Jandek releases new CD – Dublin Friday

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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JANDEK – Dublin Friday (CD)

Corwood Industries (0820)

 

Word salad surgery…

Corwood Industries has just released Dublin Friday – a live acoustic set of guitar/vocal pieces, I have given up trying to read logic into Jandek’s release schedule. This performance dates back to June 11, 2008. The venue is The Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin Ireland. As of late, Corwood’s releases tend to hopscotch back and forth in time without any explanation or pattern.

Dublin Friday seems a companion work to Houston Saturday (2011), which employed the same solo acoustic format. Indeed, Corwood included a DVD version of the Houston performance (along with Dublin Friday) in its latest care package to this reviewer, so it’s clear they see the linkage as well. However, where Houston Saturday (2011) was a song cycle totally in thrall to lust, love and human connection, Dublin Friday is totally absent any sentimentality, romance or emotion. If it were a book, I would describe it as an eight chapter novella set in a Kafkaesque parallel universe of the mind. Or perhaps, Finnegan’s Wake on Ambien.

On Dublin Friday, It’s tough to gauge how much of the lyric content is composed or extemporized. It’s apparent The Representative has stockpile of phrases and images preloaded – while at the same time – his delivery suggests a cut and paste methodology. Evocative phrases are delivered in random order with no consideration to narrative. There are times you can hear Jandek trying to stay a step ahead of himself, reshuffling his mental deck on the fly. The songs on Dublin Friday (as do many of Jandek’s compositions) occupy the nether region between automatic writing and conventional song craft. At this performance, Jandek’s internal clock set set between seven and nine minutes per piece. Only Part Seven deviates from this time frame, coming in at 5:41.

The Representative of Corwood Industries has dispensed with song titles for this release. Instead, we get eight selections titled “Part One”, “Part Two”…etc. However, the eight selections scan like segmented parts of a conceptual whole.

That being said, Dublin Friday is a strong and involving set. Jandek ‘the man’ keeps reviewers at arms distance, so the intent and motivation behind this set of non-stop, non-sequiturs will forever be open to conjecture.

 

What follows is a track-by-track analysis of the songs found on Dublin Friday:

Part One – A protracted and meandering guitar introduction paints a desolate musical landscape. What follows is a clutch of lyric snippets that stop and start maddeningly. Short unfinished phrases cut and pasted together. Example: “You see the general terms basking in the gentle hues. To make things clear, he said nothing.”

Part Two – A delicate, pin-prick guitar intro precedes more florid word play. Part Two describes abandoned journeys and thoughts inadequately expressed. Jandek seems trapped in some kind of emotional stasis. The Reps guitar work is active and possesses a harmonic logic that reveals itself only to those willing to invest in repeated listens. Sample lyric: “He said nothing enthralled by demeanor, ravished by the movement of hands…”

Part Three – This selection promises something more in the realm of a structured narrative. But, that’s just a come-on. Musically; The Rep is exploring richer, darker tones than he did in Part Two. However, no threads are maintained. Example: “Tell me I’m not mistaken by the holocaust of vision, the break-up of a sentence. It’s only that…I mean. It’s all so obvious.” Oh, is it?

Part Four – Some recognizable harmonic motifs threaten to emerge throughout this piece but are ultimately stillborn. After some introductory improvisation, the artist finally intones, “The cacophony of gestures, flew about like secret symbols, or martial arts chopping phrases, into bits of a conundrum.” The guitar work throughout Dublin Friday is oddly appealing and involving. Later in the piece, The Representative expresses his desire for a ‘box of surprises’. The Representative demonstrates a command of subtle dynamics throughout the piece. Nice ritard ending.

