This release is a re-mastering of a 2003 collaboration between Neurosis and singer-songwriter, Jarboe La Salle Devereaux, AKA Jarboe. I’m pitching it at people who have never heard the album.
Aside from my only comparison, between the MP3s I’m reviewing and the stuff I found on YouTube, I could only detect an occasional hint of subtle remix. If you already are aware of the original versions, I’m sure there’s nothing that I can tell you that will influence your decision as to whether to go for the digital download from Bandcamp, CD or vinyl pressing of this release.
According to the interwebs, Neurosis was formed in 1985 in Oakland, California by guitarist Scott Kelly, bassist Dave Edwardson, and drummer Jason Roeder. They started as a hard-core punk band inspired by Crass. Don’t let that put you off. A few line-up changes later, Neurosis has been through post-metal and atmospheric sludge metal phases and is currently an avant-garde metal band with a sound and direction of their own. Thank you, Interwebs. More genres that mean nothing to me.
The founding members also make ambient and experimental music as Tribes of Neurot, released on their own record label Neurot Recordings. Neurosis have released 12 studio albums, including the original version of this 2003 collaboration with Jarboe. Jarboe must never have a moment to spare! Her CV has bands and collaborations including Swans, The World of Skin, Jesu, Blixa Bargeld, Justin K. Broadrick, Attila Csihar, Bill Laswell, Merzbow, Helen Money, Father Murphy, J.G. Thirlwell… and this list is not exhaustive.
Neurosis & Jarboe is not easy listening. It’s dark and there is simply no let-up in the tone of this nihilistic album. To me, it feels like a spiritual sibling of The Cure’s 1982 album Pornography. Layers made of guitars, distorted bass, drums (sometimes lo-fi drums) and Jarboe’s undeniably evocative and sometimes tortured tones result in heavy, rock-based sounds blended with electronic music and a hint of “ambient”.
There are tracks built on sweeps, drones and rhythms. There are drums that animate the force of Neurosis’s nightmarish, relentless and sometimes jingly-jangly instrumentation. There’s one distorted bass line that wouldn’t be out of place on Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, growling along to Jarboe’s promises of personal destruction, but Mezzanine is positively joyous, even uplifting compared with this.
We are all moved differently by music. If that is the goal of the artist and the music touches you on some level, then that is the mark of a successful song. In its own way, this album belies its sinister musical feel with its simple, somewhat moving and often repetitive lyrical content. These songs reference selfishness and sacrifice, faith and doubt, death and loss and the tragedy of watching a loved one lose the essence of what they were through sickness. It would be tempting to frame these properties in mawkish sentiment but there is no hint of this failing in Neurosis & Jarboe. The quieter tracks juxtapose beautifully recorded acoustic guitar and low piano with pulsing electronics. They are at once disturbing and full of sadness. I have no video to accompany the remastered versions, but here’s a track from the original release that accurately demonstrates this aspect:
“When you’re ‘high’
If you could see what I see
In your unfocused empty child-like eyes
You’d see my father’s blue stare
And the horror
Of the loss of language of an educated man
He recited poems and Shakespeare,
Knew the name of every tree in Latin Memory
The unjust cruel sentencing of bewilderment
And the dying of the brain.
When you’re ‘high’
What do you see
His last words to me from surgery
His last words:
I’m in the flame
Anyone who has experienced long hospital visits with dying loved ones might identify with these sentiments. I, for one, could cry.
If you want a nice foot-rub of an album in a room carpeted with rose petals, then I suggest Michael Buble’s LOVE CD as it is very nice and makes me happy (deal with that or do not).
If you like sound that sweeps into existence, winds up the tension, makes your teeth buzz and places sobering thoughts in your head of how helpless you are if God wants to “take you”, then this album is for you.
01. Within (6:15)
02. His Last Words (6:23)
03. Taker (5:32)
04. Receive (6:33)
05. Erase (9:06)
06. Cringe (7:36)
07. In Harm’s Way (6:35)
08. Seizure (11:47)
Total Time – 59:47
Dave Edwardson – Bass, Effects, Recording
Jarboe – Lead Vocals, Synths
Scott Kelly – Guitars
Jason Roeder – Drums
Noah Landis – Synths
Steve Von Till – Guitars, Recording
Production & Additional Personnel
Jeff Byrd – Recording
William Faith – Recording (1–4 & 6–8)
Chris Griffin – Recording (5)
Mixing – Neurosis
Recording – Desmond Shea
Bob Weston- Re-Mastering
New Artwork – Aaron Turner
Record Label: Neurot Recordings
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 2nd August 2019