j2_cover_front_large.jpgOkay, so let’s just get the negative out of the way: I’m not crazy about “Decay,” the opening track from this eagerly anticipated collaboration between the seemingly tireless Justin Broadrick and former Swans vocalist Jarboe. It has a little too much of that kind of Bloody Panda-ish vibe, the one that makes you feel like you’re listening to the longest intro ever when you just want the friggin’ song to start already.

The rest of this album, luckily, is as fucking brilliant as the light bulb that adorns its cover art.

Like Jesu, the shoegaze project Broadrick currently calls his home, the material on J2 don’t offer much in the way of variation within each individual song; this man has never, ever, in his long and storied musical history, been interested in the pop tropes that have dominated most rock music pretty since forever. Instead, tracks are constructed around playing the same very short piece of music again and again and again, adding subtle layers and variations with each repetition. Anyone looking for that whole traditional chorus-verse-chorus stuff obviously doesn’t know Broadrick very well, and would do best to look elsewhere. Broadrick is a self-admitted pothead, and like most potheads, he obviously has no shortage of the ability to concentrate on examine one thing for a very, very long time.

Those with the patience (or pot habit) to follow along will be richly rewarded. This music is best listened to with your finest set of headphones so as to fully appreciate all the little ins and outs on display. No instrument or effect is off-limits here; Broadrick is a brilliant producer, and Jarboe’s acrobatic vocals are often layered and filtered through what sounds like megaphones, echo chambers, and the mind of a schizophrenic coquette; Broadrick then mixes in organs, thick, fuzzy, industrial guitars, synths, rusty pianos, electronic beats, slow, throbbing drum beats, and whatever the fuck else these two felt like. I have no idea what the songwriting process must be like for an album like this, but the results are positively devastating.

Elegiac, melacholic, and achingly beautiful, J2 is one of those albums that I just can’t say enough good things about; its beauty leaves me at a loss for words. Just know this: I’ve had this album for weeks now, and it hasn’t left my steady rotation all the while. Even as I write this review, I can’t find a way to do the album justice. Just go buy it already.

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