Part Five – Part Five starts off with some clacky single string work, Jandek continues to toss his existential word salad… “Imbued with his blustery bellow, and his promenade of gestures like a floating benevolent cloud that captures your imagination when you’ve nothing to do.” A fairly symmetrical song structure ultimately reveals itself as the vocal verses alternate with guitar breaks that further explores the wild, interval leaps in the songs intro. So far each piece seems to have its own musical identity. However lyrically, entropy and confusion still reign supreme; or to quote The Representative, “To interrupt this madness would be catastrophic”.

Part Six – At this juncture, Jandek’s limited harmonic palette begins to reveal itself. However, despite the musical groping and meandering, interesting motifs continue poke their head out into the light, then wither and recede just as quickly as they came. Instrumentally, this piece less busy and employs descending lines in lieu of the nihilistic noodling of the previous piece. Again, the landscape is strewn with faceless people, saying nothing and revealing nothing. The narrator’s use of evocative phraseology only succeeds in plunging the listener further into the dark.

Part Seven – A guitar intro mines the lower registers of the instrument. “You simply must understand. Let’s begin where it all started. All is agreed. I will not repeat. The conviction pierced fleshly barriers of sound.” Elsewhere: “He said nothing, and they acted like he was saving the world”. As with all the selections on this CD, the song’s conclusion is met with pregnant silence followed by sustained, reverential applause.

Part Eight – On this, the final song, Jandek’s amps up the adrenaline, strums a little harder and gets a tad more bellicose. Unidentified people are saying nothing. In fact, this entire eight part odyssey could well be summarized by the phrase. “My heart is shaken by this witness, he said nothing.”

Upon first hearing, Dublin Friday exhibits the familiar traits that have denied Jandek a mass audience for decades. The cold, brackish exterior will forever scare off the casual listener.

It makes sense that music journalists are the most fervent ambassadors of his work. We are forced to pro-actively listen to this music as part of our job, and it’s in these requisite, repeat listens that Jandek music begins to reveal its layers. Despite first impressions, this is not throwaway bullshit. Neither is it pop craft. It’s something different; and I’m relieved to say, it’s as honest and purposeful as any music currently being created. We can come along for the ride or not. Jandek will never thank you for coming. He plays, and we either show up or stay home. The Representative is one of the few musical artists who understands art shouldn’t give a shit and it doesn’t apologize. The muse just issues forth its nectar or poison from its pustule or pod when it no longer can be contained. A work such as Dublin Friday allows us to witness the act of creation with without filters. It’s not entertainment. It’s pure spectacle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jandek on DVD – Houston Thursday

Authored by Dale Nickey:

DVDcoverart

 JANDEK “Houston Thursday”

Corwood Industries (0818)

Filmed live at Mango’s in Houston Texas – July 12, 2012

Prepare to get punked….

“Houston Thursday” sees The Representative of Corwood Industries (aka Jandek) getting down to his industrial-punk roots. In stark contrast to Jandek’s recent trend towards extended compositions; “Houston Thursday” is a taut, no nonsense sprint through 16 songs. The majority of the numbers clock in at under three minutes with only the final track (Glass Boxes) breaking the four minute mark at a tolerable 09:37.

Don not attempt to adjust your screen at the start of this DVD. The opening image is an indistinct (but intentional) blur that had me fiddling with my remote. However, once we gain admittance to the venue, the videography reveals itself to be creative and mood appropriate. Front woman Sheila Smith is the visual focal point of this performance. Sporting a pageboy hairstyle that is reminiscent of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction; Smith shouts out verse over thick slabs of Guitar, Bass and Drums. The Representative of Corwood Industries confines himself to electric guitar for the entire set. His fully bearded face is seldom seen. Mostly, we get shots of the man from the waist down or close ups of his hands playing the guitar.

Sheilacorwoodindustries.com/

In keeping with the fast and furious spirit of “Houston Thursday”, here is a brisk wind sprint through the track list:

My Letters – DVD opens with artsy fartsy camera work set against a staccato eighth note groove. Droning metal mayhem sets the pace for the remainder of the set. Opening missive, “You don’t understand my voice”.

