Fancy removing “the memetic junk that builds up on your pineal gland”? Then S’s brand of beautiful and obliterating noise might be just what the doctor ordered
From Los Angeles, S’s is a one-man band responsible for a brand of particularly bracing electronic ferocity. The whole project is suitably opaque – no real names, no images where you can actually see a face, artwork that looks like an extract from a monotone hallucination. S’s, aka JEF 700S, says it’s an entropy/empathy-inspired noise-wave concept.
He’s hitting the ground running with ‘Exploded View Of Love’, an album of rage and tunefulness that gets deeper under the skin with every listen. It wears two influences on its sleeve: The Normal (he calls himself JEF 700S after Daniel Miller’s Korg 700S, the first synth the Mute boss ever owned), which explains the DIY electronic aesthetic, and the soul-vomiting screaming of Frank Black of Pixies.
At one point, JEF 700S was in a duo he describes as “Yazoo crossed with Merzbow”, which might go some way to place this extraordinary album’s appeal. And it’s hardly surprising to discover that dystopian sci-fi films play a crucial role in the make-up of S’s.
“‘THX 1138’, ‘Eraserhead’,and ‘Blade Runner’ have long been my favourite movies,” says JEF 700S (the name is also an allusion to THX 1138, the title character of the 1971 George Lucas film). “But they’re slowly beginning to reflect reality, especially ‘THX 1138’, which depicts a 25th century police state. Given what recently went down in Ferguson, Missouri, it doesn’t appear so far-fetched.”
Despite the crooning (JEF 700S’s voice has a genuinely pleasing texture and there are some decent hooks) and the almost charming hand-played distorted rhythms (which aren’t always strictly in time), the overwhelming emotional impact of the album is an intense and draining one. It’s as if it’s demanding a violent reaction. Is that the case?
“I’m not a proponent of physical violence,” he says. “As far I’m concerned, it lowers the evolutionary bar. But I’m all for intense internal reactions. Anything to fire up the synapses. If a song like ‘Unhaunted’ or ‘Love Life’ makes the listener stop to fathom for just a moment that perhaps true terror begins at home, I’d file that as a positive reaction.”
Ah yes, ‘Love Life’ – 10 minutes of noise blurts and fractured melody set against an insistent tribal beat hammered out on a single drum, the scream and the sweet falsetto both in full effect, one countering the other. It’s a pretty dark and fearful exploration of the idea of love.
“I wish I understood love as well as hate,” says JEF 700S. “Hatred is simple. It’s easier than breathing. But to sustain love requires shared work and communication, certainly after the initial flash. Yoko Ono said, ‘The opposite of love is fear, not hate.’ In ‘Love Life’, I admit to being afraid, but hopeful. ‘Love Life’ is an appeal to humanity. It’s a plea wrapped within brief lines that are sung and screamed and a long drum drone that finally yields to symbolic decay.”
‘Exploded View Of Love’ ends with a 20-minute fading drone, which is actually rather beautiful. It functions like a well-deserved shot of tranquilliser, something to settle you down after the trauma.
“The long fade is a white noise sorbet to cleanse the palette. I like to consider the drone in visual terms. Picture the moment a car goes over a cliff in a film or in real life. Reality downshifts into slow motion, then cuts to black. I imagine blood pounding in the brain is the only the sound you’d hear.”
“Listening to a 20-minute noise fade as a form of meditation is cathartic. It can help remove the everyday memetic gunk that builds up on your pineal gland, like the relentless Oprah/Lohan/Bieber/Kardashian mainstream Hollywood marketing/advertising asininity, which is its own ongoing drone. Drones are a major theme of the album, sound-wise and otherwise.”
‘Exploded View Of Love’ is out on G@#9 Records