Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Listen: Jandek, What Was Out There Disappeared

What could get me to break my blog silence? How about the 61st album from Texas enigma Jandek?

Here's what's interesting. Jandek's music sounds like no other music on the planet, so you'd think it would be endlessly fascinating. In the '80s and '90s, there was a supple malleability to his improvised insanity. Would he have other musicians playing with him, or would he be alone, plucking that tuneless guitar like the world's most abandoned soul? Would he bang on a piano for 15 wordless minutes? Or would he release an hour-long a cappella record, with nothing but his poorly-recorded speaking voice? You never knew.

But while Jandek's live albums since 2004 have kept that sense of unpredictability, his studio albums have been surprisingly formulaic. What Was Out There Disappeared is yet another solo acoustic guitar and vocals album. Once again the guitar spits out an otherworldly, dissonant melange of notes. Once again Jandek moans atonally about how lonely and depressed he is. Occasionally there is harmonica. This is the only thing separating this album from the two before it.

Listening to this, I find myself wondering why he makes these studio documents. The live records burst with imagination, even if they too contain the teeth-grinding ugliness of just about all of Jandek's work. The studio albums are starting to sound rote, however. There's nothing on What Was Out There that Jandek didn't already do on 2002's I Threw You Away, 29 albums ago.

As always, Jandek is only recommended for the hardiest (or foolhardiest) listener. For more info, check out Seth Tisue's site.

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