Neurosis & Jarboe - s/t [Neurot Recordings - 2003]When you think of it, it was only logical that Jarboe and Neurosis would work together one day. For if there was one band that could be considered as a 21st century Swans, it is Neurosis. Maybe not entirely true when you take into account purely musical criteria, but much more one point when you think about the atmosphere that both bands manage(d) to create.
Over the six years since the demise of The Swans, Jarboe has been hard at work on numerous solo project, collaborations, concerts and other projects. A year ago or so, she began working on this album. It’s safe to say that while it is not a typical Neurosis or a typical Jarboe album, it’s not really far from both “entities” usual universes. Different, yet familiar.
This collaboration sees Neurosis focusing more on the mood crafting side of their music (although there are some heavy riffs here and there). However, we’re not talking about cute moods. We’re talking about darkness, despair, threat, ferocity. Jarboe’s vocal performance is extremely impressive: at times intimidating, if not plain scary, at times genuinely touching. Without having the same singing capacities, Jarboe display here could only be bettered by Diamanda Galas, the only other American singer who could equal the intensity of the performance of some of the songs. Bits of this record, especially album-opener Within, remind me of some of the songs on Liquid, Recoil’s latest album, on which the NY singer features.
Speaking of Within, most reviewers seem to underline the line when Jarboe says “I tell you if God wants me, he will. He’s coming.”, and they rightly do so: I don’t think I’ll ever heard someone announcing so convincingly the second coming… His last words also has a Recoil vibe going on. If Recoil’s Alan Wilder composes (mainly) electronic music and if Neurosis sounds are more “organic”, it soon becomes obvious that there is something linking those two acts, at least spiritually. On Taker, distorted guitars feature more prominently, and Jarboe’s voice becomes very, very ominous. “Eat or be eaten” she says. And you just know that at this very second, you might be the consumed one… Receive is when Jarboe comes the closest to Galas’ territories, saying a prayer to Mary in a most convincing way. There is a real feeling of hopelessness through this entire track though. The very mournful keyboards arrangements and the melancholic acoustic guitar have a lot to answer for…
Erase is the heaviest track off the album. Neurosis play a most sinister funeral march while Jarboe sounds in pain. Long after the band stop playing, she keeps screaming her hate/pain. Closing track Seizure is a breathtaking song on a breathtaking album. Musically, it sounds closer to Steve Von Till’s solo albums than to Neurosis (playing some very sad, dark melodies on acoustic and electric guitars). Some Tribes of Neurot made its way to here too (some digital noise in the background). Jarboe tries to remember “everything that’s lost”. The song is at its more poignant when Von Till sings with her and it really, really seems as if they will never manage to remember. With Seizure, Neurosis & Jarboe have written THE song of despair. And when she utters the last words of the album, you can’t help but feel bemused and lost.
This is a compelling and painful album. It sounds as if Neurosis and Jarboe were made to work together. Let’s hope they will record some more stuff in the future so we can enjoy Jarboe and Neurosis alone as well as together. But topping the intensity and the beauty of this record will prove difficult.
Photo © Dianne JonesFrançois Monti