Listening to the career trajectory of Justin K. Broadrick gives one the feeling that he has mellowed significantly with age—how else could the man who helped bring Godflesh and Techno Animal to the world be creating trip-hop-infused ambient soundscapes? While the sonic palette of Pale Sketcher may be completely divorced from the dark, industrial metal of his former projects, Broadrick's precision and technical expertise still shine through on this slab of 'demixed' tracks from his Jesu project's last album.
Initiated as a side-project to explore the more electronic side of Jesu, Pale Sketches Demixed brims with crystalline highs, chunky percussion, and a sense of longing that recall Richard D. James' more sentimental moments. Each track from the Jesu album is elevated to a higher plain of meaning—on "The Playgrounds Are Empty (Slumber Mix)," Broadrick brings the original's vocals up from murky depths, delays guitar lines into gauzy dreams, and places lovely synth drones beneath it all. Thus, while the producer's lyrics are still recognizable as bleak, there is a hope beneath the despair that is equally heartening to the Godflesh fan and the newcomer to Broadrick's music. Indeed, a track like "Supple Hope (2009 Mix)" contains shades of the heavily delayed vocals of Broadrick's past while inhabiting a sound that has more in common with electronic downtempo than the claustrophobic blast beats of more industrial outfits. Paired alongside tracks like the Kraftwerkian "Dummy (Bahnhoff Version)," Broadrick displays his ability to craft music that embraces listeners as effectively as his former projects alienated them.