Review Summary: looking for anything to grasp onto
Considering it's his oldest and, in terms of sheer volume of releases, most prolific project, it's a bit odd how little attention Justin Broadrick's experimental/electronic/ambient/drone project, Final, seems to receive. Originally a power electronics project stemming all the way back to 1983, the project would evolve over the decades to explore territories best described by the aforementioned labels, yet never afraid to stray back into noisier and more abrasive realms.
Compared to most any of the countless other acts the guy's been involved with through the decades and compared to some of the more popular contemporaries making music of the ambient and drone persuasion, Final seems to be a practical unknown. This isn't to say that the material that Broadrick releases under this moniker is somehow more approachable or accessible than that of comparable artists - it's not - but then again, those aren't exactly the attributes one would expect most who are interested in those flavors of music to be focused on. On the contrary, Final releases can be a bit off-putting in a variety of ways - long-winded track lengths aren't uncommon (to say the least), some of the material is presumably improvisational (hell, it's in the title of the Guitar & Bass Improvisations
series), and albums often have an almost formless feel, in many instances consisting entirely of untitled tracks.
So perhaps it is in its favor that the project's 2020 release You Couldn't Mean Any Less
for SIGE Records may be its briefest outing yet... however, while the running time clocking in at under half an hour helps make things easier to digest, the noisy ambient-drone content of the four tracks present here is still likely going to be an acquired taste and leave listeners, initiated and uninitiated alike, looking for anything to grasp onto.
The first track "MEANING LESS" presents an almost cliche, stereotypical drone sound, with something almost primordial about the bellowing tone that emanates and immerses which some might liken to noise. Even though it's this all-engrossing curtain of sound, it's not exactly harsh... though it did initially come across as sounding kind of blown out and almost grating, repeat listens revealed something subtle, possibly warm and alive, that seemed to be lurking but completely buried beneath the tone, trying futilely to break through.
The second track "MEANING FULL" starts off sounding as if it might be leading into more comfortable territory, but it's not long before the noise ramps up - imagine being caught in the middle of a whiteout with harsh snow-filled winds swirling all around you, yet through it all you can still make out an almost warm, life-affirming hum... eventually it seems it all starts to fade away, only to blast back in even fuller and harsher before finally fading out for good.
The third track "MEANING" leaves the cold behind and introduces a cycling blown out melody of sorts, the most familiar and comforting sound presented thus far. A wave of some kind of distorted static momentarily rushes in, and then something almost angelic comes in behind it all, watching over the track for the rest of its duration and evoking something akin to peace.
The record ends with the title track, which may be the standout here. The repeating motif that hums through the whole thing is more affective than that of the previous track - it sounds warm, content and at peace while fuzzy rumbling drone rises up all around and envelops it... it's really quite nice and probably the easiest to comfortably sink into of the four tracks.
As a whole, the same can be said of the tracks on this release as can be said of other Final material. Given the more subtle nature and the lack of dynamics typically found in most music (not to mention the complete lack of things like vocals and beats or percussion), these recordings can very much be likened to the idea of sound paintings (it's hard to say exactly whether Justin is using guitar as a brush here or not), with this particular release having a kind of abridged or condensed format compared to a typical Final release. Certain conditions and circumstances are likely going to be more well suited than others for experiencing this music, perhaps ones where something less intrusive is desired. Getting anything out of this may be dependent on the patience and experimentation of the listener, as any appeal is unlikely to be immediately evident, and there's a good chance you'll be left struggling to find any meaning to it at all - try to find some beauty in it anyways.