“The true and genuine Pythia of the American underground” – Metalitalia

Songwriter, performer, recording artist, and visual artist, Jarboe draws from a childhood in the American South, life in NYC’s East Village in the band Swans, university studies in literature and theatre, global travel, and a history of extensive recordings, collaborations, and performances (clubs, theaters, art galleries, cathedrals, festivals, live radio, television, film). Jarboe’s voice and music embodies versatility and emotional conveyance in bold experimental and melodic expression. Over the course of her life, Jarboe has explored and discarded structures of personae.
Few artists have been as prolific as Jarboe. Through almost sixty albums, the Mississippi native has maintained an abrasive consistency in her work. Not limited by labels or definitions, Jarboe has surpassed terms such as ‘avant-garde’ and ‘experimental.’ While some artists find themselves easy to describe or pigeonhole, Jarboe continues to defy convention all the while reinventing herself in the process.
Jarboe is best known for her time as a member of Swans. She and songwriter Michael Gira’s tumultuous relationship culminated in several releases for the group. In doing so, they were able to push the limitations of what could be accomplished with abrasive musical art. The pair’s dysfunctional love life played out in their collaborative efforts and served as a part of Gira’s Drainland album. On “You See Through Me,” a recorded conversation between the pair showed a disjointed partnership unraveling in the wake of alcoholism. She would go on to collaborate with Neurosis in 2003 and even contribute a to Swans’ album Seer in 2012.
Illusory sees Jarboe merging serenity, atmosphere and demonstrating musical prowess that resides at the highest levels of conceptual and experimental art. It would be easy to simply pigeonhole this newest effort as Avant-Garde. Jarboe shows us that she’s an artist without limitations and offers something altogether different from expectation and definition.
In 2020, there appears to be no shortage of subgenres that cater to every taste in music. Experimentation is almost becoming oversaturated at this point. Now more than ever, it’s important that artists are true to themselves and the work they create. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the albums opening track, “Illusory.” The haunting score of a piano fused with Jarboe’s ethereal voice engulfs the listener in serenity and isolation. The closing lyric of “I’m here, I’m still her…” is a firm declaration from an artist who hasn’t compromised their vision to fit current trends.
“Cathedral” and “Flight”, in particular, are standout songs that demonstrate spellbinding vocal prowess. Sewing harmony and discord together, Jarboe’s vocalizations crawl down your spine and wrap around themselves around you. The vocal production on “Cathedral” mimics a dirge and Jarboe emphasizes pathos and melancholy that few are capable of. At times it’s difficult to discern what’s more captivating–the vocals or the dissonant music that accompanies them. Both flow together flawlessly as a cohesive unit. Like many conceptual works of art, Illusory needs to be experienced in its entirety to be fully appreciated.
Jarboe sustains fluid continuity on Illusory, not once coming close to repetition or tedium. Her vocalizing throughout is one of the decisive factors in shaping the unique atmosphere that emanates with each passing moment. “Man of Hate”, the albums concluding track, is driven prominently by clean vocals. As the lengthiest composition on the album, it contains lyrical content that grants insight into the tortured soul that dwells in so many artists. Passages such as “Reveal my good confession, what I hope to gain. I admit to grand obsession, breathing in my veins…” are poetic in their turmoil, All of these years later, and it appears Jarboe has a response for Gira’s Drainland ballad.
Very few artists have captured the type of emotion and cataclysmic atmosphere of Jarboe. She continues to captivate audiences all the while furthering her legacy. With the uncertainty of recent events ever-present, we have the reassurance that there will always be artists who create a separate reality that we can not only retreat into but embrace as our own.
Score: 10/10
Invincible and immaculate, Jarboe is the goddess of dark and avant-garde music. The forward-thinking queen of unreality, this is the woman who had a huge part in starting a new generation of weirdness. Her’s is a project that is forward thinking and thrilling, dynamic and over the top, constantly enamored with the promise of a darker and more potent tomorrow. Her records have always been deep and thoughtful, full of unique sonic twists and turns, overwhelming beauty and a very real sense of the crushing struggle of being.
With powerful sonic pulses and crushing ebbs and flows, The Cut Of the Warrior is an amazing blend of four original compositions as well as a set of three collaborative remixes that have led to some really thoughtful and exciting new musical directions. This is the spirit of avant music recaptured by someone who has chosen to remain at the cutting edge, crafting music that is wholly different, very beautiful and currently scaring the hell out of my cat. What more could you want?
I think what gets me about The Cut Of The Warrior is that while Jarboe’s music remains incredibly beautiful it also represents a much darker side of the human psyche and operates far outside of the realms of traditional music, placing an emphasis on minimalist ideas, mesmerizing repetitions and reverb packed effects around her massive vocals. These songs are powerful explorations of Jarboe’s Buddhist ties and they create music that is not only meditative but enveloping. This all being said, this is not a record that gets lost in navel-gazing.
Even in the most Steve Reich-esque moments of a track like ‘GodGoddess’ there is a clear sense of forward motion and an overarching sentiment that Jarboe is creating something powerful that is going to draw you in and keep you fascinated. The transcendent and simple poetry of these trance-like reflections is addictive. I’m on my fifth or sixth listen of The Cut Of The Warrior now and every time I go through this record I find even more to love. It’s an album that rewards the listener right away with lush soundscapes, but with the more that you invest the more you understand to what extent Jarboe has been able to truly embrace her inner greatness.
Powerful and transcendental, Jarboe really taps into what makes her special on The Cut Of The Warrior. This record sees her leap from peak to peak, and the collaborations add a sense of breadth to her work that we have perhaps not seen since the Neurosis collaboration she did all those years ago. This is one of the United States’ most important composers at the height of her late period powers crafting something that is uniquely heavy and incredibly, almost disconcertingly disturbing in all the most subtle ways whilst simultaneously communicating a message of love and hope. There are some truly subversive ideas going on here paired up against some gorgeous melodies.
Jarboe has unveiled something that cuts through the ego and uses ideas of repetition in order to put the listener in a state of pure and unadulterated sonic adulation. This is not an album to be taken lightly nor is it one that isn’t going to leave you with a few surprises, but that’s part of the point. This is an album that was meant to leave you in awe, allow you to embrace the future and fall more in love with the music of Jarboe and her incredibly rich history in the world of avant-garde than ever before.
Jarboe has unveiled something that cuts through the ego and uses ideas of repetition in order to put the listener in a state of pure and unadulterated sonic adulation. This is not an album to be taken lightly nor is it one that isn’t going to leave you with a few surprises, but that’s part of the point. This is an album that was meant to leave you in awe, allow you to embrace the future and fall more in love with the music of Jarboe and her incredibly rich history in the world of avant-garde than ever before.
THE WIRE issue # 298 U.K.
(excerpt )
If Jarboe’s recent collaborations with Neurosis, Colorado ‘War Metal’ duo Cobalt and UK bliss-Metallers Jesu suggested that the vocalist was seeking to align herself with the constantly mutating world of avant Metal – not unreasonable given her part in Swans, perhaps the single biggest influence on this burgeoning area of music aside from the obvious likes of Black Sabbath et al – Mahakali (which features guest spots from Mayhem frontman Attila Csihar and Pantera/Down howler Phil Anselmo) serves as an uninhibited exploration of the possibilities she herself helped to crack open alongside her erstwhile ‘partner in filth and redemption’, Michael Gira. It’s intriguing that, while Gira bares his soul without recourse to Sturm und Drang in Angels Of Light, Jarboe, often considered the softer, more feminine (whatever that means) element of the NYC dirge machine, is leaning more and more towards extreme sonic violence.
Mahakali is hardly a cynical grab for the currently robust Metal dollar, however. These songs are expansive rather than claustrophobic, the aggression emanating chiefly from Vincent Signorelli’s pummeling drums rather than Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel and Josh Graham’s hyper-distorted riffs- the blackened, beatless drone of “A Sea Of Blood And Hollow Screaming” being a notable exception. The album hits its stride with “The House Of Void” and “Transmogrification”, which witness Jarboe shapeshifting from vengeful revenant to innocent martyr over shuddering fields of rhythmic noise.
As for her vocal collaborators, Csihar acquits himself brilliantly, festooning “The Soul Continues” with guttural sobs and spectral groans … Anselmo on “Overthrown”….Neither are a match for the overpowering presence of The Living Jarboe.
– Joseph Stannard
“JARBOE … who sang with New York’s legendary nihilists the Swans for more than a decade, is not an easy musician to categorize. She pairs the visual flair of performance art with a fiercely eclectic arsenal of styles, and she never shies away form the aggressive and the extreme.” The New Yorker“From her time in the soul-scarring monolith that was Swans through her collaboration with Neurosis, vocalist extraordinaire JARBOE has built up an intensely personal yet wide ranging body of work that’s left an indelible mark on the world of extreme music.” – Terrorizer magazine

