Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plunging into more Jandek after his Big Star Bar blowout

After moving to a new place with my own mailbox I decided to finally solicit the mysterious Corwood Industries for my first fix of actual Jandek CDs. I've been back into Houston's man in black ever since his explosive April 1st electronic gig at Houston's Big Star Bar. He filled the room with stabs of sinister feedback, occasionally talking out mystical, lyrics about love and hate. I have high quality recordings of the first two songs. I promise I'll eventually post these for your listening pleasure.

A little background for those of you who have no idea who I'm talking about, Jandek is a Houston born outsider musician known for his dissonant guitar playing and more recently, his foree into post-modern free-jazz collaborations. He started making albums in the early 80s and has churned out over 50 albums since then, all distributed through the clandestine, Jandek-only, Houston record label Corwood Industries.

In order to get your hands on official, new, Jandek merch of any kind you have to send away via snail mail to p.o. box 15375, Houston Texas, 77220. The actual discography with prices of each item is posted on the hyper-minimalist label website. Recently, I sent away for four albums and about a week later they came in this inconspicuous brown paper package:
The albums that I got were as follows:

Khartoum (2005)
This one is extremely inaccessible for beginners. I've acquired the bizarre taste of Jandek so it wasn't that weird to me but this album is remarkably hard to approach in the sense that it is pure Jandek vocals plus rattling, jangling acoustic stabs. It doesn't even sound like there was any post-production. The lyrics are emotional and frightening, especially on songs like "I shot myself" but this one is hard to listen to all in one sitting. On many albums, Jandek breaks up his patterns by going back and forth between electric and acoustic, lyrics and no lyrics, accompaniment and no accompaniment. That brings me to the next album I ordered.

Chair Beside a Window (1982)
This early album does do a good job of providing an eclectic picture of Jandek and the different things he can do with his arcane style of music. On songs like "You think you know how to score" Jandek pairs his guitar with harmonica. "European Jewel" is a jagged but surprisingly tonal and satisfying electric number that sounds like it could have been an alternate take from the immortal "Sister Ray" sessions. The sound engineer left the booth during the recording of this 17 minute song, telling Lou Reed, "I don't have to listen to this". I wonder what he would have said to Jandek. Anyway, there also appears the unusual "Nancy Sings" which consists of a beautifully voiced uncredited female vocalist singing over Janky's quiet acoustic noodling. Fantastic release.

Manhattan Tuesday (2005)
This is a double live album recorded around the time of Jandek's re-emergence in the early 2000s. Jandek plays a Korg synth and gives cosmic sermons backed up by drums and electric guitar. This one is very atmospheric and a little less dissonant. It wouldn't be a bad beginning point for the very vanilla listener. Don't get me wrong, it's out-there in the sense that everything Jandek does is out-there, but it's still fairly accessible. No real song titles other than Part 1, 2, 3, etc. Very stream of consciousness.

Where do you go from here (2011)
Many of the critics who reviewed this one have dubbed it his "jazz record". There's lots of grand piano on this album played in a jazzy down tempo. Like "Manhattan. . ." there are no real track names but on the ninth track Jandek does some surprisingly normal and competent singing about the topic matter of the album's name. Spastic but musical drumming fills the backgrounds of these songs. Track two has a nice electric guitar jam. A very accessible and enjoyable album.

More reviews to come as I order more albums from Corwood. I strongly urge you all to do the same.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Delta Spirit 4/12 at Fitz: Study Guide

Delta Spirit started out their musical life as a quaint, folksy, Americana-laden, indie act. Most of the music off their first album (2006’s “Ode to Sunshine“) reminds me of Athens Georgia folk project Phosphorescent: heavy on lap-steel and country authenticity. However, over their next two albums they underwent a radical transformation.

On their sophomore LP “History from Below” they clung to their folk roots but embraced a slightly harder, more modern sound. This metamorphosis began to show on songs like “Bushwick Blues” where buzzing electric guitars and splashy reverb replaced soft folk crooning and acoustic jangling. Still, the mix was closer to 50/50 folk and modern rock.

As other critics have pointed out, their self-titled March release seems to be self-titled for a reason: acknowledging a kind of rebirth. “Tear it up” shows just how different the band sounds in 2012 with its quirky experimental percussion and growled Wolf Parade-like vocals. The music just sounds bigger, in general. More dramatic, more bold. The quaintness has largely evaporated and left in its place a spacey modern rock that somehow still retains warmth and familiarity.


Songs I hope they play but they probably won’t: “Trashcan”, “Strange Vine”

Sounds like: Lindsay Buckingham, Phosphorescent

You may also like: Cass McCombs, The War on Drugs, Dr. Dog

Songs they will definitely play: “California”, “Idaho”, “Parade”, “Timebomb”

Best album: “Delta Spirit”