadrick is most definitely building something here. Whether or not the resulting structure holds up under the weight of his storied career or buckles and collapses into another abandoned side project remains to be seen, but either way, it's going to be spectacular.
Buy Pale Sketcher - Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed at
Tracklist: Pale Sketcher - Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed 01. Don't Dream It (Mirage Mix)
02. Can I Go Now (Gone Version)
03. Wash It All Away (Cleansed Dub)
04. The Playgrounds Are Empty (Slumber Mix)
05. Tiny Universe (Interstellar)
06. Supple Hope (2009 Mix)
07. Dummy (Bahnhoff Version)
08. Plans That Fade (Faded Dub)
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