The Living Jarboe

London, November 2005

By Paul Watson

Review of Jarboe at Scala, London , .

At the Scala in London the crowd is sparse, but very literate - rather than fighting for places against the front row crash barrier (there is none), audience members are sitting patiently on the front of the stage, reading books.

Oliver Manchion (who, as well as performing under the name of Permanent Fatal Error, is also a member of Faust, Bias! and Ulan Bator) slips onto the stage almost unnoticed, sits down with his guitar and starts subtly building up looped layers of acoustic guitar.

Manchion builds up claustrophobic live-sampled loops, which create a slowly increasing intensity - it’s amazing that all this sound is coming from one musician.

FINAL is Justin Broadrick’s latest project (or, according to his website, his first project: “Before Justin Broadrick was in Napalm Death and way before his Jesu, Godflesh and Techno Animal projects, he had FINAL”).

Tonight FINAL is Justin hunched gargoyle-like over his laptop, looking like a sculpture lit up in blue, unmoving.

Unfortunately this project fails to move me as well. It doesn’ t have the vitality created by traditional instruments (physical violence inflicted on taut wire or skin), but instead has the perfectly compressed, polished finish that is the mark of any digital creation. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I miss the raw violence.

Jarboe is greeted with thunderous applause - all the more amazing considering the small size of the crowd tonight. The Living Jarboe (to use the full name) also consists of two drummers (Phil Petrocelli and Mike Rollins), Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle) on bass and violin, and Nic Le Ban on guitar.

Together they make a wondrously powerful noise.

Jarboe is promoting The Men Album (which features a remarkable list of contributors including Blixa Bargeld, Steve Von Till, Paz Lenchantin, Edward KaSpel, David J, Iva Davies, William Faith, Jim Thirlwell, James Izzo, David Torn and Alan Sparhawk) and judging by this live performance the album will be compelling and accomplished.

I know I’ll be buying that CD - the certainty of this statement in my mind is absolute.

Jarboe’s vocal performance is incredibly powerful, and the combined rhythms of drummers Petrocelli and Rollins make tonight’s show even more vital and urgent. Lenchantin and Le Ban add crucial layers of texture and muscular might.

There are very few singers who can (and will) step off the stage and stand amongst the audience to sing.

And there are very few audiences who will maintain a respectful distance when the singer does this, allowing them to continue singing.

Maybe it’s because of the respect she generates, or maybe the crowd is not only literate, but intelligently courteous as well. Probably both.

And then for an encore, with the dedication ‘This is for Michael’ they launch into the Swans classic ‘Mother/Father’. Immense and awesome.

Set list

  1. Feral
  2. Pure War
  3. Song for Dead Time
  4. Scarification
  5. Seduce and Destroy
  6. Dear 666
  7. Sinner
  8. I Will Swallow You
  9. Mother/Father (encore)