JK Flesh’s Noisey Mix Is Seething Machine Energy for a Pitch Black Room
On the heels of a totemic record called ‘New Horizon,’ the Godflesh founder’s techno project turns in a set that’s appropriately spirit-crushing.
Justin Broadrick was responsible for my most memorably disgusting night of this year. New York summers are soupy messes more or less as a rule, but I’ve experienced few single nights as cacophonous and sweaty as the one when I saw the Godflesh founder play a solo set in this warehouse loft in Brooklyn.
It was the middle of August and the building had less-than-ideal ventilation. So the circumstances necessitated pretty much constantly choking down whatever piss-beer you’d gone around the corner to buy so that you weren’t focused on the smell and taste of the evaporating sweat of hundreds of the unwashed goth strangers packed into the space. By the time Broadrick took the stage for his set as JK Flesh, I had somehow gotten wedged against an oven, which was so warm from all the bodies in the room that I was briefly worried that someone had accidentally turned it on. A friend of mine ran around the room, surreptitiously unplugging a few of the lamps that were serving as mood lighting. It needed to be darker, he assured me. We needed to forget where we were.
It was objectively pretty fucking gross, but somehow that felt right for the music Broadrick was playing. Earlier that night he’d done a set with his grinding metal band Godflesh at a big theater in Manhattan, but his late night gig was under the name JK Flesh. Over the years, it’s become known as a techno project, and certainly it draws on Broadrick’s long-running history of Detroit-engineered machine energy. But his take on the sound is oppressive and upsetting – built on his affinity for crushing distortion and drum machines that swing threateningly like rebar through construction sites. It’s music that’s meant to obliterate you, so sweating through his August show in total darkness was only right. You need to lose yourself for it to really make sense.
In September, Broadrick released New Horizon, a chilling and kinetic record of belt-sander techno that’s – to my ears – his defining work as JK Flesh and one of the finest albums he’s put out under any moniker. Its title sounds almost hopeful, the idea that somewhere beyond our current line of sight there’s the possibility of renewal. The record itself will quickly disabuse you of that notion; it’s spirit-crushing in a way that few techno records are.
On the heels of that achievement – and in advance of a few upcoming US dates with Godflesh – Broadrick put together a mix for Noisey this week that deals in some of the same sounds he explores through his solo works. It’s got earbud-crumpling bass, brutalist drum machine exercises, rippling drum and bass, and a sampled monologue from the lawyer of a now deceased cult-leader. It’s bleak stuff, as it should be, best consumed in a room that’s as brutally hot and impossibly dark as the one I saw him play in this summer. Listen below, alongside an interview with Broadrick about his decades-long relationship with the rave.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Justin Broadrick: Well, when I “tested” the mix before submitting it, my test involved me dancing to the mix in an almost pitch black room lit only by a TV screen, while the mix blazed down headphones. It worked pretty well for me!
Is synaesthesia a real thing, and if so, what colour is this mix?
Tough question. It’s either black or white.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
Not to overthink it: I reached for what grabbed me and recorded it live and raw, what I really wanted to achieve was a dramatic break whereafter the tempo reduced greatly, thus introducing the slo-mo techno concept (drag techno ;)) mixed with some drum and bass favourites.
Do you have a favourite moment on this mix?
The speech then dropping into the JK Flesh slo mo tech track “In Your Pit” forthcoming on Pressure (a label from The Bug/Kevin Martin), I love the other artists tunes in the mix more than my own, but I love that drop!
I know you’ve spoken a bit about how you got into making techno, but I’m curious about your relationship with dance music prior to making it. What really opened your eyes to the possibility of this kind of music?
Late 80s, early 90s, [I] was absorbed by club music and culture, beginning with early rave, leading to Detroit, then being captured by jungle/drum and bass, and so on! With Godflesh, we sampled the seminal rave tune “Stakker Humanoid” in 1990 bringing the rave to the grind. [I’ve] been obsessed ever since.
What does dance music allow you to express that the other forms you mess around with don’t?
It’s an energy, seething white machine energy. I’m tapping into it to alleviate the pressures of existence, it’s a better release than a guitar – more alien, more out of body.
Tell me about the decision to call your new album New Horizon. Obviously the music can be pretty hellish at points and you’ve said that this record came from a pretty depressing time. The title seems hopeful – do you feel the music is too in any way?
New Horizon was intended as ironic – irony in the face of hopelessness.here’s always a new horizon for good or for worse, with or without us. Making the album I really found a new sense of being with the machines and was conscious of a relationship forming. That was totally immersive and anxiety reducing.
I saw you play in an apartment in New York the last time you came through town. Obviously there are drawbacks to the whole house-venue scenario, but it seemed fitting for the kind of music you make. Do you have ideal settings for your live sets or are you open to throwing down on whatever system will have you?
I’ll play any setting where there’s a few people willing to dance and lose themselves. I’d always prefer a solid sound system if possible but I’ll give most things a try with JK Flesh. I play house parties and I play Berghain and all between!
Godflesh US tour dates:
December 1 - San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
December 2 - Los Angeles, CA @ Decibel Metal & Beer Festival
December 3 - Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro
December 5 - Portland, OR @ Dante's
December 6 - Vancouver, BC, Canada @ Venue
December 7 - Denver, CO @ The Oriental Theater
December 8 - New York, NY @ Knockdown Center - Hospital Fest 2018
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.