ponedjeljak, 24. veljače 2014.

Jandek - Where Do You Go From Here (2011)

Tajanstveni "čovjek" objavio je više od 40 a manje od 80 albuma, no najzanimljivija konspiracijska teorija tvrdi da ih je sve snimio istovremeno i da je već odavno mrtav. Čovjek koji uživo izvodi njegove čudačke, autsajderske folk/blues pjesme zapravo uopće nije on, nego netko drugi istoga imena i tijela.


Is this the 67th album from Jandek (if you count the cd and dvd releases separately)?  Whatever it is, Jandek’s body of work continues to surprise and delight. As I’ve said previously, it’s surprising how little coverage the Jandek releases of the last two years have been getting, particularly the studio releases. However, that’s the problem of others; I’ve been enjoying the journey.
The last few studio albums have been guitar and voice oriented, but this one has a very different feel. Piano and drums are the major instruments, with interesting textures created by the additional instruments listed above. I’d say there are three different musicians here, although it could vary on some tracks (assuming Jandek is not overdubbing himself). The first track sets the tone by sounding like a quieter minute excerpted from an early 70s free jazz album (maybe, a quieter sequence on the Strata-East album by Pharoah Sanders). This is a slow-burn of an album, atmospheric, pulling in the listener gradually. As in a number of Jandek albums, there is a relatively insistent and consistent overall thematic focus to the lyrics, here even clearer because of the limited number of vocals. It’s about stopping to define one’s way, one’s quest, and in a way, that’s what this album is doing. The percolating  fourteen minute jam at the end, with guitar and drums and melodica (???), is the closest to “traditional” Jandek music for longtime listeners to the studio albums, but putting this long track at the end was a wise programming decision, as it anchors the album—which has previously consisted of shorter tracks with varying instrumentation—and heads out of town into the desert, and leads the listener to hit the “repeat” button and take this journey once again. Contemplative music that does not raise its voice, free-music with a comfortable lived-in quality, atmospheric music that’s a soundtrack to the visuals in one’s mind…order yours today.
I’ve enjoyed the recent guitar-and-voice solo albums, but I think this unexpected entry in the Jandek catalog will find a lot of interested listeners and will, I hope, inspire further investigation of recent overlooked albums. -  kendrasteinereditions.wordpress.com/
As enigmatic as Jandek is, he’s always been the type of artist whose work I prefer to observe rather than immerse myself in. I’m always curious what he’s been up to over the years, and I’m glad I got to see him perform live, but I don’t usually find myself returning to his albums. So I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m really enjoying Where Do You Go From Here and have been returning to it quite often.
Instead of titles, the 12 tracks on this album are all listed as “Part 1″ and so on, giving the impression that the album is meant as a song cycle. Some of his live albums have been presented as such, and while this album isn’t credited as a live performance, it feels more like live Jandek than studio Jandek. I’m guessing he recorded one of his live bands in a studio, but with no liner note information as usual, there’s no way of knowing. But even if this is meant as some sort of song cycle, it’s not just one long continuous recording divided into individual tracks as an afterthought; all 12 tracks start and end and are separated by a few seconds of silence. And except for the last part, which tops 14 minutes, they’re mostly pretty brief, ranging from a minute and a half to over 5 minutes.
Musically, my first thought was that this was Jandek’s jazz album. The downbeat drum rhythm and piano on the first track sure seem to suggest so, along with some wailing harmonica. The second track features distant windchimes, wistful flute and some distant-sounding percussion accenting the mood when necessary. It sounds like you can hear someones chair creaking as they’re playing. It’s just so intimate and beautiful sounding that I’m at a loss for words. The third track is a little bit closer to the rambling confusion we’re used to from Jandek, and the fourth one is too, especially as it’s the first track on the album where Jandek sings. When he does, the only words that come out of his mouth are “make up your mind, decide”. He sings on the next track too, but it’s another pretty, creaky piano and distant drum piece. He basically sings the same words as the previous track, and in all honesty, his vocals actually sound as pretty as the music here. Never thought I’d describe Jandek’s music or singing as pretty, but here you go. The album continues its cycle, with 7 being a shaggy, rambling jam session, 9 being another typically Jandekian creeper with harmonica and more vocals about deciding, and then 10 is another unexpectedly pretty song with Jandek singing the album’s title over more piano and distant drums. And then the final track lets everything out in a 14 minute jam.
Whenever I review Jandek albums for the radio station (and believe me, WCBN is in possession of nearly the entire discography), I always award the albums a rating of “Jandek stars out of Jandek”, because there really is no way to gauge what he’s doing in relation to anyone else’s standards. This album is no different, it’s still Jandek, and it still sounds unmistakeably like Jandek, but it’s the most surprised I’ve ever been by his recordings, and definitely the most I’ve enjoyed them as well. - Paul Simpson


