Jilk has been one of our favorite electronic acts since their inception, and Joy in the End is the quartet’s new magnum opus. It’s not only a great electronic album; it speaks to our troubled times with a sense of optimism and hope. There’s no overlooking the effect that this year’s events have had an impact on composition. The most powerful albums stare despair in the face, and reject it. Even a perfunctory look at the titles indicates a gradual progression from “The End of Joy” to “Joy in the End”, but the journey isn’t quite that easy. There are many challenges to overcome along the way, and Jilk holds our hand whenever we need it.
While the album is chock-full of potential singles, the most representative piece is its longest. At nearly 14 minutes long, “Become the Build” remains in ambient mode for most of its existence, as if tumbling thoughts, uncertain where to settle. Only after eight minutes have passed does a beat emerge, leading the way for a dual switch to the timbres of modern composition and electronics. It’s as if an unseen protagonist chose to stay in bed longer than usual, facing the hardest decision of his life: to give up or go on. In the end, life wins. The curtains are thrown back. The sun fills the room.
Lyrics are few and far between, but a few make an impact. At first, the line “I’m sick of all the tweet tweet” seems to refer to the “Birdies” of the track’s title, until one realizes that modern society is facing government by tweet: a horrible, reactive style of leadership. The song’s bird tweets remain welcome, while the electronic type (even on an electronic album) do not. The bandied ping-pong ball serves as a metaphor for battling viewpoints. In light of this contrast, the line “all you want to do is howl” (from the sweetly imagined “Green Creepers”) makes a sad sort of sense. The warmth of the violin behind the chorus softens the blow.
As if to cut the tension, the ensuing track “Mum There’s Someone In The Garden” revisits the cheerful play toy of “Periscopes”, a reminder of cheerful memories not yet faded. The closing brass represents the high point of the album’s ebullience. By this point, we’re hearing echoes of everyone from múm to early aMute. When “Let’s Still Be Weird Right” launches the loop “Everything is going to be okay” from speaker to speaker, we begin to relax. The repetition has the intended effect, even as it fades beneath a bank of beats and strings. “Ryeleaze Empties” continues to cast a spell with chimes and orchestration. Maybe everything will be okay. The contrast between the album’s opening fog and its closing sun is a testament to the distance traveled. Jilk implies that we can get there as well, if only we continue to hope. With Joy in the End, they operate as a beacon, guiding the way to safety. (Richard Allen)