Jandek Does Jazz – Dallas Thursday (CD Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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Jandek – Dallas Thursday (CD)

Corwood Industries – 0824

Recorded Live at The Texas Theater, Dallas Texas – May 19, 2016

Jandek activity has picked up in the last few months; most recently, Jandek aka The Representative of Corwood Industries has released Dallas Thursday. A fairly recent performance from May 2016, which testifies to the robust health of Jandek’s muse.

I have not been reviewing and writing very much since the world changed a few months back, nor have I had any desire to. For me, music has lost its ability to foment revolution in a meaningful way. Without that ace card up its sleeve, its hard to justify its importance in the culture. Then you realize, it’s the only game in town. Despite the trivialization of music by celebrity culture, it still retains its healing powers even as its social relevance recedes into the background hum.

Which brings us to Jandek. Into this swirling vortex of confusion and existential trauma, The Representative of Corwood Industries has dropped a thing of unassailable honesty and beauty; a work that sustains my faith in the artistic spirit. This is Jandek’s ‘Jazz’ album. The Zen Master of cacophonic synchronicity has now given us a hidden place to lay back, gather ourselves and refresh the soul.     http://corwoodindustries.com/

Ostensibly a live album, Dallas Thursday is so transporting in mood and tone, it renders audience response incongruous and spell shattering. Muted trumpet (or cornet?) is the featured instrument. It hovers and moans like a fifties”cool jazz” ghost over the starry night keyboards , dark chocolate bass and the spacy, beat musings of Sheila Smith.

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As with any Jandek album, musician credits are non-existent – as are writing credits. One imagines the horn parts a product of Jandek ‘the facilitator’ rather than Jandek the composer. Certainly the Good Humor Man-on-Angel Dust keyboards carry the Jandek stamp. As far as the spoken word, it would seem that The Representative and Sheila Smith are of one mind now; it happens in musical collaborations that stray into the area of telepathy. Smith has dialed back the agression and displays a deadpan, dusky, beat poet delivery that is hypnotic and engaging, yet retains its edge.

Jandek is now a bigger thing than The Representative of Corwood Industries alone. Jandek is a collective, a brand, an archetype and a way of doing things. I’m just glad that Jandek – the man and artist – has retained his ability to surprise. Dylan always had the ability to throw down a personal masterpiece when his audience needed one. With Dallas Thursday, Jandek demonstrates that same ability.

 

 

 

 

 

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JANDEK – “Los Angeles Saturday” (DVD Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

DVD Cover

Jandek – “Los Angeles Saturday” (DVD)

Corwood Industries (0819)

 

Jandek’s Hollywood Premier… 

Jandek has just released his latest work “Los Angeles Saturday”, a DVD of his first Los Angeles performance on May 24, 2014. A special performance to me personally, as I was there to witness the event. Press credentials allowed me to crouch at the corner of the stage three feet away from The Representative of Corwood Industries. I was in closer physical proximity to the man than anybody else in attendance.

So, I have a unique perspective from which to judge the merits of the DVD presentation. It was pro shot with one center camera, alternating with shots originating from the right front corner of the stage. The same area I happened to be shooting stills and video footage of my own. Which is to say, many of the side angle shots reveal the exact view that I had at the corner of the stage.

What this DVD strains to capture is the vibe. That unquantifiable ambiance informed by smell, temperature, humidity, lighting, chatter and ingested substances. I suspect all of Jandek’s live DVD’s are absent this dimension, as are most filmed performances of live music.

Corwood Industries allowed me to interview band members but not The Representive of Corwood Industries himself; and it was in my interview with band member Kris Bernard that I discovered the musicians contracted for this gig (Kris Bernard and Emily Curren) had never played on stage before. Moreover, they had never played musical instruments of any kind before their induction into the ensemble. This fact was fascinating and revealing. But, a fact that never would have seen the light of day had your intrepid reporter not investigated. My interview with Kris Bernard revealed how Jandek transcends (or bypasses) the conventions of human music making. Moreover, the music this night sounded just as “Jandekian” as music performed by seasoned musicians on other records and performances.

So here, I republish my original impressions of the concert for your consideration. The inside information revealed here may (in part) contribute to your experience viewing the DVD. Included is a transcript of my phone interview with band member, Kris Bernard.

