In the entire time I’ve been following Justin Broadrick’s career, he alone has assumed as many side-project identities as each member of any given band have released solo albums. Nominally, Broadrick is known for his longstanding band Godflesh (about which I really need to write a few things once I get the last of their albums in), but has worn so many other faces during his career that you could get lost: Jesu, Ice, Krackhead, Fall of Because, and Final, just to name a few. And, amazingly, almost all of these projects are good in their own ways; they’re not throwaways but clearly different facets of the same man’s creative output.
Final was actually one of Broadrick’s very first project names—as far back as 1983 he was making noise-blowout recordings under that name, many of which were edited together as a bonus track on the first Final CD, One. I picked up One based on Justin’s involvement and was not quite prepared for what I heard: the man who had given us the drum-machine-propelled and slashing-guitar violence of Godflesh could also do uneasy-listening or “illbient” landscapes just as easily. The Final formula seemed like a loose outgrowth of the kind of work Broadrick did when he remixed other people’s tracks—he’d ram them through a sampler and reconstruct them in fascinating ways. Likewise, with Final, he’d take individual snips of sound and create little drifting dramas of sound out of them.
One was followed by several other releases: the EP Solaris, a far more stretched-out and distant-sounding effort; The First Millionth of a Second, which flirted (however tentatively) with something resembling song forms; Two, simultaneously the most songlike and alien of the Final releases; and now 3, which falls back to a more abstract mode but is still, like all the other Final discs, immensely absorbing. Each piece is almost completely unmelodic—it’s a little like listening to a radio that’s stuck between two stations—so the real attraction here is in the way the bits evolve and play off each other. In fact, of all the Final releases so far, I think 3 is the most immediately gratifying—if you don’t like the way something is developing, skip a track and you’ll find something entirely different.
With 3, which spans two discs, there are two basic “modes” that Broadrick and his collaborator Dalton use: very short and very long. The effect is a bit like wandering through a gallery installation with many small paintings on the walls (one of the tracks is even called “Little Pictures”, which probably reinforced that image in my mind), and a few very large sculptural installations. Some of the pieces don’t evoke more than a passing interest and aren’t worth more than a minute’s attention, but others are far more involved and hypnotic. “Long Wave” and “Northpole”, which end discs 1 and 2, respectively, are both epic in length and in their evolution; they’re strongly reminiscent of the best tracks from the earlier records (especially Millionth). Bits of it bring to mind the beatless drift of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works vol. 2, but not in a way that sounds like an uninspired clone of the same conceits.
Each of the earlier Final albums had its own distinct flavor. One was little more than a collection of disparate pieces; Millionth, with its vaguely scientific song titles (“Electron”, “Subatomic”, “Critical Thresholds”) was like a paean to the universe that exists beneath the perception of our senses; Two the most deliberately abstract, as all the song titles were simply symbols. 3 feels almost like a soundtrack for filmmaking from a country we’ve never visited before: the titles hint at very specific things (“The Light Orchestra”, “Seasick”, “Spinning Top”, “We Glowed”, “To the Heavens”, “All We Ever Do”), and if you listen to the whole thing front to back it does take on the feeling of an alien drama, thanks to way things progress and give way to each other. Broadrick doesn’t just have a universe for us to discover—he has universes, plural.
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