Friday, January 15, 2010

First Listen: Jandek, Camber Sands Sunday

Before leaving 2009 behind, the Texas troubadour known as Jandek dropped his sixth album of the year. The score is two studio records and four live documents, for those keeping track at home, and with this release, Jandek has made 62 albums. Sixty. Two.

It's no secret I've been enjoying the live albums more than the studio ones lately. On the road, Jandek is endlessly inventive, fitting his random-sounding dissonance into a surprisingly wide variety of contexts, whereas in the studio, he just seems to strum aimlessly on an acoustic guitar and moan. The studio records have their charms, but I'd like to hear the Rep from Corwood shake things up a little more.

On stage, though, he always delivers. Camber Sands Sunday even has me feeling a little nostalgic - it's the last recorded document of his original trio, with bassist Richard Youngs and drummer Alex Nielson. They've made five live albums together now, and each one sounds different from the last. Camber, recorded in May of 2006, is their loudest and most abrasive, and is most reminiscent of Glasgow Friday. (The Jandek Trio played together one more time, four days later, but I understand that show wasn't recorded.)

I initially said this record sounds like a garbage truck running over a hundred squirrels, and I stand by that. While Youngs and Nielson lay down an absolutely bone-rattling rhythm section on opener "Pragmatic," the Rep himself plays squealing high notes on electric guitar. This cacophony goes on for much of the song's 11 minutes. While some of the record slows down after that, the basic aggressive sound remains - this is an ugly album, but a deliberately ugly one, and it fits Jandek's typically depressing lyrics. The word "punishing" doesn't seem to do it justice.

As with most things Jandek, I wouldn't recommend this for any but the most hardy of listeners. It's said that even Jandek's most ardent fans can't listen to two of his albums back to back. I'm not sure what it says about me, then, that I've come to enjoy the live albums immensely - not necessarily as music, but as experiences. Jandek remains the weirdest musician I've ever come across, and even 62 albums in, he keeps on surprising me. For more info, log onto Seth Tisue's site.

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