Review: JK Flesh ‘Sewer Bait’

Lately the work ethic from the grimy heart and soul of industrial music, Justin K Broadrick has been incredible. 2022 saw previous two releases from JK Flesh in quick succession as well as the resurrection of his long dormant Final project, not to mention rumblings of the re-emergence of Pale Sketcher and new material due for a release at some point in the first half of 2023.

JK Flesh 'Sewer Bait'

However back in the final months of last year, as the dystopian realities of energy companies rubbing their hands at the prospect of yet more record breaking profits, broken on the backs of the working classes and dubious government subsidised handouts became apparent, there also came a third offering from the dark dub deviance that is Broadrick’s heavy mutant techno alter ego.

The six-track Sewer Bait has much in common with the philosophy of his recent works Old Religion New Rules and Veneer Of Tolerance, but also 2021’s G36 Vs JK Flesh Disintegration Dubs (also released on Pressure Records) and his Techno Animal incarnation with the ability to focus and channel a mindset, immersing and losing himself in it.

As we have seen with the granular level direction of movements and the glacial palette shifts of Jesu, once Broadrick sets his scalpel to something and starts peeling back the layers, the results are not best viewed in quick snapshots or soundbites here and there, but of the overarching, the interconnectedness and the minutia.

As such Sewer Bait becomes an exercise in dirty breakbeats, grimy dub fusion and suffocating industrial electronica that jerks the body in a savage and tribal possession, malevolent, bleak and punishing in a way that only a man who has danced on the cutting edge of extreme music since the early eighties can do.

Whereas in his most well-known output Godflesh, Broadrick sought to punish with an almost militant, military precision; the cyclical poundings and battering of something like Circle Of Shit (Songs Of Love And Hate) are here but replaced by a discordant, jerking in a drugged out fugue state; trapped in a recurring nightmare trip that twists and turns the listener inside out, manipulated by the relentless beats.

Beginning with the omnibus deep thumping pulse of Soaked To The Skin, this latest release takes the bedrock of JK Flesh, the heavy fuzz, swirling electronics and cranks up the tension and paranoia to the max. The opener revels in the cavernous feedback and the stamping rhythms before segueing into the more ambient effects of Flushed Away.

Under these samples emerges a jittering off kilter beat with another worldly feel, like listening to stormy waves crashing against rocks whilst underwater. The skittering flourishes introduced as the track progresses keep a sense of movement, preventing you from feeling like you are trapped in the same place. However, it never strays far from the core of the timber and pace of the pulsing, hypnotic deep thump that runs as an undercurrent to the release and anchors you in.

an exercise in dirty breakbeats, grimy dub fusion and suffocating industrial electronica…

The title track, Sewerbait, heralds more jarring layers of sound, scratching at the subconscious and keeping the album from settling. The break in the middle that brings a rare moment of respite from the hammering beats is almost as disturbing as it is relieving, before the drone cycles up again and drags you back into the dirt laden dub beats like some sort of twisted shamanic ritual dance.

The claustrophobia switches pace on Cruiser as the almost jungle rhythms collide with the heady dub, like someone taking a saw to your brain whilst playing Chase & Status backwards. You can almost feel the pressure building as the beat oscillates back and forth like a metronome drawn by Salvador Dali. This continues on Crawler, heaping thicker psychedelic fuzz over the track, stuttering but no less intensely distorted compelling you to move like a whacked-out marionette.

In The Drain takes these concepts and makes them even more sinister and low fi. Devoid of any pop sensibilities, it sucks you into the dark atmospherics and toys with you, dragging you into the turbulence of the pummelling, holding you down during the final salvos of Gutter Level (a truly apt title) and Washed Up.

The PR release surrounding Sewer Bait cites a common bond between the abrasive, but almost scientific heavy dub techno of Mancunian experimental electronic artist Andy Stott with its bleak dystopian themes and the bass driven works of Thomas Köner and Andy Mellwig’s ’subaquatic’ classic Porter Ricks, which can easily be heard in the gleeful deviance that permeates the piece as a whole, or on individual fragments.

With JK Flesh, Broadrick has continued to push his sonic exploration further into the deconstruction of the art form, seeking to take the avant-garde and immerse the listener in a seedy underground world that seemingly feeds Killing Joke through an industrial thresher into a darkened club full of the wrong sort of drugs.

It’s hard to imagine within the cacophony that there is some sort of beauty, but Sewer Bait conjures dichotomy whilst working as a studied dissection of sound that elevates it beyond the woozy sensory deprivation of the truly strung out. The idea is a masterclass in the ability to create a feedback loop running in the brain that is as alluring as it is repulsive.

As has been prevalent in Broadrick‘s entire musical career, this latest entry into the JK Flesh arsenal proves to be as intriguing and hard to define as any other release from the man who looks to shatter conventions and challenge the listener’s expectations. It is not a comfortable experience by any means, and the results will either be addictive or repelling in equal measure depending on your tastes.

Label: Pressure Records
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Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden