Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SHOW REVIEW: Jandek, Houston, 3/10

Sunday night's show should have just been billed as "Maze of the Phantom, class of 2012 reunion". If you haven't listened to the 2012 Jandek studio album of the same name, this will mean very little to you. However, if you, like me, purchased a copy of "Maze. . .", you will be able to recollect the very specific type of music played. For those of you who need to play some catchup (or think you know Jandek), click on the link above for a chunk of the Maze.

Sterling gathered all of the musians that patricipated in this album, under one beautiful roof (St. Paul's Methodist Church, in downtown Houston), and led a series of ad hoc pieces that could all have easily been alternate takes for Maze, albiet with the added treat of the church's cavernous reverberation. It was not a recital of Maze, but rather another stab at spontaneous collaboration, using all the mostly the same intstruments and all the same musicians. The only true difference between the original album and this live reinterpretation, was the fact that the representative from Corwood was propped up by a grand piano, rather than synth keyboard. 

The music of each player was a visual and sonic treat. Percussion was provided by James Metcalf, who was stationed behind an unconventional drum kit composed of various bells, woodblocks and more. Isabelle Ganz provided heavenly operatic vocalizations mixed with some entertainingly unusual, not-so-operatic vocalizations. Eric Avinger played flute and an electric guitar filtered, through, among many other effects, a volume pedal (think of some delicate Steve Howe work here) and some modulation pedals. The billing listed Eric's slot as "space guitar", which sounds odd, but, while it's hard to explain, if you listened Sunday night, it would not seem appropriate to list his contributions as merely "guitar." May Deyer played cello and sporadic harp accompaniment was supplied by an unnamed woman, who was not announced on the bill.

It was a magical collaboration that, while, to the vanilla ear, probably bordered on bizarre at times, was surprisingly melodic and majestic. Sterling did not leap to the fore too often but he had his moments. His work on the piano was far more subdued and melodic than what most people are probably used to hearing when guitar-hero Jandek (as I like to describe this persona) shows up.

Even though I love to hear Sterling sing, chant, -do spoken word stuff- and wish he had chipped in a few pieces of wisdom, this show was mindblowing and will sound great once pressed by Corwood. Judging by the normal rate of Jandek's live album output, it will be available for purchase in about 2018.

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