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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Profiles in Outsider Music “Songs In The Key Of Z” by Irwin Chusid (Book Review)

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 Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music (2000),

published by A Cappella Books

We print junkies divide books into different categories. There are the books you commit to out of respect for the author or because you don’t want to wuss out before you see what happens (Wuthering Heights and any Tom Clancy Novel). There’s good fast-food reading that you can joyfully wolf down in a day (On The Road). Then, there is that rare book that you force yourself to ration because you want to savor it, and prolong the journey. It’s that good.

Irwin Chusid’s “Songs In The Key Of Z” falls into the last category.

“Songs In The Key Of Z” is a page turner about Outsider Music and the bizarre, wonderful, and fascinating characters who are its practitioners. The term Outsider Music is relatively new and Mr. Chusid is credited for coining it. Mr. Chusid has hosted a radio show for WFMU in Hoboken, New Jersey since 1975. It is on this show he curates the music that he loves. However, the genre itself has been around for some time. The definition of Outsider Music (per say) is amorphous and still evolving. But in brief, it is music that falls outside the mainstream of musical taste, performed and/or conceived by musical artists who exist apart from the pack mentality of polite, conformist society. These artists can include the mentally ill, the criminally insane and others who are impelled to create musical sound informed by any combination of innocence, incompetence and/or genius. Outside Music artists also share a heroic confidence or self-delusion that allows them to carry on despite normal society’s discouragement.

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Commercial Pop Music as practiced by Elton John, Styx, Celine Dion, Kenny G……etc, is externally focused. It may or may not be calculated or jaded. But, it is written, recorded and intended for a target market and is commerce driven. Outsider music is the antithesis of all the above.

Irwin Chusid is a knowledgeable musicologist whose narratives and observations are laced with humor without condescension. Because, humor is a basic tenet of Outsider Music. Not in the wacky Dr. Demento sense. But, a kind of self-deprecating humor that only the thick-skinned Outsider artists possess. Accustomed to ridicule and guffaws, Outsider artists are heroic in their persistence and are more purpose driven than the normal wanna-be rocker. Many musicians give up the battle for a wife and a day job. Most Outsider artists are bereft of those options. That’s the X factor that allows this bizarre, ignored subculture to defy prevailing trends and survive against seemingly insurmountable odds. They create because they must, not because they lust.

Mr. Chusid plays it smart and never buries the lead in his profiles. It’s the artist and back story in Outsider Music that is crucial to the appreciation of the music itself. And, it’s on the humanity that Mr. Chusid aims the spotlight. Sadly, there is the aspect of the car-wreck mentality that reveal some Outsider Music enthusiasts to be voyeurs of human misery rather than connoisseurs of art.  But, Mr. Chusid acknowledges that, and never heaps false praise on his subjects.

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The Outsider Artists come in all shapes, sizes and genres. They sometimes are plucked from obscurity and absorbed into the mainstream, only to be expelled from the tribe once again (Tiny Tim). Or they can be wandering savants who are enabled by admiring patrons and well meaning benefactors who unwittingly poison their innocence with the fools-gold of minor celebrity (Wild Man Fischer). Some are relatively well-adjusted refugees from musical academia, hell-bent on changing the world (Harry Partch). However, there are no archetypes in Outsider Music. No two artists are the same. They are as different and impermanent as falling snowflakes.

Irwin Chusid knocked it out of the park with this one. And, the only criticisms I can muster is the book’s relative brevity and Irwin Chusid’s decision to never write another.