Sunday, 26 October 2008

Corwood 0789 - Jandek: "Brooklyn Wednesday" (Set 1)

Collected on 4-disc CD box set and 2-disc DVD, "Brooklyn Wednesday" is a document of the sixth live performance credited to the Representative from Corwood Industries.

Recorded on September 7 2005, the show was split into two sets, with the Representative on guitar for the first set and fretless guitar for the second, backed during both performances by Matt Heyner on bass and Chris Corsano on drums.

(Please note that this review will deal only with the first set, with the second set to follow as a separate post, as both are very rich in content and equally worthy of comment.)

The first set begins with the brilliant "Put Me There", an initially sedate track, with running bass, trebly leads and jazz-rock drums building into a crescendo of fills and strummed dissonance; "I wish I was in a one room house / no doors no windows / food passed through a slot... I wish I was in jail / please put me there". The repeated Jandekian theme of a desire to shut out the world seems to be present here again, with doors and windows representing the outside world and possibly threats to his privacy and/or solitude. The interesting thing about this piece is that, unlike previous pieces in his catalogue which use the door metaphor, a jail is a place of restraint, and the one-room house the writer desires has no way for him to leave, even if he wants to. This could possibly represent a struggle within the writer himself; he wants to go out into the world, but when he does he often regrets it and finds himself in a lonelier and more isolated situation than before. "I don't wanna go / I don't wanna stay" he tells us, indicating this very struggle.

The next piece is entitled "Destroy the Day" and is a much more down-beat track; "I go to sleep at night / Not knowing who I am" the narrator tells us. The piece seems to make reference to higher states of consciousness speaking of being "Illumined by the dance / and the red river late afternoon / where I lose reality". The piece goes on to describe a faith in another reality other than the one we know; "down amongst the dust that gathers on the floor / I'll cling to my illusion / that there's more than one floor". Dust here could be taken to represent death and the constant decay of our bodies over time, with skin being shed and making up dust. The hope that there's "more than one floor" could make reference to the writer's hope that a Heaven or another spiritual reality exists, while faced with the constant threat of decay and death. Despite this, however, the use of the word "illusion" seems to suggest that although he feels that another reality could exist, this is merely a delusion and a distraction. The song concludes with the somewhat nihilistic note; "You can search for salvation / You can take it like it is / And agree you have been saved / Whatever you say / It's just another way to destroy the day".

Following on from this is the much more blues-based "Obscure Physics". The piece starts off with the players sounding jumbled and free, before joining together in a cool, loose groove. The song discusses a focused songwriting process; "I observe obscure physics when I do what I do / I use all the things I found out and I draw my attention to them"; but the focus has been broken by someone who has left the writer's life; "but that night you left me / I can hardly see it go". The narrator tells us that he has "got a bottle / and a gambler's heart" but that he'd "rather watch [the subject's] spirit / than go rolling in the city". He admits that the relationship is "dead and its over", but that he's "loving her still"and concludes with the line "hey baby, I love you and I always do".

"Structure of Words" seems to have an almost funk-like feel to it at its inception, before moving into the barked, garage-punk repetition of the verses; "I taught / the structure of thought / I taught the structure of words / The structure of thought / The structure of words". The distorted bass played by Matt Heyner is particularly impressive on this piece, running wildly yet never feeling out-of-place. The images in this piece seem to be about creating a new reality; building oceans, working with iron, and making the future, "now, now, now".

The next piece, "All I want", is a sedate piece with understated drums, lyrics and a laid back arrangement, with images that wouldn't seem out-of-place on "Six and Six"; "All I want to do is drink wine and watch the sun go down / Let my thoughts go where they will / Wander down with the sun". The writer seems to be at his most comfortable by twilight, but "when [the sun] comes up [he gets] more serious". However, he doesn't want to think about tomorrow. He describes a walk down the avenue and back as the sun goes down, thinking of someone departed, before returning to what he describes as "the blank stare wanderlust, where the wind takes the tree leaves". The duality of the man is clearly seen here, as in this song, the 'outside', the journey to wherever the wind takes him, as well as the escape from where he currently is, is seen as important and desired, in stark contrast to the one-room house of "Put Me There".

The stand-out track from this set is the penultimate song, "I'll Send A Thought Out Floating", a melancholy piece about things that should have been said but never were. The piece describes a lost love, the letters never sent and the songs never sung; "The poetry I sent you is a small thing / Compared to what I didn't send / The sealed envelopes / Stamped upon / Sitting still in the drawer". The orchestration is minimal with short, tragic strums, melodic bass stabs and subdued percussion accompanying the narrator's vocals at their most tender. "The flame just got put out in the rain", he tells us.