Emergency – Old school thrash quickie for the A.D.D. sufferer. The homer crowd is clearly into it and cheers lustily after each number. Smith advises, “You should learn how to ride a bike”.

Your Designs – Concise little ditty that answers the musical question, ‘who gives a shit?’ Key lyrics, “I don’t want to know your designs, I don’t want to know your thoughts, I don’t want to have a clue about you. Not knowing is better… You confuse me, you confuse everyone…” Well done.

Dallas Bitches – Nice razor wire guitar work from The Representative in support of Sheila Smith’s rant about…well…Dallas Bitches.

On The Metro – Prickly echoed guitar squall set to a nice bass hook and syncopated drum work. Sheila likes cars about as much as she does Dallas Bitches.

Walk Talk Leave – Sheila looks amazing. But, she’s pissed because people are jackoffs. “They exist to resist”. They are also crappy listeners; because apparently, they have water in their ears.

Asked For A Refund – One of the longer entries at 3:20, The Rep kicks things off with a space needle guitar intro. Then Sheila testifies, “They cut me open and I did not bleed…they sewed me back up”. Sheila’s desire for a refund remains unrequited.

Can’t Hear You – More auditory problems ensue as Sheila laments “I can’t hear you, even while I am listening”. One of the few selections on “Houston Thursday” that courts dispensability. Nice bass line though. The Representative finally makes his verbal presence felt with two well timed grunts.

Floor – Throughout “Houston Thursday” The Representative of Corwood Industries (aka Jandek) mixes in liberal amounts of echo to pleasing effect. Moreover, his guitar work boasts an atonal cogency that is eye opening. Part way through “Floor”, the bassist and drummer ‘floor it’ unexpectedly and drive the tune into a nice concrete wall ending.

Chit Chat – Sheila regains control of the stage and eloquently communicates her inability to communicate. The Representative kills it on guitar. One of the best tracks on the DVD. Really could have gone on a bit longer.

Sit On Your Feet – Speed metal drumming in support of The Representative. Smith sits at the feet of The Representative in another paean to ineloquence.

Not Think – Nice jazzmeat drum solo starts things up as The Representative does some higher register lead guitar work suitable for a slasher flick, then dives down to some thick, lower register improvisation that brings to mind some of Robert Fripp’s more anarchic moments.

Books That I Read – Lo tech/high concept camera angle brings us into the audience for the first time. Guitar, Bass and Drums come at each other from all directions – fists flying – until a sudden breakdown ends the piece. Impressive.

Beholden To You – Still viewing from the audience, the band slams in and we find Sheila (stage right) kvetching about being too short for the microphone. The Representative guides the way with a wall of red noise, then switches gears to some nuanced lead work and back again.

People Will Talk – Dumb as dirt drumbeat starts in support of Jandek’s wall of grunge. Close ups of Sheila evoke the image of a pretty little Goth princess who could murder you in your sleep after giving you the best sex of your life.

Galveston – Sheila Smith scores more face time and the camera clearly loves her. Key lyrics, “She’s in charge, she’s responsible, she takes care of us all. We love her, but we don’t know her.” And, “I moved to Houston after the flood.” Sheila also states unequivocally that she doesn’t believe in renters insurance. Jimmy Webb run for your life.

Glass Boxes – Weirdest thing, my reliable old hi-fi receiver packed up and took a shit right before this track commenced. Spooky. Anyway, viewing this without sound gave me an appreciation for the videography which appears to be a single camera shoot. The vibe of the music is captured and augmented by creative use of angles, movement and light (or) lack thereof. Textbook example of DIY Punk videography – if there is such a thing. Musically, “Glass Boxes” is a slow burn monologue that finds band and Sheila playing off each other. Smith describes a visit to an art exhibit where the artists are housed in glass boxes. Armed only with a pamphlet and instructions to keep smiling, the narrator tries to make sense of it all without much success. After some initial musical fireworks, the flame of the song flickers and slowly extinguishes itself courtesy of a delicate drum beat fade out. Show’s over.