Glasgow Sunday (2006)

The mysterious and enigmatic Jandek; after releasing over 40 albums, nobody really knew whether he actually existed. Rumours were flying around that he had died in the late 70s and the cds had all been recorded simultaneously, others said he was in prison hence his unwillingness to do interviews, speak to anyone or even play a live show. A documentary was made entitled ‘Jandek on Corwood’ detailing this story beautifully and playing into the mystique, hinting at all sorts of conspiracy theories. Then, suddenly rumours began to fly that he had played live, photos appeared, bootleg recordings surfaced – Jandek was out of his shell! ‘Glasgow Sunday’ is a soundboard recording of the legendary live show at Instal festival in Glasgow, where he appeared totally unannounced and unbilled with British improv legends Alex Neilsen and Richard Youngs (JagJaguwar). Since then he has played a handful of other shows; yet this is where it all began and remains the most powerful. If you haven’t heard Jandek’s outsider blues/folk stylings before don’t be afraid – this is unusual music of the highest order and ‘Glasgow Sunday’ is a perfect place to start. The added backbone of Youngs and Neilsen gives the album something to latch onto for those untrained on the wailing meanderings of Jandek’s previous albums which makes it a good primer cd for interested music fans. Utterly spellbinding and totally unique, Jandek is out on his own and we thank him for it... - boomkat

Mystery man: The Jandek story

by Douglas Wolk

The longest-running, weirdest, loneliest enigma in popular music is a guy from Texas who calls himself Jandek. His album The Beginning has just been released on the Corwood Industries label (Box 15375, Houston, Texas 77220), which has put out all 28 of his albums and nothing else that anyone knows of. It's been accompanied by a reissue of his very first album, Ready for the House, which originally came out in 1978 and was credited to the Units. (He's the only musician on it; all subsequent albums, and the reissue, are billed as Jandek.)
Jandek has never performed in public. He has never willingly given an interview, though a reporter from Texas Monthly tracked him down a few months ago (they chatted about allergies and gardening, and he politely told her that he never wanted to be contacted in person about Jandek by anybody again). All his albums have a fuzzy photograph on the front cover, of a man or part of a house or some curtains. The back covers have his name, the album title, the track titles and times, and Corwood's address, all typeset in the same nondescript font -- except for 1991's One Foot in the North, which uses a sort of Chinese-restaurant font. That's it: that's all anyone knows. And what does his music sound like? Like pure desolation. Jandek is not just solo but profoundly alone on most of his recordings, picking distractedly at a guitar tuned to no particular notes, moaning in no particular key about thinking and love and wandering around and staying in the same place and God. Beyond that, there's just emptiness -- each off-key ping floats out separately into black space. Sometimes Jandek sounds as if he'd internalized the grimmest death-letter blues of the '20s and is pulling them back out of himself, thoroughly dismembered, hair by hair. His songs have no choruses, no hooks, no melodies, no rhythms, no internal progression, nothing but the inexorable Chinese-water-torture plod of Samuel Beckett's The Unnameable: "I can't go on, I'll go on." Some people who hear Jandek think it's some kind of put-on -- but it's hard to imagine a joke's being maintained so scrupulously for more than 20 years of recording and releasing and the same post-office box. Most people simply find it unbearable: it's certainly monotonous and deeply unpretty and (for the most part) uncathartic and all but completely structureless. And then there are the people who can hardly stand to listen to anything else for days or weeks on end, who obsess over the mystery of Jandek. (I find myself sometimes in the second category and sometimes in the third.) Seth Tisue has set up www.cs.nwu.edu/~tisue/jandek/, which features an extensively annotated discography that tracks the nuances of Jandek's career, describing each album's themes and cover images. White Box Requiem, he notes, is "almost catatonically mopey and meandering . . . it's not like Blue Corpse, which is a record about emotional devastation with some perspective on it, not from totally inside it. Also different from the weird detachment and diffidence of Twelfth Apostle and Graven Image." Of one cover, he says, "This is one of those pictures that the photo lab gives you a refund on." The rewards of obsession with Jandek are discovering the variations in his oeuvre's gray expanses that become, by comparison, as spectacular as cherry blossoms. On a few albums, a woman who might be named Nancy sings a bit (song title: "Nancy Sings"); occasionally, people wander in and play drums or another guitar, instruments that they don't seem to have encountered before. Sometimes Jandek plays mostly electric rather than acoustic guitar; 1992's Lost Cause includes a couple of pieces that are almost conventionally songlike, plus a 20-minute screeching blowout called "The Electric End." And even though his work is essentially of a piece -- the despairing one-note-at-a-time meanderings of Ready for the House's "They Told Me About You" and The Beginning's "I Never Left You Anyway," released 21 years apart, might have come from the same afternoon's impulse -- each album has a distinct identity, and its own little shocks of revelation. The title track of The Beginning is a 15-minute improvisation on piano, an instrument Jandek's never essayed before, though it's as far out of tune as you'd imagine. And in many ways, Ready is the key to the rest of Jandek's work: he's used lines from its lyrics as later album titles (Staring at the Cellophane, Chair Beside a Window, Somebody in the Snow), re-recorded its "European Jewel" multiple times, and made the template for his career out of its bold, willful disposal of everything about songs but their need to exist and to be heard. Compared to "real" pop music, Jandek's songs are terrifyingly ugly; in the context of his decades of persistence, the range and mass of his work, they become intensely beautiful and meaningful. They are absolute, pure self-expression, an unfocused, unlit snapshot of his entire adult life. As he told the Texas Monthly reporter who asked him whether he wanted people to "get" what he was doing, "There's nothing to get." - www.providencephoenix.com/

