Wow, this split is a long time coming after its initial announcement roughly this time last year as being one of the last of a slew of Jesu-related releases to come out last year. Instead listeners are only now being able to listen to these recordings from both groups. Battle of Mice is a project from Josh Graham (ex-Red Sparowes, A Storm of Light, visuals for Neurosis), Julie Christmas (Made Out of Babies) and several other musicians that play something that comes off as an amalgamation of some of the participants other outfits. Jesu is largely becoming another solo project for Justin Broadrick where he sometimes brings in collaborators to work on some songs, and even though he often uses EP's and splits to experiment with new material, Jesu's last couple of releases are a bit spotty with some bright spots.
Surprisingly, the Battle of Mice songs struck an immediate chord with their schizophrenic song structures and myriad of sounds. The first song, "The Bishop," contains many loud to soft and soft to loud dynamic changes, tempo variations, and layers upon layers of vocals that all flow together extremely well. Even though Josh Graham does time with Neurosis as their visual artist, there are many similarities with that group in "The Bishop" while Julie Christmas's vocals really provide the distinctive differences; the dynamic shifts really accent the heaviness of the track rather well. For that matter "Yellow and Black" is very similar to the other offering from Battle of Mice on this split, and the arrangement on this song is a real kick in the gut. There are times when the band full on stops to rear back in order to crush the listener with powerful sounding guitars and drums while Christmas wails like a woman possessed. During the quieter sections of the song, her vocals remind one of Bjork (albeit in a very strange child like way) which serves as another quality of the music that expands the sonic palette from Battle of Mice.
The two songs from Jesu on this split are conspicuous in the fact that they are not very cohesive but feel like two separate pieces given for a split, which is rather unlike the other output that Broadrick has thus far released. They also differ from the last couple of releases to carry the Jesu moniker. The discordant piano introduction of "Clear Stream" is a nice touch to set up the explosive entrance of the guitars and Justin's laid back vocal delivery, and the song is driven by an electronic beat which pounds through the swirling keyboard sounds and accenting guitar strums. The track is good as it combines many ideas that Broadrick has explored in the past with Jesu, but it just seems to be missing something that I cannot put my finger on to make it great. "Falling From Grace" actually contains the excellent surprise of the use of analog drums to establish the lethargic rhythm of the song; the slow plucking of the guitar strings and presence of keyboards set the quiet tone of the electronic vocal treatments which all create a very relaxing piece (I would say that this song is a departure for Jesu, but who am I kidding as they seem to be getting softer and this is the softest sound from the band in memory).
This split release is very surprising because all of my expectations are simply wrong, proving that assumptions are completely stupid and usually turn out differently. In fact, what I think of these songs are, in a way, opposite of said assumptions. The two Battle of Mice tracks immediately impressed me, whereas their full-length took quite some time for it to grow on me. I find myself putting the two songs on repeat pretty frequently. Whereas, upon first listening to the Jesu tracks on this split, I must admit to some semblance of disappointment as my expectations for this release are high considering that they were recorded during Justin Broadrick's furious writing period of the last couple of years. These songs do not pack the oomph which I was expecting, but both of them are very subtle in their execution and extremely easy on the ears which allows them to grow on listeners. Seriously, the whole release really grew on me fairly quickly from a mild disappointment to outright listening to the whole record over and over again. Seeing as this is a pretty limited release (a one time pressing of 2,000 on vinyl and 2,000 on CD) and if one has any interest in this (which fans of any of the related outfits will really want to jump on this), grab it quickly before it is too late.
8.2 / 10
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