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Jandek Live at The Echo – Los Angeles (May 24, 2014)

Imagine you find yourself in the ultimate dystopian incarnation of Los Angeles. Blade Runner come to life. A societal structure beyond the control of those who inhabit it. A basic social infrastructure still exits, although it’s unraveling daily. You still have paper currency, markets to buy food and goods, and if you travel to the darker, stranger recesses of the city, Art. Someplace, somewhere in a disintegrating megalopolis of 10 million, a band plays in a dank, dark temple of song, conjoined in the sacred audience/performer covenant. However, what band is this? And, what kind of music would they be playing?

Those were the pictures my mind painted while observing the dark and intense set by Jandek on a balmy Los Angeles Saturday. The Representative of Corwood Industries has not yet exhausted of his bag of tricks. He gifted us with a desperately energetic band of three women which produced a joyful noise laced with estrogen and innocence at ear splitting volume. The dark stage and club ambiance contributed to the illusion of being part of a very exclusive secret society. It was a thing to behold.

After the original performance venue, “The Church On York” lost its permit, The Jandek performance went off as scheduled at the The Echoplex. The club was jammed with several hundred Jandekophiles. And, if my informal straw poll is accurate, the demographic of the typical Angeleno Jandek enthusiast skews decidedly towards anglo, polite, attractive, educated late-20’s to early 30’s Alternative music fans. Good demo for Jandek, bad news for the barkeep, who saw precious little activity at the watering hole. Of course, the seven dollar draft beers might have been a deterrent as well.

The common topic of pre-show conversation revolved around which Jandek would show up. Would he perform solo? Would he go ambient for a two hour stretch? Or, would he improvise on electric guitar atonally as he did on the live album “Houston Saturday”? To say there was a pre-gig buzz, would be an understatement. History was about to be made, if only for a cult of a few hundred.

Jandek rewarded us with a generous sampler of his various musical personalities. The big surprise was the appearance of lead singer/spoken word artist Sheila Smith. She was pretty much group spokesperson and focal point while The Representative hopscotched from instrument to instrument. However, the show opened with The Artist sitting on a stool at the front the stage armed with his acoustic guitar and his voice. No “Hello Los Angeles!” was offered by the artist or desired by the audience. In fact the club was dead silent while the artist fiddled interminably with a plastic bag of ‘who knows what’ to retrieve a suitable guitar pick. I saw Andres Segovia perform at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion in the seventies. That crowd was unruly by comparison. This portion of the show consisted of prepared and composed acoustic songs, “Whiling the Night Away” and “Hallway”. Both were effective and very well received.

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Jandek then put down the guitar and his charismatic female ensemble took over the stage. He grabbed the microphone and proceeded to engage in an improvised spoken word smack down with front lady Sheila Smith. The piece will probably end up with the title “I Got It” because the exchange revolved around who had what and why, although it was never specifically revealed what “it” precisely was. Smith played the role of “Da Rep’s” lust interest with sass and brio. Many in the audience wondered if the hormone drenched stagecraft on display was psycho-drama or the real deal. The Representative himself, was animated and engaged. He then strapped on a Fender Precision bass and more interplay with Smith ensued. This portion of the show was clearly performed without a net or prepared music. Jandek’s bass playing was inspired, energetic, and filled the room with his unique, harmonically ambiguous presence.

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Clearly, The Representative was relishing his role as The Zen Master of chaotic convergence. The third act of the set saw the artist sit behind the drum kit. The ensemble out front jammed and free associated while the man himself proved a capable –albeit idiosyncratic -skin beater.

The fourth and last act saw our hero strap on an electric guitar and lead his ensemble in a classic Jandekian demolition of all discernable melodic or harmonic structures. Then, too soon, it was over and the man in black left the stage and disappeared into the night. An encore was desired and called for, but we all knew The Representative would not engage in such a hackneyed Rock and Roll convention.

 

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After the concert, I had the opportunity to speak with multi-instrumentalist Kris Bernard. She was a member of Jandek’s ad-hoc ensemble convened exclusively for the L.A. performance. She played bass and drums. Her back story is nearly as compelling as the performance itself. Kris had never performed on stage before May 24, 2014, and even more remarkable, had no prior musical training or experience on any instrument at the time of her induction into the group.

