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Final - 3

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Artist: Final

Album: 3

Label: Neurot

Review date: May. 14, 2006

With his latest installment in the Final oeuvre, it's evident that the aperture between Justin K. Broadrick's "rock" and "ambient/experimental" outings is narrowing. Or perhaps it's just drawing them in, one by one, like a gently slurping singularity, depositing them eventually into another plane where incongruity and harsher textures are trumped by a vague melodic sensibility and respect to gentle, minimalist structures.

However you choose to cut it, Broaderick's (late of Godflesh, current Jesu mastermind) latest is as much a challenge to talk about as it is to listen to. This is one of those confounding records that just is what it is. Not above criticism, nor necessarily "perfect", but as difficult to evaluate as say, a rock or a tree (how would you suppose you could do either of those things "better"?). It's unclear whether Broadrick has become some kind of granola type of late, but there is a definite sense of the "natural" over 3's 27 tracks. If he hasn't now arrived at presenting music as metaphor for that simple natural purity, then he's close.

One difference since Final's last outing The First One-Millionth of a Second: Like Godflesh's G.C. Green before him, Jesu bassist Diarmuid Dalton has become Broadrick's new co-pilot over this double-disc's worth of drift-landings. The few melodic figures are listless and languid, but always far from the territory staked out by new-age pablum-pushers. The washes of ambience (the modulated feedback loop of "Laughing Stock," for one) retain a paranoid edge. Aside from the post-isolationist fundamentals of hum and drone, Broadrick and Dalton draw from a toolkit of simple shifting harmonies, alternately dense and sparse tone clusters (especially the weirdly endearing keyboard mashings of "Golden"), repetition, filter sweeps, and still other sounds that are inexplicably "wet," organic and free of outright harsh-noise copout. "Seasick" eavesdrops on buzzing and popping circuitry, exploring the interior of an analog synth one capacitor at a time. The overmodulated bell-like tones of "Eden" are actually very pretty if one can get past its storm of bruxism-inducing harmonics. Alternately, disc two's (lovely) "Trees" is very nearly instrumental pop, driven by a delayed reed organ, synthesizer and a cheerily plunked bassline. "After" finds Broadrick offering up what could pass for a Gavin Bryars string quartet. Those organic/acoustic sounds are further represented on the brief, liturgical spaciness of "Covered" and "Long Lost," which employs variously processed and reversed (and slightly out-of-tune) guitars. That all the pieces are quite evocatively titled ("Spinning Top," "We Glowed," "All We Ever Do") implies that Broadrick might have taken a more songwriterly approach to experimental composition.

With a few exceptions, the tracks are all fairly succinct and at least sound like they are derived from a variety of raw materials, which makes for particularly engaging listening. It's possible that Broadrick's past, brief role as a label head and periodic compiler of other artists' music contributed to the record's mix-tape feel. No one track overstays its welcome, which may be the album's strongest attribute. And speaking of incongruities: What a jarring feeling it is to place the dark/splendored moods of 3 alongside Godflesh's "Streetcleaner," or the drill-and-scalpel sonics of Final's earliest recordings. You've come a long way, geezer.

By Adam MacGregor

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