Music

Pale Sketcher: Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed

Justin Broadrick brings an industrial-dub approach to his ambient-metal landscape.


Pale Sketcher

Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed

Label: Ghostly International
US Release Date: 2010-08-24
UK Release Date: 2010-08-25
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

I came late to Justin Broadrick. In 2005, he donated a remixed and retitled Jesu track for a compilation to benefit the New Orleans radio station WTUL where I was a volunteer. At the time, in the aftermath of the notorious man-made flood, WTUL was broadcasting from a coffee shop, one of the glimmers of optimism in a city temporarily suffused with a sense of monumental doom.

I forgot about Broadrick until 2007 when he released a new Jesu record, Conqueror, and also Pale Sketches, an album of his Jesu offcuts from the preceding seven years. Now, in 2010, he adopts the name Pale Sketcher to issue this “de-mixed” version of the latter, wherein different elements are brought to the fore and others erased (as in dub) as he traverses a terrain dominated by beats and synthesizers -- at times under a thin mist of recognizable guitar or voice.

Things begin very well as “Don’t Dream It (Mirage Mix)” is bristling with melodic vibrations and glitchy rhythm harnessed to a heavy thump and sonorous synth suggestive of an enormous robotic thief limping along spilling coin bags and cash registers. The track has some layered sounds which are near-impossible to describe: Is he being accompanied by a bunch of titanium weasels rubbing their paws over wine glasses? “Can I Go Now (Gone Version)” is mainly interplay between a percussive throb akin to the huff of a steam train and Broadrick’s processed voice. The effect is quasi-choral and industrial, as if Sigur Ros were somehow arriving at Birmingham New Street station for a spot of winter shopping (in the late 19th century).

As with the entire album, it would be easier to describe “Wash It All Away (Cleaned Dub)” if Broadrick’s methodology were mechanical rather than digital (see how he puts the violin bow over the guitar strings and then shakes his ample mane etc). But the relative invisibility shrouding the whole digital process shouldn’t detract from any of Pale Sketches Demixed, including this fantastic if simple instrumental. The piece resembles part of a soundtrack to a science fiction film as imagined by the Blue Nile (if they had a sense of threat or danger), and eventually winds down for the final half minute or so to set a quieter mood from which emerges “The Playgrounds Are Empty (Slumber Mix)”. This track will be the highlight for some listeners, as of the eight tracks it sounds most like a song and its gnawing gorgeousness is hard to shake off. Listen to this driving on a wet road on a dark night and you might be immersed in the feeling that you are not just in a movie, but that you are the star.

Pale Sketcher ranks with any of Broadrick’s various projects (such as Godflesh, Jesu, and Final) and may even prove to be the most popular. It is less “metal” sounding or guitar based than his other work, but the balance of gentleness and heaviness is as apparent as ever and the quality is as consistent as we have come to expect. Keen ears will find these reinterpretations quite broad, and should any listeners discover that “Tiny Universe (Interstellar)” and “Dummy (Banhoff Version)” are as welcome on the floor in a hip dance club as might be imagined, well, please report back. Final track "Plans That Fade (Faded Dub)" is a marvelous warbling slab of ambient-dub that shows how to make a song seems both spacious and suffocating. Play this loud at the traffic lights and people will run a red one to get away from the weird feeling of conducting a seance underwater.

At times, listening to Pale Sketches is the hypnotic equivalent to watching a mountain as seasons slowly pass over it. The basic landscape of the tracks is massive and consistent, allowing small changes to take on greater significance: A direction which Umberto Eco once predicted for popular music, although presumably he meant it as a monotonous bad thing. In Broadrick’s hands, though, the mountain is composed of liquid and gas, is swathed in sad, melodic sounds, and the passing seasons flicker with the light of hope.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image