Jesu, Sun Kil Moon collab a disappointing miss

Conor Battles, Editor-in-Chief, Arts & Entertainments Editor

Mark Kozelek can’t seem to catch a break.

His 2014 outing as Sun Kil Moon, the sublimely sad Benji, was a lo-fi indie folk masterpiece, lauded for its gutwrenching introspection and mournful exploration of death through simple songwriting and loose arrangements. Ever since then, Kozelek seems bent on undoing every iota of good will and good taste he accrued.

The notorious curmudgeon started 2015 with a pointless, painful one-sided feud with fellow indie outfit the War on Drugs that portrayed him as a spiteful figure in the scene, and his Benji followup, Universal Themes was forgettable at its best, untenable at its worst.

Enter Jesu. The experimental group has long defied genre ties, blending their pulsing ambient drone with anything from metal to shoegaze. In theory, the collaborative effort of indie’s most morbid folkie and an undefinable industrial powerhouse would make for an interesting, engaging cohesion of style and substance. In practice, though, Jesu and Sun Kil Moon barely mesh.

The sonics of this album are disparate and hard to take in on first, second, or even fourth listen. At times, it’s unclear where Jesu’s downtempo, electronic noodling ends and Kozelek’s monotone drawl begin. Dissonance in music is hardly unpalatable when done well, but Jesu and Sun Kil Moon seem like they’re playing separate songs in separate studios.

There are a few moments on Jesu/Sun Kil Moon where that erratic blend manages to converge. Tracks like “Father’s Day” and “America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek and John Dillinger” are undeniably solid, and the differing styles of Jesu and Kozelek manage to combine to a greater sum, but such moments are few and far between over the album’s daunting eighty minutes.

Ultimately, Jesu/Sun Kil Moon stands as another misstep in Kozelek’s master plan to become indie music’s most reviled grump. His bitterness permeates the record, supplementing its occasional highs while drowning its lows in pointless acidity.