[Jandek] a couple of new york articles

Shane Cullinane shanecullinane477 at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 8 06:42:10 PDT 2005

Found these on Lexis Nexis, sorry if theyre already posted!
The New York Times

September 8, 2005 Thursday 
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section E; Column 3; The Arts/Cultural Desk; POP REVIEW; Pg. 3

LENGTH: 452 words

HEADLINE: An Elusive Rock Enigma Sings, but Doesn't Speak 



Some of the most coveted tickets in New York on Tuesday night were for the 200 seats at Anthology Film Archives in the East Village, where Jandek was playing his New York debut. Jandek conceals his offstage name, which is probably Sterling R. Smith. He has released 42 albums of his morose, irregular, antimelodic and sometimes bleakly riveting songs since 1978 on his own label, Corwood Industries, selling them via a post-office box in Houston. A documentary about him, ''Jandek on Corwood,'' appeared in 2004, and until last year he had not performed in public. His New York show was only his fourth live concert, after appearances in England, Scotland and Texas. 

The concert was, like his albums, a single-minded and introverted exercise. He wore a black hat above the long, somber face that's familiar to owners of his albums, and carried a small sheaf of paper, presumably lyrics of what were apparently new songs.

Like a good enigma, Jandek didn't say anything to the audience. The songs were anatomies of melancholy, spoke-sung in a wistful voice: a singsong that sometimes extended a word and deliberately defied whatever harmonies the music suggested. ''I can't escape the weight of these days,'' Jandek intoned in the first song. ''It's a swamp I'm stuck in.'' He went on to ponder depression, sadness, ''the nothingness of life'' and ''a feeling like no feeling,'' in songs that stared steadily into the void. 

At previous shows Jandek has played guitar or piano, but on Tuesday he sat behind two Korg keyboards, using them as electric organs. He was backed by Loren MazzaCane Connors on guitar, Matt Heyner on bass and Chris Corsano on drums, musicians who generally appear in free-jazz ensembles. 

Together they played slow, skulking musical backdrops: sustained, echoing, quasi-psychedelic guitar notes, quiet walking bass lines or tensely bowed tremolos, rustles and tinkles from the percussion, and stately scales or stray chords from Jandek's keyboards. He didn't show virtuosity, just a measured presence. 

Jandek deliberately evades a basic aspect of pop songwriting, repetition, so the songs used neither chord patterns nor recurring melody lines. For much of the concert, the music was consistent, with a steady pulse and a minor-key ambience; there were long instrumental preludes and codas, cresting and subsiding, and in a few songs even the pulse fell away, leaving only a looming malaise. Together, the songs became a meditation -- more resigned than desperate -- on the emptiness of life, and in his final song Jandek found a glimmer of hope: ''the feel of you through my body/ the magic your embrace bestows.'' And then, as if returning to solitude, without another word he was gone.

URL: http://www.nytimes.com

GRAPHIC: Photo: A rare public outing: The musical recluse Jandek, far right, made his New York debut on Tuesday at Anthology Film Archives. (Photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times)

LOAD-DATE: September 8, 2005 

The New York Sun

September 6, 2005 Tuesday

LENGTH: 874 words

HEADLINE: Mystery Man



At first glance, Jandek might as well be any other underground musician on a summer tour. The Houston based singer-songwriter has a new album, "Raining Down Diamonds," and is coming to New York after sold-out shows in Austin, Glasgow, and London.

Scratch just beneath the surface, though, and you'll discover a bottomless pit of missing information, shrouded facts, and fanatic devotion that stretches back over three decades.

"Raining Down Diamonds" is the third Jandek album to come out this year and his 42nd album overall. But his sold-out concert tonight at Anthology Film Archives will be his first in New York, and only his second-ever appearance in the United States. 

For the majority of the one-named artist's inscrutable career he has been known only as the man behind a string of fascinatingly opaque albums that started with 1978's "Ready for the House" - originally credited to the Units. He has declined interviews - save for one now legendary exception - but steadily releasing one or more albums a year. These were consistently ignored by even the underground and alternative press and cherished by a small coterie of fans.

Jandek's spectral music hits the ears like a blast of cold air through a house. A guitar, sometimes electric, sometimes acoustic, sounds a series of dispassionate notes as meandering as a Charles Ives piece. Sometimes drums provide an arrhythmic pulse; sometimes a mysterious woman's voice appears in a heart-stopping contralto that stands neck hairs on end.

For the most part, though, a Jandek song is nothing more than Jandek alone with his guitar - and, on later albums, a cappella, or with his piano or bass - sounding like he hasn't enjoyed an uncomplicated thought since the day after he was born. The voice is a brittle, reedy presence that would sound positively excruciating in any other setting. He sings puzzling lines as simple and declarative as talking-blues lyrics but which are obscurely discursive, with lyrical motifs and titles alluding to other songs and albums throughout the entire oeuvre.

It's cryptic music when heard for the first time that only becomes more and more baffling with familiarity.

For a quarter of a century, Jandek existed merely as a recorded enigma wrapped in a riddle hiding under a rock. All anybody knew about Jandek was that his albums each featured a blurry photograph of a room, a street scene, or the same reddish-haired man at various ages whom everybody assumes to be the artist himself; the post office box for Corwood Industries, the label behind every single Jandek release; the name of the songs; and the music itself.

One of the most enticing, if fruitless, tangents about becoming a Jandek fan is that the complete lack of biographical information invites speculation about the man behind the myth, and over the years wondering who or what Jandek really is has occupied fans and journalists as much as, if not more than, his music.

Many of these inspired hypotheses appeared in Chad Friedrichs's 2003 "Jandek on Corwood," as unconventional as music documentaries get. Here the Jandek story - such as it is - is told entirely through the music writers, disc jockeys, and record-store clerk fans who have paid attention to the output over the years, and while each of them has something to say about the albums, everybody's take on the man is a guess at best.

The backstory theories are blindingly entertaining - for example, one early assumption was that Jandek was a mental patient/acid casualty who recorded a batch of songs in one sitting that would stop once they'd all been released. Two writers claim to have actually spoken with him - journalist John Trubee interviewed Jandek by phone for the startup Spin magazine in 1985, and Texas Monthly writer Katy Vine met with a Houston man she assumes to be Jandek in 1999.

About all anybody really agrees upon is that Jandek's ambiguous career is almost more compelling than the music,

but becoming a sincere fan can result in an obsessive streak to know more and more about the unknown - see Seth Tisue's Web site dedicated to all things Jandek (tisue.net/jandek/).

Over the years the albums kept coming - all on Corwood Industries, a factory entirely in the business of producing Jandek music - the man on the cover aged, the voice began to sound more and more weathered, and each new album brought a new chapter to the constantly evolving Jandek saga. Then, for some completely unknown reason, he made his first public appearance October 17, 2004, at Glasgow's Instal Festival, and has performed three times since.

All anybody really knows for sure is that tonight at Anthology Film Archives a man as thin and wiry as an Egon Schiele figure and more than likely clad entirely in black will step onstage with a guitar, probably backed by a drummer and another guitarist - as in previous concerts. He will play a series of songs unlike anything most of us have heard before, but totally familiar to the devoted. And he will be, at least for this evening, Jandek, live and in the flesh.

Tonight at 7 p.m. at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue, at 2nd Street, 212-505-5181) and tomorrow at 7:30 and 9 p.m. at the Issue Project Room (400 Carroll Street, between Bond and Nevins Streets, Brooklyn, 718-330-0313).

LOAD-DATE: September 6, 2005 


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