Jandek mega-post

June 29, 2014 at 12:56 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jandek: Maze Of The Phantom

Jandek: Maze Of The Phantom

WCBN owns almost the entire Jandek discography, but for some reason we haven’t received any new releases since 2012’s Indianapolis Saturday. But now that Corwood Industries has online mail order and an email address, I asked the representative to send us all of the new releases, and he did! I’m in total worthless recluse mode right now so this is a huge gift to me. Catching up chronologically, we start with 2012’s Maze Of The Phantom, which sounds somewhat like Jandek’s attempt to compose a Chinese opera, with cooing female vocals, gentle harp, shakers and percussion, and cello. Very beautiful, calm, meditative music music. The work has 6 parts, and there’s 2 rehearsals included at the end of the second disc. All of the tracks sound pretty similar, but Part Six gets unexpectedly scatty/jazzy, yet still operatic.

Jandek: Atlanta Saturday

Jandek: Atlanta Saturday

Following that, we have Atlanta Saturday, a live recording from 2007. This one consists of an eight-part (plus a prelude) work called Outcast Of Civilization, and I’m guessing it’s a total coincidence that it was recorded in the same town that Outkast is from. As you might expect, this is a really lonely and depressing yet beautiful piece, which lasts 2 hours and features piano, strings, flute, soft drums (mostly cymbals and chimes), and sporadic vocals, which are mostly spoken word. Part One is kind of a perky chamber-jazz jam, and Part Six is spazzy and chaotic for the first half, until Jandek starts doing his lonely spoken word bit. Part Five is where his prose gets downright scathing. “If you can’t find a place here, what are you? The outcast of civilization. The unbeliever. One who couldn’t conform even to nonconformity.” Excellent work, will make you ponder existence and wonder why everything feels so empty inside.

Jandek: Richmond Sunday

Jandek: Richmond Sunday

Richmond Sunday is also from early 2007. It seems like he’s been releasing his performances roughly in order, although I don’t think his 2007 SXSW concert that I attended has been released yet. This album has 6 long pieces, with the first 2 (“This Dream” and “Another Mystery”) approaching a half hour each. Loose, rambling and free-jazzy, with bass, sax, drums, and guitar, and some spoken vocals. Intensely isolated, yet also loving and thankful. The third track on both discs (“What She On” and “The Ditch”) are the most intense and free-jazzy, and are even kind of furious.

Jandek: The Song Of Morgan

Jandek: The Song Of Morgan

After this, Jandek dropped a bomb on us in the form of a 9 CD box set called The Song Of Morgan, with each disc consisting of an hour-long piece for solo piano, with no vocals. He’s released solo piano music before, but not to such a grand scale as this. The pieces are all “nocturnes” so expect them all to be moonlit and solemn. Generally pretty slow-moving, definitely no Liberace showmanship here. There isn’t really any use in dissecting each disc, not because there isn’t any variation, but there’s just so much of it that typing out “this is where it gets faster, this is where it gets quieter” would be kind of moot. It’s all lonely solo piano music, perfect for extended sulking. Or try playing multiple discs at the same time and see what happens.

Jandek: Athens Saturday

Jandek: Athens Saturday

Athens Saturday is a newer recording, documenting a 2012 gig at the Orange Twin Conservation Community. So of course there’s several Elephant 6 alumni backing him up, as well as Bradford Cox. The entire concert consists of a single 100-minute piece called “Waiting To Die”, which is split between the two discs. This is one of the most beautiful, sad, brutal, and life-affirming Jandek works I’ve heard yet. The words are basically a dialogue between a depressed recluse and a happy man who’s trying to cheer him up. The recluse doesn’t like to do anything, he doesn’t go to the movies, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t have friends, and he’s just basically sitting around waiting to die. He says that living is dying and the only variable is time. It’s so harsh and depressing, but at the same time it’s such a moving story. I feel like if I was actually at this concert, it probably would’ve changed my life. Tied with Where Do You Go From Here as my favorite Jandek recording.

Jandek: Houston Saturday

Jandek: Houston Saturday

His newest live release is Houston Saturday, which is a different end of the cathartic-yet-brilliant spectrum. This set was recorded a year ago at something called the Free Press Summer Fest, which sounds like an entirely inappropriate venue for a Jandek concert. So it’s a relatively short concert for Jandek, just consisting of one 35-minute piece called “Excited” (although the work itself seems to be called I Know I’m Alive), with Jandek sounding as happy and celebratory as he can get. “I’m so excited! I’m so alive!” Never have these words sounded more terrifying. But wait, then Jandek tells us “stop the train! but neverrrrr I won’t get off.” After lots of soloing, he starts to tell us how he really feels. “Take away my senses… my mind is craaaazzzyyyy!!!” Definitely feels like some sort of therapy session. Love you Jandek.

As soon as these CDs came in the mail, I checked the Corwood Industries website and found that there’s an even newer release available, called Ghost Passing. This one’s a 6 disc box set, which I assume is more piano solos. According to discogs.com they’re all titled “Fantasy” 1-6. Word on the street is that this one contains theremin, so naturally I can’t wait to hear it.

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