What is Jandek?

Officially, Jandek is not a person. Albums and live performances are credited to “Jandek”, but the man on the album covers and on stage is “a representative from Corwood Industries”. Corwood is the record label; “Jandek” is the musical project. Both are directed by the same individual. The trinity of Jandek, Corwood, and “the representative” is both three and one. These distinctions became clear only recently, when Corwood started negotiating Jandek performances with promoters. But an early hint was that the first Jandek album was originally credited to “The Units”, a name implying a faceless collective. Even the recent live releases do not credit individual musicians. The name of the real person behind all this is known (see below). He normally avoids using his name in connection with Corwood or Jandek, but he has never made any great secret of it, either. Written communications from Corwood are signed “Corwood” or not signed at all, and in a further distancing move, he/they normally refer(s) to himself/themselves in writing as “we” — that is, Corwood — rather than “I”. This leaves the rest of us in a bit of a quandary how to refer to him/them/it — this Jandek thing. It’s most correct to refer to “Corwood” (and “they”), and to “the representative” or “the Corwood rep”. But it’s also still common to just go ahead and refer to Jandek as a person, using “he”. Until a few years ago, nobody knew it was wrong. I still say “Jandek” and “he” on this site sometimes just in order to avoid verbal contortions. Some aren’t bothered by informally using his real name — including a few of the musicians he has performed with, in their published interviews. Nonetheless, it’s polite for the rest of us to avoid it in most contexts out of respect for Corwood’s apparent wishes.

Getting started

For an introduction to Jandek and his music I suggest starting with this article: Mystery Man: The Jandek Story by Douglas Wolk (1999)which lays out the basic facts and makes a good case for the music. And/or, you could watch this documentary, which is now available on DVD: Jandek on Corwood by Paul Fehler and Chad Freidrichs (2003)
Another important article is this: Jandek and Me  by Katy Vine (1999) in which a journalist tracks down the Corwood rep in person and has a beer with him...! Vine also talks about this, in less detail, in the documentary. I suggest you wait to read the full article until you’ve heard enough of Jandek’s music to make it meaningful.
    Note that these articles are a few years old now, so they don’t cover some more recent developments. The documentary is a bit more recent, but still predates Jandek’s first live performance.
    Then, if you still want to know more, read on...

