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Jodis - Black Curtain

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Artist: Jodis

Album: Black Curtain

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Sep. 27, 2012

In what turns out to be one of the final releases on Hydra Head, label honcho and former Isis frontman Aaron Turner takes part in something of an all-star confabulation under the moniker Jodis (where the singer and guitarist is joined by James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida, vets of combos as far-flung as Blind Idiot God and Khanate). Black Curtain is Jodis’ sophomore release and it finds them obsessed with the kind of “post-metal” atmospherics that Turner’s imprint has been cultivating in its latter years.

With the chiming and feedback that opens “Broken Ground,” Jodis announce their methodology as spare and repetitive. Like most of the tracks on Black Curtain, this one sounds a bit like Old Man Gloom (another collective Turner has participated in) crossed with the improbably au courant black metal derivations recently appropriated by the North American hipster. Ethereal, clean vocals float through the huge, sustaining intervals, and another association emerges: some kind of “metalgaze” This Mortal Coil outtake. It’s a strange experience to listen to a song this long and only come away with associations. And while there are moments where the distorted repetitions and cymbal crashes are modestly compelling, I was more interested in what records Turner had been listening to during Black Curtain’s recording.

There’s a mostly similar feel on “Silent Temple,” whose gauzy vocals (with lines like “where will I lay my hands?” or “to the silent temple we all return”) wend between endless, modest elaborations on a gravity-sucking tonal center. Alas, there’s also a truly unfortunate decision to pad out the mix with “ommmmm” guttural backing vocals, certainly among the more trite moves that could’ve been made here. (I keep thinking of Clutch’s “Burning Beard,” which for precisely two measures takes the piss out of this sound; surely not the association the uber-serious Jodis is going for.) “Red Bough” changes it up just slightly in its opening minutes, with Turner’s guitar playing around with a touch more rhythmic freedom and what sounds like some tentative fidgeting around the bridge. But the moment passes soon, without any tension whatsoever, and the tune commits itself to endlessly repeating phrases with long spaces between. There’s something so solemn and earnest about this — combined now with Dead Can Dance-like vocals — that the piece really grates, possessed of an almost audible pretention. Things don’t improve much with the congealed multi-tracked vocals on the brief “Corridor.” And could “Awful Feast” — filled with weak Ebow or Line6 sustains and Omen soundtrack solemnity — be a more unfortunate title on an album this choked with its own importance? The closing “Beggar’s Hand” (and it’s a mercifully brief album) has the greatest quotient of downtuned heaviness, but also some wincingly bad exchanges between Turner singing falsetto and his more trademarked roar.

As a whole, it’s sonically unremarkable and fails to achieve any of the intensity that repetition-heavy music frequently can. It’s a shame, given the personalities involved, that this music is so very tepid.

By Jason Bivins

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