Houston is Jandek’s hometown. It makes sense that he would do some of his best work on his home turf. “Houston Thursday” is a refreshing change-up from Jandek’s supersized offerings in recent years. Fans of L.A. speed-punk merchants – The Minutemen and noise-pop purveyors Beast of Beast will find comfort here. This DVD also reveals Sheila Smith to be a key player in Jandek’s late period renaissance. Among the many live DVD concert performances that inhabit The Corwood Industries catalog, “Houston Thursday” stands as one of the best.

jandek

To visit the Corwood Industries catalog click >>corwoodindustries.com/

 

Jandek on DVD – “Brussels Saturday” (Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

0817-Brussels-Saturday-300x300

Brussels Saturday

Corwood Industries (0817)

Filmed live at Ancienne Belgique – Brussels Belgium 4/19/14

Latest release from ‘The King of The Outsiders’

Musical artist Jandek has just put out “Brussels Saturday”; a live concert DVD that represents his ninety-third official release (counting LP’s, Audio CD’s and DVD’s). Yes you heard me, ninety-third. Many of his releases are multi-disc sets; all of which contain original material not reprised on other releases. They are manufactured and released by Jandek’s company Corwood Industries based in Houston Texas.  The only address is a P.O. Box number that has remained the same from 1978 to the present day.

If you find yourself rubbing your brow muttering…Huh?…Wha?… Let me explain.

Jandek slithered into the consciousness of the Rock music press in 1978 with the release of “Ready for The House”; an LP containing music that couldn’t be adequately described or reviewed due to its primitive and abstract qualities. The album contained absolutely no information about the artist, the music, or the locale and date of the recording. On a typical Jandek release you got nothing but a grainy, black and white cover photo (with no graphics) and a back cover listing only the album and song titles. The music was delta blues from a distant, alternate galaxy. A brittle – seemingly out of tune – acoustic guitar was strummed haphazardly, supporting equally tuneless meandering vocals. I’ve previously described the production quality as sounding like a field recording from a segregation unit in some remote mental health facility in rural Pennsylvania.

Jandek would go on to pursue this identical template for the next nine (or so) albums. Jandek’s records could be bought through mail order only. Music Journalists were entranced by his unwillingness to grant interviews or divulge personal information. In a day before the internet, the true identity of Jandek was subject to wild speculation and urban legend. One particularly outlandish theory held that Jandek was the mentally challenged child of a loving and generous Texas oil baron who wished to indulge his progeny’s love for music. A theory since debunked.  A feature film documentary about the man “Jandek on Corwood” was released in 2003. It only succeeded in raising more questions than it answered.

Similar to his records, The Corwood Industries catalog was a stark, black and white affair that only listed titles and catalog numbers. No artwork, bio, or explanations of content were offered. It had all the charm of a police rap sheet.  However, the prices were reasonable and Corwood Industries even picked up the shipping tab. It’s only been in the last two years that Corwood Industries has stepped into the new century, adding an email address, buy-buttons and album art to its page.

Click to visit Corwood >>>>>> http://corwoodindustries.com/

The pace of Jandek’s evolution has been glacial but continuous. His second period in the 80’s and 90’s, saw collaborations with other (uncredited) musicians and experimentation with electric instrumentation and more refined audio quality. Jandek then went through a harrowing three album acapella period. 2004 marked his ‘modern period’ when he shocked the world by performing live for the first time. In 2013 he issued a nine CD set of quasi-classical piano nocturnes “The Song of Morgan”.  He has since granted a magazine interview and continues to put out concert DVD’s that empirically document the actual existence of the man we know as Jandek, but who never refers to himself as Jandek. He only acknowledges himself as “The Representative of Corwood Industries”. Our current view of Jandek is that of a well-spoken, black clad, urban troubadour of the pre-apocalypse.

