JANDEK – “Maze Of The Phantom” (Record Review)

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

maze-of-the-phantom

Jandek – “Maze Of The Phantom” (2012)
Corwood Industries (0808)

Jandek is the most compelling indie artist at this particular moment in human history. Jandek captures your imagination. In Jandekland, imagination is the only tool you have to appreciate and curate the music. Jandek does no interviews. Nor does he provide biographical information.  No mission statement. No digital domain.  No contact information other than the P.O. Box address of Corwood Industries.  If you want to buy a Jandek record, you can go to the Corwood Industries web page and purchase records by mail-order at a very reasonable price.  But the Corwood Industries webpage contains only a stark list of titles and catalog numbers. No artwork or photos.  It has all the pizzazz of a police rap sheet.

I obtained a review copy of his recent (2012) double CD release “Maze of the Phantom”. Again, no artwork, musician credits, studio information or locale of recording was provided. No one-sheet.  No song titles. The individual tracks are designated, “Number One”, “Number Two”, etc… Perhaps Jandek knows what he’s doing. Because, the dearth of ancillary information forced me to look to the music exclusively for my answers.

Expect the unexpected with Jandek. “Maze Of The Phantom” is a mature, considered work.  Just my guess, but most of it seems like free-form improvisation.  Above all, it’s musical. It mines the outer limits of the Ambient genre. But, that’s where categorization ends. The representative of Corwood Industries uses liberal amounts of space, air and light. The pieces are non-figurative, alien soundscapes. But, beautiful in the way the vast empty expanses of New Mexico or Arizona are beautiful. An endless horizon of tone and mood. Occasionally clusters of musical activity will appear and recede like jagged rock formations or outcroppings of spikey cactus whizzing by your field of vision on a long car drive. Percussive sounds skitter across the audio spectrum like spiders on a hot plate. A female voice occasionally scats a siren wail. Flutes, harps and other musical ephemera weave in and out of the mix.  In the Ambient genre, “Maze Of The Phantom” manages to stand apart from the flower arrangement sonics of Enya, or the candle-shop ambiance of Patrick O’Hearn. And, it has none of the smarty-pants pretentions of ENO either (as brilliant as he is).

What stuns me about this album is how diametrically opposite it is to his earlier period. Jandek’s first 8 or 9 albums (for the most part) featured the snap, crackle and pluck of a twig-dry acoustic guitar; which was the lo-fi bedrock for his primal vocalizing. The music was atonal and hard listening. Delta-Blues from the twilight zone. Horrible background music for anything. You either listened up close or sprinted to the turntable to take it off. But where you might walk away and forget another artist,  Jandek keeps pulling you back in.

Research on the internet rewarded me with the album art for “Maze of the Phantom”. Jandek is one of the artists whose album art looks like the music sounds. Or is it the other way around? The cover to “Maze….” is a bleak winter landscape without visible signs of life, except the leafless trees and a body of water with a smooth, unbroken surface. However, what Loch Ness monster lies beneath?

Unlike previous Jandek albums, this one sits comfortably in my CD player and is in regular rotation on my I-Pod.  It doesn’t give me nightmares or sweet dreams.  It gives me Jandek. And it gives the world something it never tires of….a good mystery.

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To purchase Jandek’s music click here >>>>> http://www.corwoodindustries.com/

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