 

Dale Nickey (DN): Before the gig, were you familiar with Jandek’s music?

Kris Bernard (KB): “I was, I have a couple of his records. How all this came to pass is, I played one of the records for my boyfriend. He basically had a reaction that I thought was funny, so I tweeted that.”

(DN): What was the tweet?

(KB): ‘I played a Jandek record for my boyfriend, he immediately hated it, mid-way through he said he wasn’t sure about it, and then by the end of side one he loved it.’ So I tweeted that”

 (DN): Which record was it?

(KB) “The Living End”

 (DN): How were you contacted for the gig?

(KB): “I was contacted on twitter by Sheila. She told me Jandek was going to be playing in L.A. I told her I was definitely going. Then, she asked me if I had any musical experience, and I said no. So I thought she wanted to form a band, not realizing she had any association with Jandek. I asked her where she lived in L.A., and she told me she lived in Houston. I still didn’t know what was happening. At a certain point, she told me she was going to form a band to play the same night as Jandek. I thought this was going to be an opening band. I didn’t know it was going to be Jandek.”

(DN): Had you ever had any musical experience before you got up onstage with Jandek?

(KB) “No. Well actually as soon as I found out about the show. I have a friend who gives music lessons, so I got three hours with him, with a guitar, a bass and on drums. But it was a very limited amount. And, I basically forgot everything since a month ago.”

 (DN) Remarkable, I would not have known you had zero experience as a musician.

(KB) “That’s good.”

 (DN) When you told Corwood that you had no musical experience, it didn’t matter?

(KB) “I think that was their preference.”

(DN): What do you do?

(KB) “I used to do web design, and now I’m project manager at a tech company.”

 (DN): As far as preparation, was there any rehearsal at all?

(KB): “No. I had anticipated there would be. We met at The Echo at 2:00 p.m. We waited a long time for the sound guys to get set up. Finally the sound guy went like, ‘do you guys want to try some of your instruments?’, At that point The Representative from Corwood said, ‘yeah, why not?’ Like it hadn’t been thought of before, But, because the sound guy suggested it, they’re like ‘OK, sure let’s do that’. So I picked up the electric violin and I just kinda started hacking away at that. And it sounded really rough. But that (sound-check) was basically the only thing we had other than a prepared set list which was not about songs, but just, ‘at this point you’ll work on this instrument, and at this point you’ll work on that one.’

(DN): No keys or riffs or anything like that?

(KB) “No, not at all (laughs).”

(DN): You mentioned your boyfriend, was he in the band at all?

(KB) “Yes Marcus Savino, he’s the one who played at the end.”

(DN): As regards free form music, it takes a certain fearlessness to stare down 300 people packed into a club. A lot of trained musicians won’t do it. Was there apprehension? Did you have to slam down a couple of Tequilas?

(KB): “Well, I definitely had some Tequila. But, I think, for me I was most comfortable on the drums. That was during the second set I played two songs on the drums. That was definitely my favorite part. At the third and fourth set, I was on bass. And the third set I was supposed to do some improv vocals and I don’t think I got anything out. So that was the least comfortable part for me.”

(DN): I don’t want to get tabloid, but with Sheila onstage, there was a lot of sexual energy or interplay with The Representative. Was that shtick, or was there something going on?

(KB): “I don’t know the workings of their relationship.”

 (DN): So you never met Sheila before the gig?

(KB) “No. Nor had I ever met Emily (Emily Curran)”

 (DN): Do you think you’ll ever meet Jandek again?

(KB): “I would be surprised. Although I am from Texas. And so, I think I’ll be in Houston sometime this year. I’ll definitely try to reach out, but I don’t know if it will result in anything.”

(DN): I want to get to the soul of the man. But I’m as interested as anybody else in preserving the mystique. Did he introduce himself to you as anybody?

(KB): “No. He didn’t actually introduce himself at all. At the point where there were introductions, he didn’t say a name at all. He just said hi. He was so nice. From what I’ve read from other press, he doesn’t refer to himself as Jandek at all, but instead, as The Representative. But he did not call himself that either.”

 (DN): I’ve heard he is well spoken.

(KB): “Yes.”

