Where The Young Gods meets Black Flag. We advise you to put on a safety helmet before reading any further
We may never know the identity of S’s, a one-man project from Los Angeles. He says his name is JEF 700S, but he’s not giving much else away. His Facebook page is set to private (for now), as is his Soundcloud stream (ditto), and there are only two pictures of JEF 700S around. In one of them, he’s hiding his face behind his hands. In the other, he’s wearing a black balaclava.
Without an image, other than that of a burglar for hire, ‘Exploded View Of Love’ is left to speak for itself. It might be a concept album. It’s certainly unpredictable, but there are moments of friendliness. The opener, ‘Sex Machine’, is hard and twisted for the first 41 seconds. It’s dark and it’s dystopian. With bells on.
The sound is so big that you assume it must be the work of a band (three or four people, possibly more), perhaps the kind of band to play at the Burning Man, the infamous cyberpunky, steampunky festival in the Nevada desert. It’s trickier than that, though. In here somewhere is a man with a story.
S’s’ influences appear to be from the roots of electronica – the random twists and turns of the krautrock pioneers, the plug-in-and-play ethos of the early minimal wavers – but he’s also a fan of US hardcore punk legends Black Flag. He’s certainly studied the lyrics and poems of Black Flag singer Henry Rollins. The truth, you think, starts to seep in through the very human feeling in the weirdly catchy vocal melody of ‘Electric Friends’, the electronic squonk of which is created with a device called The 3dK (no idea), until the “ooh-ahh” harmonies break the wave. It really shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’s enough to transcend the continued theme of a world we may as will give up on. At this point, you may decide to turn the volume up.
That would actually be a mistake, though. Of course. Because the consistent element here is the beast within every song, whether it be the otherworldly, gruesome vocals, or the hypnotic, buzzing electric pulses and rhythms, or the harsh, ritualistic, broken beats. Sometimes it’s reminiscent of Switzerland’s one and only Young Gods, a band with more edge and punch than even Black Flag. The moods always match the names of the tracks – this album could win an award for the most appropriate titles – but nothing prepares you for the way that ‘Unhaunted’ looms or how ‘Love Life’ bites.
‘Exploded View Of Love’ is unexpected at every turn. To be this brave (or maybe stupid), to have the gumption (or naivety) to grab a great idea (or 10), and drag and drop it into your own time and place, and jump up and down on it a bit, you probably need to hide behind a mask. You probably need the secret identity, the ambiguous S’s, the alias like a password. The fact that not everybody will welcome this sort of depth, this much of a challenge, is all to the good.
One final thing. If JEF 700S plays any live shows to promote this album, how will he be able to sing with such commitment and ferocity and keep his balaclava on? Now there’s an interesting problem.