The Key of X
Limited Edition Feast of Panthers Vinyl
About Ensign Broderick
Toxic lakes, wellness clinics and mud-caked bodies: the cardinal direction of Ensign Broderick's BloodCrush is a saline fever dream, calibrated to the cultish wraith waste vibes of California's Imperial Valley. Inspired by pilgrimage, anti-war protests, Decca-era Stones and Smetana, BloodCrush is the first new collection from an artist who announced himself earlier in 2018 with four archival albums of wildly ambitious, hyper-referential art pop, a fraction of his forty years' of recordings.
Cut to New York City at the height summer, a desert of another kind. It's 3am at The Carlyle. It's 2011. Our villain, three miles of bad road, an important man, is about to go down. This is where BloodCrush begins, a fitting first act for an album with a title that alludes to powerful but fallible emotions. Opening track "Standing In My Light," dispenses with the slow build and gets right to it: four minutes of semi-fictionalized scandal set to Happy Mondays-esque disco gospel rock n' roll.
"Love Died/Dies Here" details a relationship pulled between two poles, a circulatory barter between giving life and using it up. This song, ostensibly about romantic accountability, is also a key to understanding this unique artist's own journey, from the creation of an anonymous persona as a teenager in the 1970s and the ensuing decades of solitary music-making to taking the stage and releasing albums worldwide as Ensign Broderick in 2018. "This is how I expressed myself," says Broderick of his decades of songwriting. "It became more and more private as the years went on. I think not in that type of really cloistered, savant way, like Henry Darger. I was a fully functional person in the world, I just had this other side of me that I kept to myself." BloodCrush is this other side.
At mid-point, BloodCrush returns to its salt/water overtones with "Drowning Pool Eyes," a song crafted with calming, glowing orbs, meandering, wobbly steel, soft intonations. "I could diagram the influences in this song," says Broderick. "It's the Burt Lancaster movie The Swimmer, but you distill it so much that you don't see that anymore. There are references to The Beverly Hillbillies, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, Hank Williams, Smetana's opera The Bartered Bride, Muddy Waters' ‘Mannish Boy.' I hope people see these things."
"Tear Stained Venus," is a fuzzed out road trip/bad trip from Bombay Beach, a place where golden asses are not some ancient metamorphoses but the inevitable outcome of a relentless sun. Or tanning bed. Bombay Beach, on the Salton Sea, is also the lowest point in America. Nowhere to go but up. "All sink and no swim," sings Ensign Broderick over droning, buzzing guitar. This song is a reworking of the dark synthpop of "Anonymous Incorporated" (BloodCrush), which is itself an alternate version of a delicate ballad "Wanderlust" (Ranger). With lyrical overlaps and three starkly different instrumental treatments, this triptych, as with others released over recent months, hints at an endlessly regenerative potentiality in Ensign Broderick's catalogue.
With decades of editing, altering and recombining, BloodCrush sees Broderick engaged in a constant interplay with his present and his past selves; the album is an unprecedented reflection on creative expression across a lifetime. "Going back to old songs, I can recognize that process in the 13 year old me writing songs," Broderick reflects. "I can remember what the kid was going through, I can see clearly where he was and what it meant to him."
Produced by Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop), recorded in between three other new albums on the way, BloodCrush is as spontaneous an album as an artist who painstakingly analyses and cross-references every letter and note can make. The versatile Ensign Broderick played almost every note himself. This meticulousness is not a quirk, but a fully realized, highly attuned artistic mandate.
Ensign Broderick's aesthetic - high concept, high art and high fashion - has brought his music into the orbits of many noteworthy collaborators, from auteur filmmaker Guy Maddin to internationally renowned visual artist Kris Knight, whose work graces the covers of all Ensign Broderick albums, and to Winnipeg's New Music Festival, headlined by Philip Glass. Before launching this solo career, Ensign Broderick performed and recorded for decades in Toronto with a staggering number of artists, a list that includes Rush, Art Bergmann, Catherine Wheel and more