Jarboe, formerly the eerie female side of Swans, teams up with Helen Money, the go-to avant-cellist of the out-rock underground. Truly, an exciting combo. Certainly this self-titled debut is heavy: Money’s distorted strings are often enormous. But Jarboe has a powerful way of cutting through noise with her eerie presence… On Aurora Borealis.
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Much like her putrid alma mater Swans (where she was actually the dean), the amazing Jarboe has spent the last decade and a half reforming her musical style and fashioning new shades of darkness through a variety of musics. While the ex-founder returned to the band to record a couple of tracks for their crown jewel, ‘The Seer’, she’s actually been a lot busier releasing stellar dark pop records that imply noise and terror, rather than initiating it, so as to offer the tension that comes before the end times. Here she’s joined by another accomplished artist of evil and transcendence, Helen Money, who has arranged and performed cello for bands like Anthrax and Mono -- they’re basically one and the same, right? Their joint efforts make a record of what you’d expect from their past and present triumphs: an ecstatically repetitive but ever twisted netherworld.
The duo’s self-titled record feels as much a road test for their collaboration as it does a realised piece, moving from twisted, melancholic pop to instrumentals of plucked cello, stark ambience and pillowed noise. It’s interesting how leisurely these two artists treat both their compositions and the context they appear in; “My Enemy My Friend” and “Hello Mr Blue” are striking tracks that feel jarring together, but in the best way -- they struggle to relate to each other and immediately disorient the listener. “Hello Mr Blue” uses a snaking, repetitive guitar riff worthy of Swans old and new, but curls gorgeous arrangements and a monolithic crash of guitar into the mix. Droning vocals and hints of feedback cast a fog over the song before Jarboe screams out of the void.
Things do get noisier, such as on the abrasive “Wired”, which layers a buzzsaw riff under booming chords before resolving on acoustic folklore that recalls Jenny Hval’s classic ‘Viscera’. Ultimately, though, it’s how these compartments of noise interact with the quieter, more pastoral sound Jarboe is making with Money; the squelching feedback seems to point out nature’s ugliness. It’s thrilling, confusing and caustic music, and it’s a good soundtrack for spitting on trees.
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