So with all that, we now have “Brussels Saturday”. Jandek’s new release is an attractively staged and filmed DVD document of his concert in Brussels Belgium on April 19, 2014.

Lead track “In my Mind” opens with the stage framed in black, bathed in blue Indigo lighting and populated with companion and co-conspirator Sheila Smith on fender bass and brunette beauty Annelies Van Dinter on keyboards and vocals. The opener finds Van Dinter reading from a music stand which (I assume) contains lyrics penned by The Representative of Corwood industries. The man himself is on drums, punctuating the mood with mallet fills and cymbal splashes.  The music is meditative, light on dissonance and heavy on atmosphere. Van Dinter sings in a mopey, dusky voice that eschews arty pretention and immediately brings to mind “Nancy Sings” – the stunning album cut from Jandek’s “Chair Beside A Window” (1982). We’re reminded of the artistry and nuance imbedded in Jandek’s work when he is moved to outsource singing duties to a more conventional practitioner.  Clocking in at 9:07, “In My Mind” is a suitable opener that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

“Friday Morning” clocks in at an imposing 37:20 and finds the trio playing musical chairs with the instruments. Jandek mans the keys, Sheila is on drums and Van Dinter moves to bass. After some tentative noodling, Jandek settles into a slow walking bass and delicate right hand improv that could have been lifted straight off his monolithic 9 CD album “The Song of Morgan”. A few minutes in, Jandek introduces some softly uttered spoken word. The girls seem content to contribute only understated percussion and droning bass. The camera work is likewise understated and unfussy; and seems a two shot enterprise. As the piece progresses it is reminiscent of Jandek’s stream of consciousness marathon, “Athens Saturday” from a few years back. Van Dinter bass work is intuitive and inventive given the restraints of the piece. Annelies Van Dinter is a real find and one wonders if she’s a local artist contracted for one gig, or will occupy a recurring role in the Jandek saga.  The meditative mood continues with dissonant, abstract note clusters from Jandek at the keys, the harbinger of a musical storm soon to come.

Jandek lyrically returns the themes of the ocean and water quite often. He is constantly drifting, questioning, professing love and his need for a reciprocity of emotions. Sometimes his voice maintains a soft, keening monotone while at other times it’s a plaintive howl of uncertainty and frustration.

On “Phantom Touches” Jandek mines familiar territory. Sheila grabs the mic and The Representative grabs a Fender Stratocaster. What follows is a dissonant, brackish and discomforting guitar improvisation with Van Dinter revealing herself to be as expert and inventive on drums as she is on keys and bass. The absence of bass guitar is hardly noticeable.

On “Maybe You’ve Died” Smith’s spoken word rant is obviously directed at Jandek. She confronts him with his own mortality. After some preemptive dancing and writhing she admonishes her man for not returning calls, or responding immediately to her texts, causing her to exclaim, “you might have died!” and further causing her to wonder, “what if you died, would the morgue call me?”.  Jandek will turn seventy in October.

Closing piece, “The Blue Sky” is a gorgeous conclusion to the set. Smith carries the piece with some spooky and transcendent piano work that’s evocative of Ray Manzarek on Angel Dust; Jandek grabs the mic and a lyric sheet, his body twisting and hunched over in the rapturous, psychic anguish of a deep, life concluding love. Van Dinter contributes understated acoustic guitar. On “The Blue Sky”, Jandek is delivering high-octane emotive art, and seems transported to another place entirely.

So there we have it, Jandek’s latest sojourn into the outer limits of sight and sound. If Jandek is sound weaving the emperor’s latest line of fashion, it is a profound and inventive illusion that he has maintained for thirty-seven years. The records continue to issue forth, and concerts continue to sell out. We now know who Jandek is. But, two questions stubbornly remain unanswered. Why? And, the far more important and foreboding…How long?