(DN): After the gig did you toast each other or say ‘Nice Job’ or anything?

(KB): “Yeah, when it was just the five of us up in the green room, the Representative seemed to be really pleased with it. He said it was one of the best shows.”

(DN) Did anyone mention that this show would be released on CD or DVD? Was it filmed?

(KB) “Yeah it was. So I think it will be released. That’s the sense I got.”

(DN): Now that this has happened, do you have any plans to pursue music?

(KB): “You know it’s funny, Marcus and I are together so I live with a drum set, but I’ve never played it ever. But it’s in my basement. I had so much fun with the drums, I think I’m gonna continue to play with it.”

 

The interview was winding down. Kris Bernard’s story was compelling. However, my desire to get inside the soul of the man was left unrequited. Then, before we rung off, Kris turned the tables and asked me a question……

 

(KB): “Can I tell you something he said before the show that I will probably have with me for the rest of my life?”

(DN): Absolutely.

(KB): “One thing the representative said to all of us was…‘there are no mistakes, if you think you made a mistake, go further into that mistake, and then it’s not a mistake.’

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

Photos by DN

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Jandek on DVD – Houston Thursday

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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 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.

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

 

Jandek on DVD – “Brussels Saturday” (Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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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?

JANDEK – “Houston Saturday (2011)” – Album Review

HOUSTON SATURDAY (2011)

Artist – JANDEK

Corwood Industries (0815)

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More Jandek? Click >>>>song-of-morgan/maze-of-the-phantom/houston-saturday

 

Authored by Dale Nickey:

In the world of real estate it’s all about “location, location, location”. In the world of Outsider Music the corollary would be, “perception, perception, perception”.

Jandek has just released a new album titled, “Houston Saturday (2011)”. If this sounds familiar, it should.  Earlier in the year, Jandek released a live album, “Houston Saturday”. Two entirely different animals. Jandek doesn’t like to make it easy, does he?

“Houston Saturday (2011)” is the album this reviewer has pined for.  It’s a live album recorded at the Menil Collection on December 17th, 2011. A no-nonsense brace of tunes with only acoustic guitar and voice (save the spoken word opener). This new record has the feel of an intimate studio recording. Indeed, the audience is eerily silent until long, sustained applause is heard after the final song. The sound is big, warm and round. It’s probably the best recorded acoustic guitar sound  The Representative has ever committed to record.

The album is a swift moving song cycle devoted to love – both requited and un-requited. And, the perspective is from either a devoted lover, ex-lover, secret admirer and/or stalker. Maybe all the above.  Jandek’s patented death letter blues are refreshingly absent from this record. Although, I do admit to picturing (at certain points) a bound and gagged love object listening wide-eyed and terrified to her captor’s heartfelt balladeering.   http://corwoodindustries.com/

One can glean from the lyrics that The Representative likes to walk. It’s hard to imagine him driving or taking public transportation. He evokes the image of a black-clad wandering troubadour of the pre-apocalypse, head up, cataloging raw emotions and all else that resides above the horizon; trees, sky, buildings etc…..

Which brings me back to the subject of perception. It’s amazing how the unfamiliar can become familiar. After two years of listening and writing about Outsider Music in general (and Jandek in particular), perception and perspective seem to calibrate and shift as a defense mechanism against insanity. I can now listen to Jandek with an unbiased ear, conversely, the James Blunts of the world now send me screaming into the night.

Just think about the B-52’s for a second. Remember how off-the-wall they sounded when their first single, “Rock Lobster” came out?  The template consisted of shrieking female singers, 35 dollar keyboard sounds, a gay tone-deaf toastmaster and twig-dry electric guitars with no bass. That sound eventually bled into the mainstream and yielded platinum sales and MTV ubiquity. Similarly, one could easily imagine (early 20th century blues artist) Charlie Patton as “The Jandek” of his time and place.

The performances on “Houston Saturday (2011)” are surefooted and classic Jandek. There has been an evolution. Some of the tunes are more composed than others. Clearly, Jandek still likes to walk the high-wire and extrapolate lyrics on the fly when the spirit moves him.

