NEUROSIS & JARBOE
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2003
NEUROSIS & JARBOE
A team-up nobody even dared to fantasize united two of the mightiest, brightest black suns of spiritual metal and industrial. Welding Neurosis’ tumbling, tribal epic laments to ex-Swans diva Jarboe’s torturous, feral soul-crushers, it entered a stream unexplored by humans and beasts alike, heading straight down the river Styx. Majestic and suffocating.
If you were to compile a wish list of musical collaborations, the only reason you might have left off this pairing is because, on paper, it’s so appropriate, you could easily be forgiven the oversight. Neurosis and Jarboe ‘s former band, Swans, were once chained to parallel velocities, tracing the dynamic tension between their own, earth-bound humanity and the magnetism of the pitiless panoramas above – a consummate clash between brute force and humbling, metaphysical petition. And yet, ‘Neurosis & Jarboe’ is wholly unexpected, a journey through a far-off hinterland where the chief coordinates are life and death. ‘N&J’ sounds like a final journey, a stately yet desolate pilgrimage that’s almost medieval in its sombre concession to destiny, its vast, blighted aural environment and forsaken, procession-like momentum. If, at times, Jarboe’s empathetic angel of death presence appears to have soothed Neurosis’ enflamed nerves, it’s only so their natural momentum can start up again on a different, more stealth-like frequency; the subterranean, percussive pulse urging its way through opener ‘Within’, around Jarboe’s hissed mantra. “If God wants to take me, he will,” the arcing drone and rumble of ‘Taker’ and the doleful cadences of wafting throughout ‘Receive’. It’s only on ‘Erase’ that Neurosis’ customary weight makes itself felt; amidst funereal keyboards, carrying itself with all the crushed resolution of someone dragging themselves across a moonlit desert while Jarboe scours her vocal cords raw. Above all, ‘Neurosis & Jarboe’ is an epic act of deliverance, a resolute awakening from grief, fearless examination of its aftermath and a passage into the unknown- caught up in a transition that offers the most all-seeing, most heartbreaking of perspectives. ‘Try to remember / Everything that’s lost.” laments jarboe on the closing ‘Seizure’, with a compassion that will surely tear your soul apart, and it’s a fusion of sorrow and salvation that burns brighter than a thousand suns.
Album Review from Decibel Magazine :
Album Review from iTunes :
Talk about an inspired pairing: Bay Area apocalyptic post-hardcore beasts Neurosis teamed up with ex-Swans vocalist/collaborator Jarboe, for this years-long, tape-trading project, and the result is, as expected, haunting, enlightening, and challenging. Jarboe’s chameleonic myriad of vocal styles — a pure, nectar-sweet tenor, operatic, dramatic, and melancholy, often gives way to whispered spoken word, and disturbing bouts of chanting, panting, and trachea-scraping screeches — and harrowing poetry are a natural partner for Neurosis’ increasingly subtle ventures into abstraction and texture (here, the band settles on a sonic cousin of its experimental ambient/noise alter ego, Tribes of Neurot). Instant gratification is something reserved for more compromising artists, and, as expected, Neurosis & Jarboe requires one’s undivided attention, composed of lengthy jaunts into the mist of mind and soul, and designed to push you out of your mental comfort zone. Lyrically, Jarboe delves into the suffocating mysteries of death and religion, the album cover art tying the theme together with drawings of stigmatized hands drawing flies, each song represented by a ripped-off fly wing. The record’s pinnacle is “Erase,” a nine-minute epic of emotional extremity, Jarboe whispering “There are all these well-wishers, well, idiots keeping score, and I would love to disappoint them,” before exploding into traumatic screams of “Define me, defy me, deny me, defile me.” Neurosis’ rhythmic tribal thunder during “Within” is interrupted by Jarboe’s creepy, paranoid drawl before being matched by her breathless panting; and 12-minute album closer “Seizure” is an example of pure, muscular songwriting prowess, contrasting synths and noise loops with a crystalline acoustic guitar during the intro, before Jarboe’s beautiful vocal strains mesh with Neurosis vocalist Scott Kelly’s droning rasp; meanwhile, the backing soundtrack builds into a stunning and gorgeous polyrhythmic collage of singing, instrumental chords, and floating abstract sound. One has to admire Jarboe’s unwavering ability to remain steadfast to her art, whether it requires her, as Neurosis & Jarboe often does, to strip naked and howl like a banshee, or remain tastefully restrained; either way, her collaborations with Neurosis claw at one’s psyche with sharp, dirt-encrusted fingernails, their musical coalition daring you to rip away from their penetrating gaze. It won’t happen.