I’ve been listening to Jesu since December of 2005 when I received their self-titled debut. It took me little time to figure out that Jesu is fronted by Justin Broadrick, the main guy from Godflesh, who won me over during my dreary days as a college disc jockey.
I finally saw Jesu live for the first time during SXSW 2007. Coincidentally, it was their first time visiting the states because visa issues had defeated them prior (Justin writes extensively about it in his blog).
I know music journalists are supposed to keep their cool, sitting off to the side of the stage, arms folded in front of them, stern look of concentration on their faces. But I’ve always thought that forced stoicism was absolute bullshit. So there I was front and center, hair in slow-motion headbang, arms outstretched, fully rocking. To hell with the non-believers, this was what I came to Austin for.
People ask me what my favorite part of SXSW 2007 was. I’ll answer “Jesu.” (That is, when I am not answering “The Mountain Goats” or “Melvins with Big Business” or “Andrew Bird” or “Robyn Hitchcock with Peter Buck” or whatever pops into mind as being above awesome.)
I wrote a long-winded history of Justin K. Broadrick and Jesu, complete with purple prose, mixed metaphors and a reference to Shiva . Read it after the jump if you like.
It’s impossible to extrapolate the reaches of Justin K. Broadrick’s musical lineage by simply listening to one of Jesu’s albums. Since its 2005 debut, Jesu’s music has eeked a slow, heavy-droning loveliness in blanket upon blanket of heavy guitar and keyboard. Though it may not be too far of a stretch to link Jesu with Final, Broadrick’s initial and concurrent ambient/dark noise musical project, traipsing back further into the 39-year-old Brit’s musical past reveals a notable, and disparate, pedigree.
After joining an early incarnation of Birmingham grindcore champions Napalm Death in the mid-Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ80s, Broadrick quit the band to join experimental metal/industrial band Head of David as their drummer. A few years later Broadrick left that band as well, joining bassist Ben Green to form the legendary industrial metal outfit Godflesh, which recorded and released often-groundbreaking heavy music from 1988 until disbanding in 2002. During a period in the 1990s he also began to collaborate with Kevin Martin in both the ambient electro-dub project Techno Animal, and Martin’s other project, God. Indeed, Justin Broadrick has stirred many a soup pot.
Whether having more to do with Green’s leaving the band in 2001 or Broaderick’s much-chronicled nervous breakdown just prior to a U.S. tour, Godflesh’s breakup instigated a tumultuous time in Broadrick’s life, one which forced him to reassess his life, needs and ambitions. Justin emerged from the tumult the clear victor, claiming Jesu’s 2005 self-titled album as his heavy-weight belt. The 2006 EP Silver followed, bringing a slightly less extreme sound that focused more on dreaminess than the bludgeoning power that characterized Godflesh. Jesu’s latest, Conqueror, follows along the same musical thread, its ambitions lying in overwhelming tones that reset the senses and rumble in your chest, and an underlying sadness that crushes whatever’s left over.
Listening to Jesu can feel a bit like falling backwards in slow motion. It’s a sensation probably akin to slow suffocationÃ¢â‚¬â€a haziness that’s not unpleasant, and in fact, even comforting. There’s a calming inevitability of the great emptiness that awaits, the uncontrollable divide, destruction and rebirthÃ¢â‚¬¦ This is the kind of music that Hindu God Shiva listens to as he creates, sustains and destroys.
Since disbanding Godflesh, Justin Broadrick’s new lease on life has included changes both mundane and groundbreaking. Instead of sleeping until late afternoon, his days begin in the mornings. He’s taken up photography, and has used the art to frame his musical works. He’s also learned that the best way to control loss is to simply let things go. Conqueror may cut its slow crushing strains with melancholia, but that’s also the sound of redemption and coming to grips with the unavoidable. If Justin sounds content , it’s a feeling won from hard times and considerable costs.
Check out their music here:
And one more picture. No, this is not some expensive photoshop effect, this was actually how blurry my vision was by the end of their set. (whether blurry from tears or beers, I’m still not sure):