I’m wondering how musicologist Harry Smith (curator of The American Folk Anthology) felt upon discovering the creepy-crawly backwater roots of the genre we now call American Folk Music. Maybe he felt like I feel when I listen to “Houston Saturday (2011)”. I feel like I’ve plunged my shovel into the earth and hit the slab foundation for a new traditional music; a distant future’s new “Old Weird America”.

Wouldn’t that be something?

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To Visit the Corwood Industries catalog click >>>>>  http://corwoodindustries.com/

 

Corwood Goes To Hollywood – “JANDEK LIVE AT THE ECHOPLEX” May 24th 2014 (Concert Review)

JANDEK live at The Echoplex – Los Angeles May 24. 2014

The Ensemble:

The Representative of Corwood Industries – Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Bass and Drums

Sheila Smith – Vocals, Drums, Electric Guitar, Electric Violin,  Tambourine

Kris Bernard – Drums, Electric Bass

Emily Curran – Electric Guitar, Electric Violin

Marcus Savino – Drums  

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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Imagine you find yourself in the ultimate dystopian incarnation of Los Angeles. Blade Runner come to life. A societal structure beyond the control of those who inhabit it. A basic social infrastructure still exits, although it’s unraveling daily. You still have paper currency, markets to buy food and goods, and if you travel to the darker, stranger recesses of the city, Art. Someplace, somewhere in a disintegrating megalopolis of 10 million, a band plays in a dank, dark temple of song, conjoined in the sacred audience/performer covenant. However, what band is this? And, what kind of music would they be playing?

Those were the pictures my mind painted while observing the dark and intense set by Jandek on a balmy Los Angeles Saturday. The Representative of Corwood Industries has not yet exhausted of his bag of tricks. He gifted us with a desperately energetic band of three women which produced a joyful noise laced with estrogen and innocence at ear splitting volume. The dark stage and club ambiance contributed to the illusion of being part of a very exclusive secret society. It was a thing to behold.

After the original performance venue, “The Church On York” lost its  permit, The Jandek performance went off as scheduled at the The Echoplex. The club was jammed with several hundred Jandekophiles. And, if my informal straw poll is accurate, the demographic of the typical Angeleno Jandek enthusiast skews decidedly towards anglo, polite, attractive, educated late-20’s to early 30’s Alternative music fans. Good demo for Jandek, bad news for the barkeep, who saw precious little activity at the watering hole. Of course, the seven dollar draft beers might have been a deterrent as well.

The common topic of pre-show conversation revolved around which Jandek would show up. Would he perform solo? Would he go ambient for a two hour stretch? Or, would he improvise on electric guitar atonally as he did on the live album “Houston Saturday”? To say there was a pre-gig buzz, would be an understatement. History was about to be made,  if only for a cult of a few hundred.

Jandek rewarded us with a generous sampler of his various musical personalities. The big surprise was the appearance of lead singer/spoken word artist Sheila Smith. She was pretty much group spokesperson and focal point while The Representative hopscotched from instrument to instrument. However, the show opened with The Artist sitting on a stool at the front the stage armed with his acoustic guitar and his voice. No “Hello Los Angeles!” was offered by the artist or desired by the audience. In fact the club was dead silent while the artist fiddled interminably with a plastic bag of ‘who knows what’ to retrieve a suitable guitar pick. I saw Andres Segovia perform at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion in the seventies. That crowd was unruly by comparison. This portion of the show consisted of prepared and composed acoustic songs, “Whiling The Night Away” and “Hallway”. Both were effective and very well received.

Jandek then put down the guitar and his charismatic female ensemble took over the stage. He grabbed the microphone and proceeded to engage in an improvised spoken word smack down with front lady Sheila Smith. The piece will probably end up with the title “I Got It” because the exchange revolved around who had what and why, although it was never specifically revealed what “it” precisely was. Smith played the role of “Da Rep’s” lust interest with sass and brio. Many in the audience wondered if the hormone drenched stagecraft on display was psycho-drama or the real deal. The Representative himself, was animated and engaged. He then strapped on a Fender Precision bass and more interplay with Smith ensued. This portion of the show was clearly performed without a net or prepared music. Jandek’s bass playing was inspired, energetic, and filled the room with his unique, harmonically ambiguous presence.