Music (short version)

Before the live performances, Jandek’s recorded output described a great arc. At the beginning and again at the end, Jandek was alone. He moved towards collaborators and more accessible music, then away from them again.
    In 1978 he began totally alone, not just without the help of other musicians, but practically without relation to other music. The first Jandek LP, Ready for the House, is credited to “The Units”, but it’s obviously a solo work, and the name was never used again.
    As the years passed and more albums came out, gradually other musicians and vocalists were added. At first they were only on a song or two; later whole albums were group efforts. At the same time, the music became more extroverted. Electric guitars and crashing drums replaced acoustic guitars; the shy musical whispering of the early LP’s gave way to harsh, even crazed sounds. A woman vocalist sang more and more songs. The music changed again, becoming more melodic and structured and increasingly incorporating recognizable styles of music: blues, folk, sixties rock. A second guitarist and male vocalist appears. The man on the album covers appeared in sharp, fairly contemporary photographs instead of old blurry ones.
    Suddenly, in 1993 Jandek made an about face. After one last group track, a long crazed improvisation called “The Electric End”, he said goodbye again to electric instruments, collaborators, and conventional styles. Since then he’s been alone again, usually with just his acoustic guitar. He went without even that on three voice-only discs in 2000 and 2001. Since then, he’s picked up acoustic guitar again as well as electric guitar, fretless electric guitar, and fretless electric bass.
    Corwood dropped a bomb on Jandek fans in October 2004 when the man on the album covers came out of decades of hiding and played an unannounced show in Glasgow. There’s been a string of shows since, most of which have followed the same basic format as the first. The representative sings and plays guitar, dressed all in black and backed by local musicians on bass and drums. The group rehearses only once, the afternoon of the show. The music is electric, loud, and largely improvised. For each show the representative writes a whole new set of lyrics, which he keeps on a music stand in front of him.
    But other shows have been change-ups. More often lately, the music has been quiet instead of loud. The representative might play piano or synthesizer instead of guitar, or recite a spoken word piece punctuated by harmonica, or sit in on drums with a noisy power trio. The other musicians might now play harp, or flute, or bass clarinet, or harpsichord. One audience witnessed an enactment of the primal Jandek scene: a man alone with his acoustic guitar.
    A Jandek show can go on for an hour (typical at festivals), two hours (typical at other shows), or even three (happened once in Manhattan). There are no intermissions, no encores, and no CD’s and T-shirts for sale in the lobby. The representative never speaks to or even looks at the audience. Occasionally he smiles.
    See the Live page for details on all the shows. Corwood is gradually releasing every concert on both CD and DVD, though there is now quite a backlog. New studio-recorded solo albums keep appearing, too.

Music (long version)

