Review: Pale Sketcher – Pale Sketches Demixed

Is it me who’s losing connection with Justin Broadrick’s recent music, or is it a case of Broadrick himself losing touch? I feel as though his big mistake was allowing synthesised textures to seep under the skin of his Jesu project – his music began to feel increasingly vacuous and depersonalized as the guitars cut back and amateur electronics were permitted to dominate over the top. Even when he tried to haul things back to rock instrumentation with Opiate Sun EP, it was messy and forced. What was he thinking? Judging by the simplistic, plodding melodies at work I’m not sure that Justin knew himself.

So even if Pale Sketches Demixed lacks too much merit in itself, perhaps it’ll help him re-establish a direction and get his music back on track again. Pale Sketcher is now to be his outlet for all things electronic whilst Jesu will be exclusively for “rocking out”, so hopefully Jesu will find its feet now the temptation to clutter tracks with tacky keyboards and programmed drums has been entirely removed.

To be honest, Pale Sketches Demixed sounds how I expected it to. Drawing from a pool of sounds recycled from old Jesu tracks and looping everything into an autopilot drift, it all feels unacceptably content to be “pleasant” and no more than that. Opener “Don’t Dream It (Mirage Mix)” is a good example. The melody spurting out of the thick, buzzing bassline is pretty enough, whilst the choir pads and chopped up piano sample slot in just fine, but so lazy and reclined is the atmosphere here that it can never muster the ambition to reach out and haul you in.

A small, exceedingly unrealistic part of me thought that Justin might obliterate the source material, with mashed up and processed fragments of the originals forming the basis for what are essentially fresh compositions. As it is, samples are cut from the old tracks and pasted into the new with very little creative thought in between. Lumbering, one-dynamic drums punch in a brash and uncomfortable rhythm behind it all, whilst predictable synths and gruesomely auto-tuned vocals are threaded through the gaps. Here’s hoping Pale Sketches Demixed has left Justin with a completely clear head, and now allows him to pour all of his focus into an inspiring, hard-hitting Jesu record sometime soon. Probably not, but in what is becoming a rather sad state of affairs, I’m yet to entirely give up hope.