L’homme de l’ombre
21st August 2015 – Self-released
As we have said before, when it comes to release schedules for brand new bands to release brand new music, we’re big fans of the ‘little and often’ approach. An EP is easier to digest than a full album, a relatively short gap between them helps to build momentum whilst still allowing developing songs to carry on developing at the same time. Belgian duo Jusska have decided to follow that strategy, with debut release L’homme de l’ombre being the first in a series due to be released every trimester.
One of Jusska’s pair of musicians is already known to us for his work elsewhere. Guitarist Leander Verheyen can usually be found bouncing off venue walls as a member of incendiary tech terrorists and favourite Monolith live act Bear, and is also now a member of Atmospheres. Clearly, with a third project underway, Leander has a lot of riff to give.
With Jusska, Leander has joined forces with singer Iason Passaris, and l’homme de l’ombre (or Man of the Shadows, Google translate fans) serves as a short introduction and/or statement of intent. And it is really very short indeed – the three tracks that comprise this opening salvo clock in at barely ten minutes between them. However, there’s still a fair bit to chew on in that time.
Jusska deliver a trio of mid-paced songs that combine the dreaminess of Deftones with the expansive spaciousness of Jane’s Addiction. First track “Ombre” is probably the stand-out of the three, neatly showcasing the marriage of Leander’s down-tuned, crunchy riffs and Iason’s hook-laden vocal melodies. The results are immediately accessible and positively riddled with earworm material. The success of the mix of styles is particularly impressive, as the songs are just a bit too riffy to be considered ambient chill-out fodder, and similarly too blissed out to be heavy stompers. But, nevertheless, the tracks are compelling enough to warrant a couple of repeat plays in each sitting.
However, there are still some indications that Jusska’s proposition is still a work in progress. Most important is that Jusska is obviously the product of a singer/guitarist team. Whilst both of these roles are well covered, the drums – understandably programmed in the circumstances – are competent but perfunctory, and the absence of any form of recognisable bassline is keenly felt.
This does, in turn, present something of a dilemma. On one hand, it is refreshing to hear a band that is content to leave so much empty space in their sound, resisting the urge to swamp the mix with layer upon layer of synths, bells, whistles and banging on kitchen sinks. Yet one can’t help but feel that a considered, discrete bassline, in the style of someone like Jeff Caxide or Eric Avery could have provided counterpoints to the already strong melodies that would have lifted the songs to greater heights.
This is not, however, cause for concern at this stage. It us still early days for Jusska, and their future is far from etched in stone. There is plenty of time and scope for their formula to be further tweaked and moulded with subsequent releases. It’s certainly unavoidable that Jusska have hit upon a really great balance between heaviness and melody, and L’homme de l’ombre is an early indication that they have the potential to produce something truly exceptional. What’s more, we’re probably not going to have to wait too long to see what happens next.
L’homme de l’ombre is available on a pay what you like basis from their Bandcamp page. Follow their Facebook page for news on when the next EP will drop.