The writing on display during this set can be seen to be very strong, and the chemistry between the players incredible. All three musicians bring their personalities to the table, resulting in the diverse brew evident here and (even more prominently) on the second set.

The DVD edition of this release is in my view the best of the Corwood DVD's so far in terms of quality and clarity, with 3 camera angles available on every song collected here. The setting is intimate, with the players standing no more than two metres away from each other, giving the impression that the viewer is spying on this spontaneous and wild (yet tense and focused) jam session only; an impression only briefly broken by the audience's applause.

"Brooklyn Wednesday" is one of Corwood's most diverse live releases to date, and both formats come highly recommended. Both of the sets performed are impressive in their content and delivery, but the second set truly has to be heard (and then seen) to be believed. A full review of this will follow in a future post.

"Brooklyn Wednesday" is available for purchase on 4-CD box set and 2-disc DVD from Corwood Industries, P.O. Box 15375, Houston TX 77220.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Corwood 0790 - Jandek: "The Myth of Blue Icicles"

The latest studio release from Corwood Industries, "The Myth of Blue Icicles" sees Jandek making a return to his traditional heartland of twisted solo acoustic guitar accompanying vocals that swing from what seem to be very personal, diary-like narratives to image-laden, death dream prose.

The album begins with the astounding "Too Course" (sic), a regretful piece where the writer vividly recounts his first meeting with an unidentified person three years ago. "I'm sorry - I must have appeared too coarse and unrefined", he tells us wistfully. The narrator speaks directly to the song's subject, who we can assume was equally nervous during this first coy meeting; "Your eyes said hello to me /and a whole lot of things came out of you". Despite these initial uncertainties in the relationship, the writer tells us that the subject "had some endurance, and so did [he]". It seems from the narration that despite this, the subject has since drifted out of the narrator's life without getting to know him to the extent the narrator would have liked. The narrator from this point on describes a more guarded approach to the relationship, noting with sad, world-weariness; "I have decided to only respond the way I want / Too many times". The oft-commented upon Jandekian metaphor of the closed door is used again in this piece to represent a retreat from the world (as it had been in "Number 14" from "Staring at the Cellophane" and "No Slow Ones" from "Telegraph Melts"); "Sometimes I don't open the door / Too many times / But I look out the window / Maybe I'll see you there".

The album's title track "Blue Icicles" is another brilliant and deeply personal piece, that seems almost defiant in places. "Well its my birthday and I'm here to stay" the writer tells us over a choppy sea of chaotic and impassioned guitar; and "I'm not going back to any other year". This comment seems to vehemently assert Corwood's intention to go forward, not back. "There's only two ways to go / Come or stay", the narrator tells the listener, making it clear that the journey is far from over, and that Jandek is "not done yet / the best is yet to come". The narrator tells us that he will "bend his body" and "bend his will", to complete a "new song", that we can assume represents the continuation of his art. The piece goes on to veer into surreal poetry asking the subject to surrender their spirit, describing a death and re-birth cycle with both author and subject travelling as one person - a very interesting take on the unique symbiotic relationship that an artist like this has with their audience, symbolised by the elemental images of fire and ice in this piece.

The next track "The Daze" is a vivid description of a psychedelic dream, seeming to describe as much the mechanics of the dream process as the images and visions; "I watched pictures in the night / I saw images of the day / My body went through the motions / at least it seemed that way". The narrator describes colours, feelings and loosely connected images, with time melting like ice around him; the whole dream having a vague "semblance to the waking hours", although "from somewhere far away".

The final track "There's no door" once again uses the door metaphor discussed earlier in this review; "Open the door / space - no bottom, no top / no right, no left, no direct behind". The vocal in this opening line seems to be filled with dread, with the outside world being filled with very little that the narrator can relate to, although he tells us (possibly paraphrasing words spoken to him in the past); "Go forth and take that step and leave what you know / To what you don’t know / Can never know". The images in this piece seem to show a real sadness in the writer, suggesting that by letting his emotional guard down the narrator has fallen into a void that he cannot get out of. "Energy propels and the void carries you because you opened the door / And walked right in / dropped off a cliff and can't stop falling".

"The Myth of Blue Icicles" is an excellent piece of writing and improvisational poetry, with acoustic guitars that shift from cacophony to blues-influenced playing throughout. The lyrical content of this album is phenomenal, dark and considered; psychedelic, vivid and improvised all at once. The personal nature of much of this writing will endear the album to the majority of Corwood listeners, who thrive on the uncut and untouched emotion of these releases. Contrary to popular belief, the door is most definitely open and, like the record says, the best part's yet to come.

"The Myth of Blue Icicles" is available for purchase from Corwood Industries, P.O. Box 15375, Houston TX 77220.