[Jandek] Jandek vs. Jandek in Toronto

Thierry Bissonnette thierry.bissonnette.1 at ulaval.ca
Wed Sep 20 08:02:03 PDT 2006

Drove all the way from Montreal to see this 2 hours show, with no deception.
This narrative performance, midway between the spoken albums and the musical
ones, was as much cathartic and chamanistic as it was slow and meditative.

I was also destabilized by the first Korg notes, which sounded very
Residents-like, almost comical. But as with the "Freak show" or "Gingerbread
man" cycles from the latter, I then felt that this familiar, almost kitsch
sound suited perfectly  the story told, placing us in the border-line mental
environment of a troubled character. Beside that, the fact that the
representative mentioned a monastery made me wonder why all those monks
(take for instance Leonard Cohen) step out of reclusion riding on
magnificient keyboards...

And what a storyteller we had in front of us on Sunday! Calm, deep, molding
each word with a complete precision, he played not only on two keyboards,
but refined the double line of the self and the character, playing on our
reflex to hear his lyrics as autobiographical while opening the way to
metaphorical or fictional interpretation. But that game reached a metalevel
with this plot about self-destruction and molecular resurrection, the
disintegration/reconstruction of the self occurring in jandekian post-blues
taking a grip on that whole Holy Trinity theological psychodrama.

I am still slowly reacting to the show right now, but another feeling I had
was that the 30 years reclusion was almost necessary to be able to produce
such an event in the  "popular" music field. The stage  presence seemed
directly relied to this long absence.


Le 18/09/06 08:44, « Seth Tisue » <seth at tisue.net> a écrit :

> Someone announces that the show is being recorded, in both audio and
> video, for Corwood, so "no flash photography" please -- a relaxation of
> the usual no-photography-at-all policy?
> Jandek takes the stage in his usual garb, except his shirt's a lighter
> shade than usual.  He tests the mike over his keyboards with the tap of
> a finger; looks like we'll get some vocals tonight.  (After Finland, you
> never know.)
> We knew to expect the Korgs.  Smaller model above, full size below, just
> like at the Manhattan show.  Same backing instruments as Manhattan, too:
> electric guitar, double bass, drums.  The drums aren't assembled into a
> drumkit; they stand individually, forming a low semicircle around the
> drummer.  He's on the floor, no drumstool.  Glances are exchanged;
> everyone's ready.  It's dark out in the audience and the stage is bathed
> in blue light.  For a moment the room is silent.
> When the first notes from the keyboard ring out, my heart sinks.
> Jandek's chosen a setting for the lower keyboard that sounds like
> something you might hear on a new age CD you bought at the supermarket.
> It's dreadful.  I'm mollified when he starts playing the upper keyboard
> too and I hear the same somber church-organ tones we heard in Manhattan,
> a sound well suited for funereal blues or just for a funeral.  But that
> other keyboard sound remains a near-constant bummer for the next 90
> minutes despite my struggles to tune it out.
> The mix favors the vocals quite heavily; Jandek's voice seems to boom
> out of the speaker I'm in front of.  Even so, the band's arsenal of
> improviser's instrumental special effects is distracting during the
> vocal passages.  They sound much better during some somber, murky,
> intense all-instrumental sections, with the organ sound officiating.
> Perhaps you've heard Glasgow Monday, aka "The Cell".  At that 2005 show,
> Jandek introduced a new vocal style: half spoken, half sung, breathy,
> hushed.  In Manhattan last year, and again here tonight, he's adapted
> that style for use with louder backing music; still spoken/sung, but
> lower, more forcefully, changing to a wail or a moan here and there for
> emphasis.
> Musically it's the sequel to Manhattan, but lyrically it's like "The
> Cell".  He's even more direct now about recovering from an illness.  He
> mentions "the sickbed" several times, and describes his travails there.
> "Afraid to die/ Afraid to live... Chemicals/ I destroy myself and live/
> Unexpected revelation... Rising out of your own ruin... Germ warfare/
> kill or be killed/ Story of cellular survival... Something must live
> on...  He destroyed himself/ he continued anew."  Sounds like
> chemotherapy to me.
> Did you notice the switch from "I" to "he" in those lyrics, there?  He
> switches like that several more times and it puzzles me, but any doubt
> that "he" and "I" are the same person are erased when he sings, "He
> carried his art/ on his bones/ skin stretched over/ apparel hanging/
> stick of a man..."  But why the different pronouns?
> The division between "he" and "I" emerges as the dominant theme of the
> evening: "He sprawled about the bed at night/ waiting for the dawn/ At
> times I watched him/ Was he really me?...  He spoke, I listened/ He
> moved, I watched."  As this split emerges, "I" is determined to take
> charge: "I decided to make him/ do what I wanted/ I grew tired of the
> years of regret... The moment had simply arrived/ Bursting through all
> the blockades/ The whoosh of a torrent... I took responsibility/ He was
> mine..."
> "I" wants to take control of his own life by controlling "he", but
> "he" doesn't always fall in line.  "Why can't I just kill him?" asks
> "I".  "I crucify the thing he was/ I let him suffer/ He died for me"
> -- the double meaning here, referencing Christ, is unmistakable.
> (Later, too, there is a line comparing recovery from illness to rising
> from the dead.)
> In bed, our hero waxes metaphysical: "The sensation of mathematics/ His
> thoughts took on an abstract isolation/ They resembled geometric
> lines..."  But then, when he feels well enough, he returns to the
> everyday world: "I walked for hours/ navigating the city."  He sees
> people, buildings, cement, fire hydrants.  He witnesses "the march of
> sex."  "I" even complains that "He forgot me in the panorama."
> So, this was the third in Jandek's series of unified evening-length
> lyrical presentations, after "The Cell" and whatever the Manhattan suite
> was called ("Depression", perhaps).  I think he wanted to integrate and
> contrast the darkness of the latter with the hope and peacefulness of
> the former, all in a single work.  (And with dueling synth settings to
> match.)  Another intriguing set of lyrics, for sure.  I wonder if Jandek
> was making music during the period of illness and recovery that he
> describes...?
> In New York, the heavy downer night (Manhattan) was followed by a
> night of amped-up catharsis (Brooklyn, 1st set).  So that means I'm
> ready to rock out in Chicago this Wednesday.  Actually, I'm ready for
> anything.

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