JANDEK – New Orleans Monday (CD Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey: 

New Orleans Monday – Corwood Industries (0822) Audio CD (2016)

Originally reviewed in 2016

Jandek Revisits “Ghost Passing”

Jandek has just released his newest work “New Orleans Monday”. This is a recorded live performance on CD. It will also see release on DVD relatively soon. 

Jandek breaks with tradition here and gives us a live rendering of music previously conceived in the studio. In this case, we have a piano fantasia with eerie electronic accompaniment. We get the same instrumentation and format as his last studio release (the 6 cd box set) “Ghost Passing”. On that record, we were treated to six separate hour long piano fantasias paired with the relentless electronic noodling that had all the charm of a dentist drill run through a studio sound processor. Imagine Eric Satie composing a score for a B-list horror flick.

On this record, (limited to one CD and one hour) the sonic experiment is far more sustainable and listenable. Without the benefit of artist credits or visual evidence, the identity of the electronic musician is open to conjecture. However, Sheila Smith would be the prime suspect; and her weapon of choice seems to be a theremin or ribbon controller of some sort. 

Jandek’s skills as a pianist are modest. However, he delivers his walking basslines, filigree and note clusters with audacity and elan. The fantasia is a nineteenth century compositional form roughly analogous to what we would call New Age. Heavy on improvisation and imagination, light on orthodoxy. The form was a response to the mathematical precision and unforgiving strictures of the Classical/Romantic period as practiced by Beethovan and Brahms. In Jandek’s hands the fantasia has been bent and twisted into a barren Salvador Dali landscape, at other times both pianist and accompanist descend into a maelstrom of crashing bass notes set against an electronic squall. Ironically, these dissonant, chaotic moments are the most interesting and most faithful to the Jandek ethos. 

Jandek’s piano performance is solid throughout. Missteps are few; and, all in all Jandek reveals himself on “New Orleans Monday” to be a far more confident, nuanced instrumentalist than he was on his magnum opus “Song of Morgan”. One wishes the relentless electronic nattering would lay out a few minutes here and there as a palette cleanser if nothing else. Less surely would have been more on this record, and that goes sixfold for the aforementioned “Ghost Passing”.

No way around it, “New Orleans Monday” is a makeweight release. No new ground is broken conceptually or musically. It’s hard to make a case for its existence except as an affordable alternative to “Ghost Passing”. If you are a Jandek completest and acolyte, “Ghost Passing” is a must own, as it gives you all the above described in gluttonous portions with a high-gloss studio finish. However, for the less committed, this Reader’s Digest version (New Orleans Monday) will do just fine thank you.

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