[Jandek] The Ruins Of Adventure Review

Darin Mitchell susseddm at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 28 08:34:19 PDT 2007

From: http://www.tinymixtapes.com/Jandek,4185

Jandek The Ruins Of Adventure [Corwood Industries; 2007]

4/5 stars

Styles: freak-folk years and years before it became a buzz-word
Others: none

The first Jandek record I fell in love with was 1986’s Telegraph Melts. With 
that album, I discovered the cliché that every album by this super-recluse 
songwriter sounds the same is a somewhat lazy assessment. The stereotype of 
Jandek’s unvarying style began with the albums on which he gained initial 
cult reverence, such as Ready For The House and Six And Six: musty, morose, 
and outright discomforting confessionals delivered in an atonal near-song, 
while detuned chords splattered this basement troubadour’s creeping misery. 
And while much of Jandek’s work has worked on some variation of this 
disturbed valor, the psyched-out burst of Telegraph Melts, complete with 
female vocals and pounding drums, recalled the most mysterious pagan 
psych-punk album drugged up from some occultist’s record racks.

Although in a much more subtle and less cacophonous manner, this year’s The 
Ruins Of Adventure finds Jandek continuing to shuck his audience’s 
assumptions. On this album, we find Sterling Smith (as he is believed to be 
known) alone with a fretless bass, and the lack of the almost-melodic 
tinniness of his usual guitar makes for a more broad and confrontational 
record. Ruins feels warmer in its fidelity this time around as well; the 
damp, unrenovated oubliette one can picture acting as the studio for a 
record like Ready For The House has been traded for comparatively more 
professional pastures here. That’s not to say Ruins is any less intimate and 
personal. Like all Jandek albums, there’s little ego and zero artifice. As 
Jandek progresses over unrestrained figures on his bass and spouts his 
sub-beat proclamations, it elicits the same mystery and dissonance that has 
either endeared or aggravated those who have come across this subterranean 

Perhaps like most releases in his catalog, The Ruins Of Adventure, while 
uncommon on some levels, is still a very difficult album to discuss at 
length. It’s a laughable understatement to call Jandek’s output prolific 
(this album is number 49), and the stark minimalism and extremely despondent 
disposition of his work, both musically and lyrically, is rampant through 
each of his records, making much of his discography feel like compacted sets 
of similarly-themed, cohesive outbursts. Opener “The Park” sets out with its 
narrator’s creation of what seems a rather pleasant means of personal escape 
with his own park, but the shrouded and jarring pounds of the bass coupled 
with his bitter delivery, especially the lines “I’ll sit up straight and 
keep my mind on you/ You came and took control/ You’ll tell me what to do,” 
implicitly creates a dour and threatening aura. The familiar vindictive and 
belligerent persona is unsurprisingly explored again on “Bluff Brink” (“You 
create all your disabilities/ You feel good about your wasting away”), while 
“Completely Yours” details an abnormal obsession for a loved one that comes 
across as more destructive than compassionate (“Please don’t ignore me/ I’m 
your very best friend/ I’ll be here forever/ You can count on that”).

Because of Jandek’s glaring idiosyncrasies in both his vocal delivery (an 
atonal moan that seems to shift pitch without reason) and his approach to 
the bass (the usual conglomeration of appalling tones which feel like 
free-jazz gone misanthropic and sluggish), there’s a gut feeling of possible 
madness that’s either deceptively feigned or all too real. The 
next-to-nothing information on Jandek makes it nearly impossible to gauge 
whether or not there’s a discomforting freak-show notion at work, but with 
such an intimately perplexing persona setting itself so upfront in the 
music, it’s hard not to be naturally intrigued and continually fascinated. 
The Ruins Of Adventure can’t be recommended or even assessed in the same way 
the majority of albums we cross in our daily lives. Like all of Jandek’s 
albums, it’s a distressingly difficult, yet unequivocally unique listen, and 
there’s much more logic at work than the knee-jerk detractors would have you 
believe. Likewise, it’s an album that’s not necessarily an "essential" 
artifact, but one in which you will indulge should you let it enter your 

1. The Park
2. Bluff Brink
3. Completely Yours
4. Mysteries Of Existence
5. The Ruins Of Adventure

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