Omnipresent vocalist, Jarboe, and GODFLESH founder/noise-merchant-of-death, Justin K. Broadrick, have so many musical projects under their respective belts that it was inevitable they would cross paths sooner or later. It is fitting that their collaboration, J2 (a moniker that comes from the initial shared by both their names) is just as challenging and inaccessible as anything in either members’ catalog. The repetitive and mostly basic nature of the instrumentation, if one can call it that, of the record makes Jarboe’s performance the focus of the self-titled album. Her immediately recognizable upper-register singing deceptively dominates every song, its gentle intonations overtaking the proceedings with a calm confidence. In the opening song, “Decay,” which features Jarboe’s repetitive, high-pitched, and wordless intonations over simplistic droning sounds, results in a haunting and disconcerting (but appropriate) beginning to the adventurous album.
Most of the songs on "J2" are not structured as traditional songs at all, but are more like individual movements that press forward until completion. Anyone looking for a standard verse/chorus/structure here will be sorely disappointed. This approach often creates unique sonic elements, such as on “Let Go,” where Jarboe’s soft vocals (with lyrics this time) are built up slowly, layer upon layer, until there is a chorus of softly competing voices dancing chaotically about amidst the minimalist electronic music.
Whether this all adds up to an enjoyable listening experience is entirely subjective. Those who have had patience enough to enjoy Jarboe’s and Broadrick’s independent musical ventures like SWANS or JESU will likely find a lot to love in "J2". Those who have not enjoyed the two Js separately will probably become impatient with the repetitive and unfocused music. J2 may be a matter of taste, but at least it’s a unique one.
(Online March 16, 2008)