New Horizons is one of Loose Lips’ most anticipated records of 2018. Ever since Justin Broadrick aka Godflesh aka JK Flesh’s third studio album was first announced by the editing label - none other than Speedy J’s Electric Deluxe, adding another layer of anticipation to the equation - an eager countdown has been clicking. It’s stretched till the very last day of the release month, but finally, August 31st is here.
And it delivers. New Horizons has been playing on repeat for the past couple of weeks and the more one digs in, the more contradictions pop out. It’s very paradoxal record. Starting with the name.
New Horizons evokes images of open air, space, clear skies, perhaps even the sideral eternity offering hope in every direction; but as soon as New Horizons starts playing, you feel the air compressing, heavy, as if you’re contained in a tiny concrete silo somewhere, locked, listening a party happening closeby.
Perhaps in a near future, or past... time gets confusing, losing its normal fluidity. Kicks and hi-hats are somewhat dephased, so slightly as to make you wonder -- I am listening right? So you pay more attention, try to get your ear closer to that abstract wall separating you from the source, where the music’s full aggressive power can finally be felt with the intensity that feels right. You realise then, that it is there, that drive, so self contained it seems to be imploding from its centre like a supernova - there it is, the cosmic image New Horizons invokes, delivered with a new perspective: from inside the black hole.
If JK Flesh is, as the artist put it in a 2012 Resident Advisor interview “the angry, hateful, disenchanted side of what I do with electronic beat-driven, bass-driven music”, then this record is undeniably JK Flesh; even though it feels more positive and hopeful, overall it is raw, dirty. Not for the faint hearted, like the finest in British techno. [Editor’s note: I wonder if techno is stepping into the traditional role of Metal, a brutal, unflinching reflection on - and response to - the darkness in this country. It makes a lot of sense that Flesh used to be in the radical 80's metal band Napalm Death.]
The LP opens with Different Species. Much like the rest of the LP, it’s raw and gritty, compressed and distorted in an almost brutal way; yet it yields just the necessary amount of groove to be undeniably dance music. Especially when the hats come in, cleaner amongst the rumble. There are the dub-inspired tracks Earlier Form Of Life and Macromolecules. Both lie low in tempo and key, rolling out fat bass lines indulgently. Both gasp for necessary breath in between a heavier set of tracks.
Heavy tracks like External Transmission Stage. It’s a frenetic bulldozer, led by alarming bleeps and a strong, metallic kick drum that pounds heavy despite all the compression and the dry, incisive hats. Or Superhuman, in which the distortion is so severe the whole track feels compressed beyond capacity, struggling for every available airwave, rattling.
The thick layers of noise that are there throughout the record take over almost completely in Genetics. It begins muffled, kept at a distance, but when it emerges to the foreground midway through the track, it rocks, pushed by the racing percussion. Pulsating from afar is The Next Stage in what feels a loop captured and filtered, compressed, taped, reworked until it becomes something else, a masterful exploration for anyone into noise.
Closing is Homo Sapiens. It’s brutally enveloped, and takes a darker path, deeper, apocalyptic, with very few hints of melody. It’s a candour admission of the weight of humanness, a whip-like sound keeping the pace in the peak of the track, hollow drones, rolling snares...
From beginning to end, and from every possible angle, it’s a brutal record, so rich in sounds as it is bare in presumption. JK Flesh’s New Horizons on Electric Deluxe is every creative mind’s dream: with every play, more images form, perspectives morph, proportions deconstruct -- yes, that abstract, albeit irrevocably true to its industrial origins.
A rough pleasure.