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.


Danen said...

It's actually a fretless GUITAR,not bass, on the second set. I saw him play the same instrument in Indianapolis - cool stuff.

the corwood review said...

I thought as much, but I didn't believe such a thing existed! Assumed it must have been a baritone bass to get that sort of sound.

26 said...

I highly enjoyed this release! The first track "put me there" is one of my favorites

the canadian noise group "nihilist spasm band" has been building their own fretless guitar-ish instruments for years, they are fantastic!