Friday, April 16, 2010

First Listen: Jandek, Bristol Wednesday

For a couple of years now, I've made it a habit of annoying the fine folks at my local record store with each new Jandek release. I'll bring it in, and somehow convince the staff to give it a spin in the store, customers be damned.

When Bristol Wednesday hit, I followed tradition, intriguing young Kevin enough to get him to play it. And when the 24-minute first track, "Only Twenty-Two," started up with a shudder and roar, Kevin listened for a bit, then dismissed it, saying, "Same old Jandek."

I found that very interesting. Putting aside the fact that there is no one else on earth playing music like this, I suppose I've been listening to Jandek long enough that the slight variations between albums sound like massive tonal shifts to me. I definitely prefer the live albums to the studio ones - his solo acoustic guitar stuff is in a rut, I think - but Bristol Wednesday, to me, is a very different kettle of fish.

This two-disc album documents a show at Cube Cinema in Bristol in May 2006. The Representative from Corwood plays electric guitar, and he's joined by second guitarist Mick Flower and drummer Chris Corsano. The songs are all very long - the shortest is 9:05 - and the whole thing runs two and a half hours. But it's in these extended grooves that Jandek's evolution can be heard, I think.

True, his playing still sounds dissonant and random, but I think he's learning to listen to his collaborators, and create beautiful noise in tandem. The sound of the first disc is massive and chaotic, Jandek moaning over the din, but after a while, the three players really find a groove. The 19-minute "More Than I Was" really shows this, I think.

The second disc (set two) finds Flower switching to a shahi baaja, a form of Indian zither. It makes a high-pitched, ambient sound, and the tone of the show shifts accordingly - disc two is slower and moodier, if no less random. Finale "The Lesson" is kind of pretty, in fact. Far from being the same old same old, I think this record shows Jandek growing as a live performer, learning how to interact with other musicians without compromising the ugly beauty he creates.

As usual, Jandek music is not for everyone. But once again, he's released an album unlike any other I own. One day this story will end, and although I was skeptical of the man's musical motives at first, now I think the world will definitely have lost something unique. Learn more at Seth Tisue's Jandek site.

1 comment:

  1. Still haven't heard this one yet but I agree with you in a general sense - love or loathe, the Rep is now impossible to dismiss as self-indulgent novelty and is becoming genuinely important outside of the old fanboy circles (which continue to include myself :P).

    Good writing.