Right from the start, Just Mustard have felt like an uncompromising entity. Live, the group’s fusion of extremities – corrosive noise and beguiling beauty, extreme force and subtle nuance – came from a unique place, the work of musicians obeying no rules but their own. If the pandemic disrupted their rise, it also afforded them extra space to expand that solitary realm; new album ‘Heart Under’ was produced by Just Mustard themselves, utilising lengthy recording sessions in rural Ireland. The results continue their path of sonic reclusion, with the end-point containing some of their finest music yet.
Opener ’23’ purrs into life, the sound of a motorcycle engine being revv’d into gear. The open-ended, drone-led structure feels curiously Celtic, with the effects placed on the guitar reflecting an interest in classical music’s avant garde wing. Yet it all hinges on Katie Ball’s enigmatic vocal, partly threatening and partly angelic, never fully divulging which is which.
‘Still’ has all the gothic appeal of The Cure’s ‘Pornography’ era, while ‘Seed’ – previously released as a single – is fantastically imaginative, its dense layers of noise giving way to the triumph of beauty. ‘Blue Chalk’ resonates with venom, while ‘Sore’ seems to deconstruct post-punk tropes, re-imagining them from the secluded vantage point of an abandoned Irish post code.
So often pegged as a shoegaze group, there’s little in the work of Slowdive, say, in the DNA of Just Mustard. Indeed, Gilla Band’s ear-pummelling exercise in noise rock could provide a more fruitful parallel, sharing a mutual desire for amp-destroying pandemonium. A nightmare alternative to dream pop, ‘Heart Under’ writhes to its conclusion with the beatific ‘In Shade’ and the rolling force of ‘Rivers’, a song whose bass-led subtlety offers further evidence of Just Mustard’s willingness to move away from the norm.
An album that offers tangents into frightening corridors, ‘Heart Under’ allows Just Mustard the space to evolve on their own terms. A striking, fantastically original work, this is an album that taps into animalistic emotion.
Words: Robin Murray
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