- Early in his long and productive career, Justin K Broadrick despised genre the way anarcho-punks despise the capitalist state. For the young radical from Birmingham, the concept was a form of sonic ghettoization that had to be overthrown. He waged his revolt through a string of collaborative and solo projects that approached desegregation with all the subtlety of a Molotov cocktail. The pioneering Godflesh was born out of a high-impact collision between heavy metal and industrial; Techno Animal violently collapsed hip-hop, ambient and noise together; The Sidewinder unleashed a crust-smeared splicing of hard techno repetition and blown-out African groove.
From Jesu to JK Flesh (an older alias reactivated with 2012's Posthuman), subverting genre remains the bedrock of Broadrick's vision today. As he's grown older, his means of achieving it have become decidedly nuanced. He's no longer breaking down barriers and reveling in chaos so much as he's constructing sustainable interfaces between the sounds and styles he's explored since the late '80s. It's certainly true of Rise Above, the wild, forceful, meticulous double-LP released on Speedy J's Electric Deluxe label. The record features plenty of Broadrick's trademarks: Brontosaurus-sized beats, sheets of static and the tension between animalistic intensity and mechanized determinacy. The latter quality plays a vital role in the first two tracks. "Tunnel" recalls Techno Animal's programmed crunch even as it sounds like an industrial-metal band. "Defector" is even more gnarly, nailing the sweet spot between militant repetition and a troglodyte rock stomp.
Despite the sheer enormity of Rise Above's grooves, the music retains a refreshing kineticism, thanks to a nimble, minimalist touch of syncopation. A veteran with drum breaks, Broadrick possesses a far deeper well of rhythmic schemes than many of his brooding peers in the industrial electronic zone. "Conquered" stands out for that reason: had the track come out in the late '90s, its steamship hiss, counterpoint percussion and lurching swagger would've aligned it with experimental hip-hop. On "Cast," Broadrick sends that inimitable swagger through an obstacle course of jarring pivots, as crud-caked synths move double-time through great billows of distortion. Even on "Low Alloy," the album's most technoid cut, Broadrick splatters drum corp-style toms, snares and cymbals against a metronomic pulse. The result is a kind of murky, ominous, industrial-grade robo-funk.
The severe, crunchy production and impenetrable distortion of Rise Above has a lot in common with the likes of Andy Stott (namely, Passed Me By and We Stay Together) and Ancient Methods at his most beastly. But in terms of emotion, their foreboding music stands apart from JK Flesh. It's a rare musician who could make music this bleak sound utterly engrossing.
06. Rise Above
08. Low Alloy