[Jandek] Review of Victoria Wednesday

B M bmor_28 at hotmail.com
Wed Feb 10 23:18:44 PST 2010

Victoria Wednesday with Jandek


An eclectic group of newcomers and
the initiated huddled together in the bleakness of a Westcoast December night,
outside the humble Victoria Events Center, and even those most familiar with outsider
music legend Jandek, one of the most intriguing myths in modern rock music,
could not be prepared for the show that awaited them inside.  Up the wooden stairs and inside the cozy
venue a young duo, Victoria’s Forms, opened the haunting and memorable night by
demonstrating their remarkable talent with powerful jazz rhythms.  Their dramatic jam session on drums, piano
and guitar had an air of impromptu D.I.Y. attitude that only hinted at the
musical force to come.          

For the unfamiliar Jandek is the
musical project helmed by “The Representative from Corwood Industries”, a
mysterious recluse from Houston who has self-produced over 60 albums in the
past 30 years.  There is only one
confirmed interview with the Corwood Rep on record and the only way to acquire
Jandek records is through a lonesome post-office box in Texas.  Ask him a question, other than “When are you
playing here or there?” or “How much are records?” and he’ll simply reply that
“We prefer not to comment on career or anything”, signing his letter’s in eerie
chicken-scratch: “Corwood”.  It seems
that Jandek operates under the credo that some things are better left to the
audience’s imagination.  Perhaps we would
be disappointed if we knew the truth behind Jandek’s thousands of cryptic,
sometimes personal, and often bizarre lyrics. 
Indeed, there are many fans who have left a Jandek show disappointed,
since the Corwood Representative began performing live sporadically since 2004,
that their ghostly bluesman companion’s aura of mystery has been shattered upon
perceiving his creative process in person. 
I too feared that having witnessed a live Jandek show I would be
disappointed, perhaps he would be unable to live up to my own expectations.

This was not the case in
Victoria.  I left the venue more in awe
of Corwood’s honesty and musical vision than I have ever felt from an
artist.  From the moment Corwood
sauntered on stage dressed entirely in black, looking gaunt and austere just as
his records suggest, clasping a thick sable notebook (containing lyrics
scrawled in that same hand familiar to me from correspondence) we were
mesmerized.  These bizarre and sometimes
frightening lyrics seemed like the only map for performers thrown onto a sea,
churning and pulsing from their own musical convulsions, as everyone on the
stage seemed intensely focused.  The
double-bass player, drummer and especially the Corwood Rep himself, never
gestured, looked at one another or even acknowledged the audience. Corwood
would look up from his lyrics and guitar, only with eyes tightly shut, to hold
a note or exaggerate a sound.  One of the
biggest joys of seeing a Jandek performance live is the chance to observe
musicians so focused and determined that their music seems to morph into
different shades of harmony and discord, without so much as a nod of acknowledgment
between players.  A pleasant break in the
austerity of the band’s appearance came from the smile that occasionally broke
across the face of the double-bassist, undoubtedly proud of the work that was
transpiring across the stage.

knitting between strings, weaving chords, eyes fixated on the page before him,
Corwood moaned: “A half-hour lasted too long… The intolerable waiting for
something to arrive on the agenda of doing.” 
Jandek’s lyrics are bleak, and speak to something hidden deep in the
depths of the subconscious.  For
instance, I feel a profound sense of disorientation and loss, almost
disassociation, upon hearing him wail: “There was a time when that was me, I
don’t know when.”  At other times, the
meaning is blatantly obvious.  For when
he cries out:  “She’s got the body, she’s
got the mind.”  I know that feeling.  Even here, the ultimate feeling is one of
longing, and of loss.  Jandek is
cryptic.  I suspect that there are as
many different interpretations as there are fans, but if I had to reduce
everything, all the possible meanings, and all the conflicting emotions, to one
word, it would be “loss.”

this concert closely resembles a jazz jam session.  The bassist, David Chokroun, specializes in,
among other things, jazz improvisation. 
He sporadically grinned while playing, and his fingers danced up and
down the bass as he somehow kept amazingly synchronized with the
Representative.  The drummer, Jeremy Van
Wyck, laid down some sharp and precise beats, while adding his own unsettling
touch, for instance, by circling the tips of the drumsticks around a cymbal,
creating an eerie creaking effect. 
Around the 9th song, everything changed, with each song
remarkably distinct from the last, and experimenting with different styles,
instrumentation, and moods.  In the 9th
song, the Representative began to use a metal cylinder near the bridge of his
guitar, which lent his playing an echoing, whistling, and almost dolphin-like
character.  He also changed his singing
voice, which became deeper, and more resonant, and more traditional in pitch,
crooning things like “I stretched all the limits until I didn’t know who I
was.”  In the 10th song, he
played the harmonica, with a very slight feedback, while the drummer rapidly
clicked the drumsticks across the set (I don’t quite know how).  The 11th song was much more upbeat
than Jandek tends to be.  The lyrics
including: “If you think you’re going up, you’re going down” and the repetition
of the word “Nederlands,” which altogether could variously be interpreted as a
reminiscence of a trip to Europe, a sexual experience, or meanderings on the
deep and hidden aspects of human nature. 
The 12th, and final song, concluded with a rhythmic
instrumental jam, infused with a steady, stirring, almost tribal drum beat.  Then it was over.

            The drummer
and bassist left the stage, as the Representative folded up his lyrics book,
undid his black guitar sling, and carefully packed everything up.  Then he walked off the stage, without so much
as looking at the audience, who applauded until he disappeared from sight.



Kenneth Dodge

Alfred Brock



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