The Representative clearly was relishing his role as Zen Master of  chaotic convergence. The third act of the set saw the artist sit behind the drum kit. The ensemble out front jammed and free associated while the man himself proved a capable –albeit idiosyncratic -skin beater.

The fourth and last act saw our hero strap on an electric guitar and lead his ensemble in a classic Jandekian demolition of all discernable melodic or harmonic structures. Then, too soon, it was over and the man in black left the stage and disappeared into the night. An encore was desired and called for, but we all knew The Representative would not engage in such a hackneyed Rock and Roll convention.

More Jandek? Click>>> Dublin Friday Houston Thursday

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After the concert, The Muse Patrol had the opportunity to speak with multi-instrumentalist Kris Bernard. She was a member of Jandek’s ad-hoc ensemble convened exclusively for the L.A. performance. She played bass and drums. Her back story is nearly as compelling as the performance itself. Kris had never performed on stage before May 24, 2014, and even more remarkable, had no prior musical training or experience on any instrument at the time of her induction into the group.

The Muse Patrol (TMP): Before the gig, were you familiar with Jandek’s music?

Kris Bernard (KB): “I was, I have a couple of his records. How all this came to pass is, I played one of the records for my boyfriend. He basically had a reaction that I thought was funny, so I tweeted that.”

(TMP): What was the tweet?

(KB) : ‘I played a Jandek record for my boyfriend, he immediately hated it, mid-way through he said he wasn’t sure about it, and then by the end of side one he loved it.’ So I tweeted that”

(TMP): Which record was it?

(KB) “The Living End”

(TMP): How were you contacted for the gig?

(KB): “I was contacted on twitter by Sheila. She told me Jandek was going to be playing in L.A. I told her I was definitely going. Then, she asked me if I had any musical experience, and I said no. So I thought she wanted to form a band, not realizing she had any association with Jandek. I asked her where she lived in L.A., and she told me she lived in Houston. I still didn’t know what was happening. At a certain point, she told me she was going to form a band to play the same night as Jandek. I thought this was going to be an opening band. I didn’t know it was going to be Jandek.”

(TMP): Had you ever had any musical experience before you got up onstage with Jandek?

(KB) “No. Well actually as soon as I found out about the show. I have a friend who gives music lessons, so I got three hours with him, with a guitar, a bass and on drums. But it was a very limited amount.  And, I basically forgot everything since a month ago.”

(TMP) Remarkable, I would not have known you had zero experience as a musician.

(KB) “That’s good.”

(TMP) When you told Corwood that you had no musical experience, it didn’t matter?

(KB) “I think that was their preference.”

(TMP): What do you do?

(KB) “I used to do web design, and now I’m project manager at a tech company.”

(TMP): As far as preparation, was there any rehearsal at all?

(KB): “No. I had anticipated there would be. We met at The Echo at 2:00 p.m. We waited a long time for the sound guys to get set up. Finally the sound guy went like, ‘do you guys want to try some of your instruments?’, At that point The Representative from Corwood said, ‘yeah, why not?’ Like it hadn’t been thought of before, But, because the sound guy suggested it, they’re like ‘OK, sure let’s do that’. So I picked up the electric violin and I just kinda started hacking away at that. And it sounded really rough. But that (sound-check) was basically the only thing we had other than a prepared set list which was not about songs, but just, ‘at this point you’ll work on this instrument, and at this point you’ll work on that one.’

(TMP): No keys or riffs or anything like that?

(KB) “No, not at all (laughs).”

(TMB): You mentioned your boyfriend, was he in the band at all?

(KB) “Yes Marcus Savino, he’s the one who played at the end.”

(TMB): As regards free form music, it takes a certain fearlessness to stare down 300 people packed into a club. A lot of trained musicians won’t do it. Was there apprehension? Did you have to slam down a couple of Tequilas?

(KB): “Well, I definitely had some Tequila. But, I think, for me I was most comfortable on the drums. That was during the second set I played two songs on the drums. That was definitely my favorite part. At the third and fourth set, I was on bass. And the third set I was supposed to do some improv vocals and I don’t think I got anything out. So that was the least comfortable part for me.”

(TMP): I don’t want to get tabloid, but with Sheila onstage, there was a lot of sexual energy or interplay with The Representative. Was that shtick, or was there something going on?

(KB): “I don’t know the workings of their relationship.”

