[Jandek] Debate on'Variations'

Danen D. Jobe djobe at uark.edu
Sun Feb 12 15:42:36 PST 2006

Okay, so a few weeks ago when I made my first post I made clear my belief that 'Khartoum' was an older recording and 'Variations' was a newer one.

Now I'm not so sure.

Yesterday, I listened to both albums in a unique way while playing them for a friend of mine who was fascinated with the concept (but who only has, at moment, five Jandek cds, none that new).  Anyway, I played first the 'Khartoum' version and then the 'Variations' versions of all songs through "Mountain." You know what?  Not only do I think these are amazing blues tracks, but they might be closer together in vintage than I thought.  Mostly it's his vocals.  The acoustic sound is closer to the early 90's stuff, yes, and that's what fooled me (maybe). But vocally the two albums are extraordinarily similar, with that same tortured "contemporary" voice we've grown accustomed to. 

Anyone else got an opinion on this?  I know many are waiting to get copies, but it's perplexing. Why the two different versions? Was it planned? This is interesting.  A few years back Ornette Coleman did a similar trick with a pair of albums, except each had a full song the other lacked whereas in this case one has an extra song and the other does not.

Again, the Variations pieces are largely longer but maybe that's the difference between his acoustic and electric playing?  My friend is a guitarist and was impressed at the playing, noting the inflections in place of standard notes and declaring that it is, indeed, a style uniquely its own.  Thinking back to watching him play in Austin (I REALLY wish the DVDs would come out, if indeed they're going to) everything seemed so deliberate, as in he'd developed and matured in a style that recreates the guitar into a microtonal instrument which is played by plucking the strings and moving the hands about rather than chording and note usage. The unique sound comes from the tuning, the rest is the emotional inflection from the player.  When you think about it, this is what Coleman was trying to do anyway - get it down to the emotion.  Listening to the albums back to back one song at a time really points out the variation (ha!) in his styles for acoustic and electric.

Conclusion: I think the 'Variations' is his way of showing how he approaches songs differently with different instruments. I think the albums may have been recorded concurrently.

I may, of course, change my mind again :)


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