Jandek: Ready for the House/Brooklyn Wednesday
Jandek's vinyl reissues offer a reassessment of this difficult artist's history.
For the uninitiated, Jandek’s debut LP, Ready for the House (reissued on high-quality vinyl to greet the recent turntable resurgence) may at first seem a bit puzzling. Much of the record involves a solo artist strumming a single, cacophonously out-of-tune chord on an acoustic guitar, singing in a keening manner. If one gets past the initial challenges posed by the surface, there is a lot going on. One can hear analogies between Jandek’s ‘mis-tuned’ guitar and some of the microtonality found in acoustic Delta blues by artists such as Robert Johnson and Leadbelly. On the other hand, its slowly but constantly shifting arpeggiated deployment recalls the abstract expressionist musical structures of Feldman and Wolff; composers who reduced the number of materials in operation at any given moment, but made myriad minor shifts; allowing listeners’ perception of these reduced means to evolve over the course of the work.
Fast forward ahead nearly thirty years. Jandek has made over fifty recordings, becoming a cult legend with an ardent underground following. Brooklyn Wednesday captures a 2005 live event on two DVDs, and we see a fleshed-out version of Ready for the House’s initial concept. It’s worth noting that this is just one year after the end of a decade-long self-imposed exile from live performing and most collaboration. Backed by a youthful rhythm section (bassist Matt Heyner and drummer Chris Corsano), the artist plays brash electric guitar, accompanying fragile, evocative vocals. Here, the microtonal tunings and concomitant singing ‘between the cracks,’ and the pungent, slowly evolving harmonies, are set against a lively, free rhythmic underpinning. Thus, it resonates with the No-Wave/noise rock aesthetic; all the while presenting a more uncompromising performance demeanor. More hermetic perhaps than Glenn Branca or SY, Jandek is a fascinating, singular presence in ‘outer limits’ music-making.