(TMP): So you never met Sheila before the gig?

(KB) “No. Nor had I ever met Emily (Emily Curran)”

(TMP): Do you think you’ll ever meet Jandek again?

(KB): “I would be surprised. Although I am from Texas. And so, I think I’ll be in Houston sometime this year. I’ll definitely try to reach out, but I don’t know if it will result in anything.”

(TMP): I want to get to the soul of the man. But I’m as interested as anybody else in preserving the mystique. Did he introduce himself to you as anybody?

(KB): “No. He didn’t actually introduce himself at all. At the point where there were introductions, he didn’t say a name at all. He just said hi. He was so nice. From what I’ve read from other press, he doesn’t refer to himself as Jandek at all, but instead, as The Representative. But he did not call himself that either.”

(TMP): I’ve heard he is well spoken.

(KB): “Yes.”

(TMP): After the gig did you toast each other or say ‘Nice Job’ or anything?

(KB): “Yeah, when it was just the five of us up in the green room, the Representative seemed to be really pleased with it. He said it was one of the best shows.”

(TMP) Did anyone mention that this show would be released on CD or DVD? Was it filmed?

(KB) “Yeah it was. So I think it will be released. That’s the sense I got.”

(TMP): Now that this has happened, do you have any plans to pursue music?

(KB): “You know it’s funny, Marcus and I are together so I live with a drum set, but I’ve never played it ever. But it’s in my basement. I had so much fun with the drums, I think I’m gonna continue to play with it.”

The interview was winding down. Kris Bernard’s story was  compelling. However, my desire to get inside the soul of the man  was left unrequited. Then, before we rung off, Kris turned the tables and asked me a question……

(KB): “Can I tell you something he said before the show that I will probably have with me for the rest of my life?”

(TMP): Absolutely.

(KB): “One thing the representative said to all of us was…‘there are no mistakes, if you think you made a mistake, go further into that mistake, and then it’s not a mistake.’

Click here to visit Corwood>>>>http://corwoodindustries.co

JANDEK – “Houston Saturday” (Album Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

More Jandek? click>>>>>song-of-morgan/maze-of-the-phantom https://themusepatrol.com/2015/12/05/jandek-on-dvd-houston-thursday/

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Jandek – “Houston Saturday (I know I’m Alive)”

Corwood Industries (0813)

Recorded Live at the Free Press Summer Fest June 1, 2013   

With Jandek’s last studio release, “The Song of Morgan” in my rear view mirror, I didn’t foresee any immediate Jandek activity on the horizon. Then, along comes the always unassuming parcel from Corwood Industries. Hand printed mailing label in legible sharpie script and old school postage stamps in lieu of dated, metered business indicia.

Jandek’s last studio album was 2013’s “The Song Of Morgan”, a nine CD box set of piano nocturnes; a WTF?-a-thon of truly epic proportions.  Jandek followed up with a live double CD,  “Athens Saturday” -which I have yet to hear.  Now we have “Houston Saturday”, a live album recorded in front of a hometown audience.         http://corwoodindustries.com/

“Houston Saturday” is a scant 35:17 in length with only one track listed, the lead and closing song “Excited”.  The cover finds our hero descending a stone staircase leading to nowhere but a grassy knoll.  Jandek is in full beard and sporting an Ozzie Nelson cardigan and his now familiar black hat. His face gives nothing away. He may be amused or ready to come at the camera fists flying.

The music on “Houston Saturday” was recorded live June 1, 2013 at the Free Press Summer Fest.  Not only is the sole track on the album titled, “Excited”,  I also discover printed on the back cover of “Houston Saturday” the subtitle – “I know I’m Alive”.  The words “I Know I’m Alive” may be some tacit acknowledgment of his ever growing indie iconography; or perhaps his mortality. Just a guess.

The piece starts with a brief drum solo, a good drum solo. Not by Jandek presumably, as musician credits are still verboten on all Corwood releases. However, my engineer’s ear tells me there is a serious attempt at sonic integrity with this recording.  Jandek has got himself a damn good rhythm section. Good thing,  because we’ve got a thirty five minute stretch of road ahead with no stopping for snacks or bathroom breaks.

