Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Corwood 0792 - Jandek: "Glasgow Sunday 2005"

Recorded live on October 16 2005 as part of the Instal music festival, "Glasgow Sunday 2005" is the latest release from Corwood Industries, and can be seen to be a considerable departure from recent live performances and releases.

The album features only two tracks; the three-part dystopian narrative, "The Grassy Knoll" and the spaced-out psych garage freakout, "Tribal Ether". Both tracks weigh in at around 25 minutes each and are as captivating as any work released on the Corwood label.

The first of these, "The Grassy Knoll" has Loren Connors performing calm-before-the-storm guitars while the representative from Corwood recites an eloquent spoken word and sung piece of apocalyptic prose. Each verse is separated by a section of harmonica played by Jandek.

"We all took the invitation to experience some new ideas," the representative intones, describing himself and thousands more being led to an estate with a mansion, nestling amongst grassy hills. The assembled group are taken into the mansion and put into separate rooms waiting for "the enlightenment to follow".

The piece describes the visitors as coming of their own free will, attending lectures and seminars, while their hosts provided "instruction, pointing on charts to words and concepts". The narrator tells us, however, that he soon realised that this mansion was not all it seemed to be; that their hosts' words were full of falsity, and that the invitation had been a trap, set to enslave their minds and bodies.

The control the hosts have over the new recruits seems to increase as the song progresses, from coercion, to mind control and then finally to physical restraint - "the hosts of our gathering now became the keepers of our bodies". The narrator describes watching as others lost their souls and minds to the forces of the place while he tried in vain to warn them and plan escape. These attempts have been met with indifference while the hosts' "congregations [tried] to convince we visitors that they were special". The narrator, however, has not been fooled and has "remained steadfast" and has not become a part of "the plan".

Throughout the piece, the Corwood representative's vocal cuts across Loren Connors' dreamlike guitar soundscapes with jarring nightmarish images, haunting harmonica and increasingly chaotic vocals. As the piece progresses, Connors' guitar interplays with this, becoming increasingly threatening, as if Connors is setting the scene, establishing this seemingly perfect world while Jandek is the only one who can see it for the malevolent force it is.

The piece goes on to describe what seems to be a sexual aspect to the group in charge of this mansion, with the narrator telling us that "all the girls in the room were trying to love me/They couldn't understand how I could just say no".

Who the group is, or what they represent is never made explicit to the listener throughout the song, although a few possible clues can be found in the lyrics. The use of words like "congregations" as well as the Biblical parallels of the house with many rooms seem to suggest that this may be a quasi-religious group of some sort, with their leader identified as being "some kind of god-man". The descriptions of lectures and seminars also bring to mind educational institutions, and the piece could be commenting on these as a means of social control. In addition, it can be noted that the phrase "grassy knoll" has very particular political overtones, and whether the title is meant to reference to this is not known.

The third verse of the piece takes on a completely different narrative style, almost reminiscent of a sorrowful flashback, describing a friend or relative's heart attack at a seminar and the subsequent journey to the hospital, with the narrator attempting to assure and comfort him. This very disturbing third verse is for the most part sang in sad dissonance, with the final harmonica solo sounding all the more tragic and chaotic.

The second track "Tribal Ether" is very well described by its title, with the representative from Corwood moving onto elemental, tribe-like drums, while Alan Licht and Heather Leigh-Murray conjure up ethereal guitars, pedal steels and haunting, wordless vocals.

This album can be seen to be one of the most distinctive records in the already very diverse Corwood catalogue, and is certainly amongst the most impressive of the live albums. Its dark, haunting images and clashing instrumentation show a side of Jandek that we have not seen before, and is illuminating for anyone with an interest in this most unique of artists.

"Glasgow Sunday 2005" is available for purchase from Corwood Industries, P.O. Box 15375, Houston TX 77220.

1 comment:

26 said...

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