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Jehnny Beth: To Love Is To Live – “a flawless triumph”

The Savages mastermind unleashes one of the solo albums of the year.

SavagesCamille Berthomier (better known to us as Jehnny Beth) joins the long line of emerging ’00s artists who dare to step into the solo artist arena.

It doesn’t always work – in fact, more often than not, it doesn’t.

However, with To Love Is To LiveBeth‘s debut affair – this certainly isn’t the case.

Channelling the stark minimalism many of us would associate with Nine Inch Nails during their Year Zero phase, on To Love Is To Live Beth walks the tightrope with themes of love, death, and religion, exposing each of them with a raw unbridled vigour.

While there is a fragile thread that runs deep throughout To Love Is To Live, sonically there is seamless bandwidth, too. While we are used to witnessing Beth spit broken glass as Savages band leader, here she embarks on a journey that ascends that particular cut and thrust.

Through the abrasive moments of guttural noise, Beth orchestrates a minimalistic balladry that drifts through each song like a wispy fog.

Look no further than the feral malevolence of I’m the Man. A song that drips with dark scorn leaving puddles of unconventional beauty and deconstructing the industrial framework of sound with tidal-wave tribunal rhythms that guide us through to an alternative universe showered with ambience.

Opener, I Am, starts with Beth singing “I am naked all the time, I’m burning inside, I’m a voice no one can hear”. The song complimented with a back drop of edgy orchestral arrangements. It lays down a marker for what’s to come.

Innocence is a riled up number with acerbic punch lines anchored with a lovely melody as Beth sings, “It’s living in the city/That turned my heart so small/It’s living in the city/That turned my heart so cold/It’s living in the city/That turned my heart so blue.”

Flower follows – a dark creeping ballad wrapped inside a sinewy pop aesthetic, while the lusty dirge that is We Will Sin Together bristles with flickering beats and haunting pianos that stalk from the shadows.

On A Place Above, Cillian Murphy provides a stark spoken-word call to arms that is cloaked in anxiety which nestles perfectly into the album’s other tracks.

How Could You rubs its shoulders close to NIN homage. A frenetic storm of scrambled sequences and ear-splitting drums, with IDLES‘s Joe Talbot featuring on vocals. It works.

Then there’s The Rooms. A whirring dose of minimal chamber balladry that strikes you square in the heart.

It’s not the only tender moment that reduces one to tears, either, with French Countryside possessing an apocalyptic lamenting quality. Riddled in nostalgia and the gathering of thoughts, Beth lays out all of her emotions to bear.

Many raise concerns about relatively new artists splintering off to produce solo albums, but this level of cynicism shouldn’t be directed at Jehnny Beth.

Here we have a project totally exiled from her previous endeavours with Savages, resulting in a collective of songs that are some of the strongest Beth has written.

To Love Is To Live is brutal as much as it is beautiful, presented through a clear lens that showcases a newfound intensity. All told, To Love Is To Live is a flawless triumph.

To Love Is To Live is out now via 20L07 Music.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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