The man himself crashes his own party about thirty seconds in. The guitar sound is full and gritty. It sits well in the mix.  Jandek seems in tune with himself (if nobody else).  When listening to Jandek free associate at top volume it helps to think of Jandek’s guitar as a percussion instrument. Jandek has distilled his artistry into something very minimal and highly concentrated.  There are  no discernible melodies or recognizable chords in evidence,  but he does know rhythm.  I can’t dismiss the work of an artist who’s been plowing his furrow for 35 years. On “Houston Saturday” he’s dredging up something from a very deep (perhaps toxic) well.  It might be slimy and partially decomposed.  But then again, it might be a clue to something important or have some other psychoanalytic relevance.

For me, this is loud music meant to be played at low volume.  There’s an inner logic to Jandek’s improvisations; a tangled symmetry to the seemingly random brushstrokes he applies to the ensemble sound.  To carry the painting analogy one step further, we celebrate visual artists such as Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline; artists  who trade in chaotic, non-representative images on canvas. However the public and music critics are much less forgiving of those who do it in sound.  Indeed, the Pollock/Jandek nexus makes more sense the more I think about it.

At 3:35 Jandek introduces his signature moaning calf vocals. Jandek skates the boundary between singing and spoken word. His voice is strong, commanding and intimidating.

“Can’t sleep, can’t stay awake,

Can’t get down, can’t get up…., I’m so excited……”

At 06:57:  “…You come around, you go away, you’re here …..I’m dreaming……”

In a group format, Jandek  pushes his rhythm section to places they might never think to go themselves. The middle section of “Excited” is a swirl of poly-rhythm courtesy of Jandek’s gifted bass and drums tag team.  Jandek interjects himself into the mix with stabbing urgency.

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The cacophony breaks down at 23:30 to some very delicate down- low improv from the rhythm section.  At this juncture Jandek gives his guitar a rest and unfurls a bass n’ drums framed  litany of misery. Perhaps this is his “State of the Jandek Speech’. All I know is, he started out the album declaring his excitement.  However, by track’s end he sounds more agitated than anything else.  There seem to be issues of crippling isolation and/or abandonment.  Its unclear whether he’s personally aggrieved or emotionally removed.  He does describe an elusive other person who can’t be touched, seen or felt.  It’s as if Jandek had suffered a coma and is now describing the state of half consciousness many have claimed to experience while in that condition.

“I can’t think, I can’t feel…..I’m upset (obsessed?), that’s what’s real….”

This stream of consciousness rant builds and continues to the very end.   Finally,  Jandek projectile orates his closing thought on this Houston Saturday:

“I’m using you to stay alive….

Please use me too…..be my obsession and I’ll be yours“.

The piece collapses to the floor in conclusion. The audience in attendance gives a lusty ovation and a few shouts of ‘more!’ are heard. This was a good day apparently.

I’m not here to declare “Excited” a work of genius. The piece is a musical exploration as involving or off-putting as any Steve Vai guitar workout. Jandek goes to some interesting places musically and also loses the plot occasionally. Such are the pitfalls of live, improvised music. Whereas your standard issue guitar hero will flub high speed execution of chords and intricate fingering, Jandek’s musical missteps seem more existential than technical.  Oh, how I wish to see Jandek collaborate with a sympathetic producer/engineer with the surgical skills to cut and paste Jandek’s meanderings into a compacted musical statement.  Jandek has given us over seventy releases of unfiltered id.  A Jandek redacted and edited for the masses would be an interesting paradigm shift; one that might actually move a few units.

After the musical advances of “Maze of The Phantom” and “The Song of Morgan”,  Jandek has returned to the  sound and fury of his second period.  Is Jandek simply throwing red meat to an adoring hometown crowd?  One hopes this is just a temporary lateral move.

Jandek’s time may have come as an indie icon. Kurt Cobain famously declared that anybody who likes Jandek’s music is pretentious.  I reject that theory. Jandek’s music is a legitimate palette cleanser to those of us who feel moved to violence upon the 10,000th hearing of Elton’s John’s  “Candle In the Wind”. I don’t want Jandek to put out another “Song Of Morgan”. But next time out, I do want him to throw me an existential curve-ball, high and tight…. aimed at my head.

Click Here to buy Jandek music>>>http://corwoodindustries.com/