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With the announcement a few weeks back that Hydra Head would cease releasing albums later this year, we were left to count down the label’s remaining offerings, each one a tick closer to the curtain call. In the meantime, Aaron Turner, Hydra Head’s founder and front man of Isis, has remained busy with a number of side projects, including Old Man Gloom and Mamiffer (whose split with Pyramids recently dropped.) Though not the final Hydra Head release (which will be a split between Prurient and Justin Broadrick’s project JK Flesh), Black Curtain, the new album from another of Turner’s side projects, Jodis, would have been a fitting end for the legendary label—it’s a gorgeous paean to boundary pushing post-metal experimentation.
Jodis’ Black Curtain comes three years after the group’s debut, Secret House, and continues in that album’s vein of sparse, drone-like ambience. Jodis, comprised of Turner and James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida of HH-alum Khanate (and many other bands), plays songs that are long, spacious, and minimal. Turner’s monastic-like singing, which occasionally takes on an Eastern tinge and alternates between whispers and crystal clear baritone wails, is the constant to which Plotkin’s guitar and Wyskida’s restrained drumming are added. Turner’s lyrics are chilling, often fatalistic. The result is a strange, mostly plodding, beauty that occasionally builds to something like a crescendo. These are songs of exhaustion and bittersweet resignation.
Tracks on Black Curtain have more than ample space to breath, which can be challenging on first listen. At times, layered vocals chant or drone beneath Turner. The “ommmm” vocals on “Silent Temple” may be a bit of a turn-off for some, but given the conviction with which they are delivered, and in the context of the album as a whole, they work. Not easy to do, and not meant for a casual listen.
Is Black Curtain metal? Not really. “Beggar’s Hand”, Black Curtain’s closer, is the heaviest song to be found, with crushing guitar that opens the track before melting into the mournfully ethereal sound that characterizes the rest of the album. What Black Curtain demands in attentive and repeated listens, it rewards in rich and layered atmosphere that is far greater than would seem possible given the sparse instrumentation.
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