by Craig Howieson
Nothing in life is static. The solidity of the earth on which we come to depend can crack, and mountains shift and grow until they are swallowed by the sea. Among the roots of Young Jesus’ fourth record, Welcome To Conceptual Beach, nestles a restless heart – challenging our blind faith in stability.
Named after a fictitious refuge in vocalist/guitarist John Rossiter’s mind, the ‘Conceptual Beach’ encapsulates an isolated space free from interference; untouchable and unreachable. It is perhaps this safe vantage point that allows the album which carries its name to be such an exploratory, and inquisitive beast.
On what is now their third release on Saddle Creek, Young Jesus, rounded out by Marcel Borbon (bass), Eric Shevrin (keys), and Kern Haug (drums), double down on the experimentation peppered throughout their back catalogue. Freeform jazz interludes bow to crushing choruses, and minimal ambient soundscapes drive against intricate math-rock. Both bewildering and heartening, the webs they weave are ones to lean in to, not wriggle free from.
The record may chart life’s inevitable imperfections caused by ever-shifting sands, but instead of giving in to the forces we cannot control, Rossiter rummages amongst ‘pain and hopelessness’ on opener Faith in the belief that ‘We just might grow’. It is this faith in opportunities to come that gives the record its power. It is a theme revisited on Mediations, which finds Rossiter determined to absorb all facets of life (‘I wanna be around and live it’).
As drowsy guitars open (un)knowing, summoning the courage to face another day, there is a dignified resignation in the realisation that for us all ‘It’s just a life / Dusk gives way to night’. As air hanger illuminating guitars burst into life and Rossiter’s voice (equal parts Jeff Buckley and Tim Darcy) flits in and out of a spine crushing falsetto, it is hard to believe there will be a bolder recorded moment in 2020. Rolling guitars swell then disappear on Lark, only to reappear like an old friend, providing a reassuring hand on the shoulder to steer you through what’s next. The band are in perpetual motion, forever questioning, simultaneously lost in the present moment while venturing into future states.
Welcome To Conceptual Beach expands and contracts – holding a mirror to the galaxies we create in our minds. The antithesis to apathy, it challenges you to get comfortable within it as you chart the forests of your mind, before acting as the snapping branches under your feet, reminding you of your own weight and presence. Its ultimate gift is allowing you a moment to stop looking for answers, knowing that being prepared to ask the questions is enough.
Secret Meeting score: 91
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