With its second album of dense and melodic noise-scapes, Jodis — the long-distance collaboration between Isis’s Aaron Turner (vocals, effects) and Khanate’s James Plotkin (guitar, effects) and Tim Wyskida (drums) — drives home the idea that what you don’t hear is just as important as what you do.
Nearly devoid of traditional percussion and song structure, Jodis is as “normal” as it gets for Plotkin, whose myriad musical endeavors also have included the sonically similar Lotus Eaters (with Turner) and the pioneering art doom of Khanate. For Turner, however, Black Curtain and its sibling Secret House represent a distinct turn away from what fans of Isis might expect.
“We wanted to take a minimal approach to all the instrumentation,” Turner says. “Space, breath, and atmosphere were always the focal points.”
Three years ago, Aaron Turner of Isis (and many, many other bands) and James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida of Khanate (and many, many other bands) formed a haunting, melodic, ambient project called Jodis.
Each already had quite a résumé for elongated, swirling, textured pieces, particularly of the dark variety, whether from projects like Old Man Gloom, House of Low Culture, or solo material. Jodis was different, though, and now the three experimentalists are issuing a second album together with a renewed focus on slow-building melody.
Three years ago, Aaron Turner of Isis and James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida of Khanate formed a haunting, melodic, ambient project called Jodis. Now the three have returned with an even greater emphasis on melody.
Holy smokes! ALARM’s fan-boy meter is registering off the charts, and for good reason: hardcore quartet Converge is covering Entombed’s classic “Wolverine Blues” on a new seven-inch split with pioneering grindcore outfit Napalm Death. And it gets better, because the cover includes guests in the form of Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Disfear), Aaron Turner (Split Cranium, Mamiffer, ex-Isis), and members of The Hope Conspiracy and Trap Them. Calling it “epic” seems like an understatement.
Isis: “Grinning Mouths” from Clearing the Eye live DVD (Ipecac, 9/26/06)
In June of 2010, post-metal quintet Isis called it quits following a farewell tour. The LA band was one year removed from its final studio release, Wavering Radiant, and feeling that it didn’t want to “push past the point of a dignified death,” its members parted ways right before the release of a split EP with Melvins.
Now the band is giving wistful fans another taste of its melodic sludge rock. On May 31, Isis posthumously and digitally reissued the first of its five live album, which originally were released over the span of 2004 to 2009. The rest are being rolled out in two-week intervals, with the third becoming available this Tuesday, June 28. ALARM recently spoke to drummer Aaron Harris about the reissues, the band’s personal significance, and what the members have been doing since the breakup.
What was the catalyst in putting together the live album series?
We wanted to have something we could offer to the fans. We were getting a lot of live recordings coming in from fans that had been to our live shows, and it was just starting to pile up, and we figured we should do something with all these live recordings. So we started sifting through them and figured that we would do a little live series, release it ourselves, sell it at our shows, and make it a limited, special thing.
We did small runs of them, and once they were gone, they were gone. Recently, we decided that we would make them available digitally and reissue them. So that’s what we’re doing now. They’re digital reissues for people that weren’t able to get copies the first time. It’s just kind of a cool idea to strengthen the fan/band bond, something between us and the fans.
What do you miss about touring and playing with Isis?
The thrill and the energy of playing live. I don’t know if it can be replaced by anything else. There’s something special about touring and visiting your favorite cities and playing shows in some of your favorite spots and getting to see old friends. It’s something I’ve done since I was a teenager, so it was part of my life, and I guess, in a sense, it’s part of me, and it’s not there anymore. So I definitely miss it.
Aaron Turner, founder of Hydra Head Records and frontman for pioneering metal band Isis, is no stranger to the art of making an album, from the studio to the shelves.
In addition to laying down guitar riffs and vocals, Turner is an accomplished visual artist, responsible for cover art, layout, and package design for numerous bands. This unique knack for the aural and visual aspects of music inspired us to ask Turner about his favorite fellow double threats.
My Favorite Musicians/Artists/Designers by Aaron Turner
Album art is and always has been an extremely crucial component of the experience of an album for me. Though there certainly have been records I’ve loved that have had terrible cover art, most of those that have left an indelible footprint in my mind have been those with a visual presentation of power equal to that of the music.
When I think back on the records that have shaped my ideas about what it means to make music, I usually have a tangible feeling that comes with that recollection, a sense of the atmosphere that the record created for me and how that atmosphere was accentuated or more clearly defined by the accompanying sleeve art. As that has been true in the past for me, so it is now; when checking out new records, I’m consistently drawn to those with compelling covers that draw me in and make me what to know what’s going on inside.
In the last 10 years or so, I’ve become particularly interested in musicians who are also active participants in designing or creating artwork for the albums that they make. It seems logical to me that those people would have the best understanding of what the music is about and the clearest idea of how to communicate that visually. Some of my favorite album covers now are those that have been made wholly or in part by the musicians who also have created the music itself.
Below is a list of people who reside in that category of musician/designer/artist and who have excelled at both aspects of making memorable albums.
1. Fangs Anal Satan (Boris)
Boris has made some tremendous albums over the years, and the music has always been matched by the equally excellent illustration and design. Like the band, which has mutated through a series of different incarnations (in sound rather than personnel), so too have the visuals, without ever dropping in consistency of quality.
From album to album, numerous tactics have been employed: rigid restraint bordering on minimalism, unorthodox packaging materials (colored foam, die-cut cardboard, hand-painted boxes containing dried flowers, etc.), psychedelic fantasy scenes paying homage to ’70s album artist Roger Dean, parodies of classic metal logos (Venom), extensive and beautifully arranged LP-sized photo books. Each release is a special artifact in its own right and as such warrants even further focus towards the music and the packaging from the listener/viewer.
Mark McGuire: “Clouds Rolling In” [audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Mark_McGuire_Clouds_Rolling_In.mp3|titles=Mark McGuire: “Clouds Rolling In”]
Hajduch: Living with Yourself is the most recent solo-guitar release of Mark McGuire, who also plays guitar in Emeralds. Much like Emeralds, McGuire’s music spins a gradual yarn over a combination of picked arpeggios and buzzing drones, delayed and looped and layered into a hypnotic tapestry that has become impossible to ignore.