Introduction to Jarboe by Andrew Wales :

The multi-disciplinary artist and musician known as Jarboe first came to public attention as a member of the US avant-rock ensemble Swans during the period from 1985 until 1997. It was a time that saw the release of acknowledged classics in the bandʼs canon such as “Children of God” (1987), “White Light from the Mouth of Infinity” (1991) and “Soundtracks for the Blind” (1996) and the significant impact she had on the evolution of their sound is clearly audible to even the most casual of listeners.
Her close relationship with the bandʼs founder Michael Gira resulted in the project Skin and the 1987 album “Blood, Women, Roses”. Then 1991 saw the release of “13 Masks” the first album to appear under her own name. While “Sacrificial Cake” (A “Swans Related Project” from 1995) developed the use of “tribal”/ritual elements and use of multiple voices, it was the 1998 album “Anhedoniac” (initially self-released in an edition of 1500) that truly served to announce the emergence of a unique, uncompromising artistic force. More than just a catharsis for the Swans years, this is an album that to this day confronts the listener with a degree of full frontal, all-encompassing, emotional honesty that few of her peers have come close to replicating. Jarboe quickly exploited the opportunities afforded by the internet and via her website thelivingjarboe.com established herself as an independent and prolific artist self-releasing much of her subsequent output in the form of often limited editions wherein she exercised full control over matters of artwork and presentation.
A deep interest in spiritual/belief systems such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Occult practice inspired much of her work in the first decade of the 21st century and beyond as exemplified by the “Magick” trilogy (2006/7), “Mahakali” (2008), “Skullgirl”/”Alchemic” (2009) and later “Dreams” (2013). Meanwhile, a facility for collaboration has been demonstrated by: “Beautiful People Ltd” (w. Lary Seven (1992)), “Neurosis & Jarboe” (2003), “J2” (w. Justin Broadrick (2008)) and “Jarboe & Helen Money” (2015) to list just a few examples. “The Men Album” (2005) was a double CD where every track was a collaboration and featured noted artists such as Blixa Bargeld, David Torn, J. G. Thirlwell amongst others.
Additionally Jarboe has re-visited/re-worked her Swans era material on “Indemnity” (2011) and “Indemnity 2” (2012) and composed the soundtrack to a videogame “The Path” (2010).
Further releases are planned for 2017 and will include a tour with the “Italian Occult Psycedelia” band: Father Murphy.
– Andrew Wales, London

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