    The first seven albums are (for the most part) the standard “classic” Jandek: just him and his acoustic guitar, very slow, steady guitar playing, plucked single notes only, melancholy mood. Sounds like folk blues if it sounds like anything at all, but it doesn’t really; it’s not conventionally based at all. One common, distinctive pattern is alternating high and low single notes on the guitar, in a kind of simulated counterpoint.
    Some songs seem looser, perhaps improvised, while others are definitely recognizable songs. One early standout in that department is the often-recorded “European Jewel”, featuring a catchy descending guitar riff.
    Around 1983, things changed. A female vocalist made her first appearance, on a song called “Nancy Sings”. A drummer made his first appearance, on a song called “John Plays Drums”. And Jandek started playing mostly electric guitar, in a harsh, clashing, discontinuous, dissonant style. As Jandek mangles the strings “John” crashes and bangs along with abandon on drums. It’s bracing.
    The Rocks Crumble (1983) and Interstellar Discussion (1984) are mostly filled with this new style. It’s an interesting contradiction: most of Jandek’s music has been ghostly, whispered, and suddenly out of nowhere comes this horrible, wonderful racket that’s closer kin to free jazz, “The Black Angel’s Death Song”, and old Half Japanese than to any of the folk/blues models the early LP’s suggest. Jandek’s late-80’s/early-90’s electric LP’s are not nearly as loud and extreme. (The drums keep on crashing and banging, but more quietly.)
    The next three or four LP’s in a row are different. They actually do have a good deal of the previous two styles (acoustic and electric) on them, but they also have “Nancy” all over them. Some of the songs are more-or-less-standard Jandek songs sung by “Nancy”. She has a very strong, clear voice. She can really belt it out: on one song, she sustains one note for eighteen seconds. Some songs are duets between Jandek and “Nancy” in which they improvise goofy lyrics, with lots of obsessive repetition of nonsense phrases like “I painted my teeth”. They sound like they’re having a lot of fun together.
    Then suddenly, the next album, Blue Corpse is all acoustic, and “Nancy” is gone. The overall tone is very sad, with lyrics like:
“I passed by the building you were working in
I wanted to step inside it
I wanted to lie in your arms again
I passed by the building that you live in
And I wanted to die
I just stood there and cried...”
And that’s not the only song about a breakup. Did Jandek and “Nancy” break up and this LP is the aftermath? We don’t know, but the sequencing of the albums has always given me that impression.
    The subsequent electric LP’s, You Walk Alone and On the Way, inaugurate a new phase in Jandek’s development. He seems to be working with a second guitarist. You Walk Alone has lots of two-guitar interplay between the two of them, and it’s easy to tell their styles apart; the other guitarist is a much more melodic, conventionally “skilled” player who strums chords instead of just plucking strings, pitch-bends, etc., and generally just owes a lot more to the kind of guitar playing you learn from records and from your guitar teacher. Some songs are almost straight blues. On these albums Jandek’s music sheds something something of its painful, awkward quality. That quality is one of the things that made earlier LP’s so compelling, but these albums work very well too.
    The next few albums are grab bags of past styles and directions, collections of individual songs rather than albums with a coherent overall direction. It’s like flipping through Jandek’s musical notebooks. A second female vocalist sings some songs. A new male vocalist, perhaps several of them, sing some others. The drums come back, still crashing and banging, but much more quietly, in the background. There’s a few lighthearted songs, a few blues songs, a few devotional songs, and a pair of exceptionally long, pretty, and sad songs with crystalline guitar (“I’ll Sit Alone and Think a Lot About You” and “Upon the Grandeur”).
    1992’s Lost Cause, then, came as a big shock. Side 1 was like the other recent albums, but then side 2 was entirely filled by an epic improv blowout called “The Electric End”, by the far the loudest, most crazed thing Jandek had done for years, or ever. As it turned out, and as hinted at by that track’s title, it was Jandek’s farewell to electric instruments, and as it also turned out, his farewell to working with collaborators for many years (with the exception of the male vocalist on I Woke Up [1997])
    Above, I have discussed the first twenty-one albums as if we knew they were recorded in the order of release. But of course we don’t know that, and in fact, by around album eighteen, the impression of chronology largely dissipates and the albums feel like collections of outtakes from various times. A standard theory, which I favor myself, is that the group records are actually the earliest recordings, made well before 1978. The letters in Irwin Chusid’s book (see below) are consistent with this theory, and both sonically and stylistically the group records sound to me like products of 1969 or so. The early solo albums, though, are timeless in feel and impossible to date with any confidence.
    So, in 1993, on Twelfth Apostle, Jandek returned to recording only by himself and using only acoustic instruments. The change almost but not quite coincided with Corwood’s format switch from LP to CD; Twelfth Apostle was the last LP. In some respects Jandek had reverted to the style of his earliest records, but in other ways his music developed and grown in many ways — the new records were obviously made by an older man. Glad To Get Away (1994) is the standout record from the early part of the late period — it most fully develops and sums up the new acoustic style.
    After, Glad To Get Away, Jandek seemed to be somewhat at a loss about what to do next. His discs from 1996 through 1999 are an uncertain assortment of experiments with new directions, none of them followed up for very long. Lyrically he’s become increasingly open about taking stock, reflecting on his music, his past, his listeners, and his relationships, all in a big knot that he keeps worrying at but can’t untie.
    In 2000, Jandek’s recorded career took a new and unexpected turn. The last cut on 1999’s The Beginning was a 15-minute piano solo. The song title, length, and placement of the track all implied a new direction — maybe he’d be giving up guitar and playing piano instead? This turned out to be half right — his next disc, Put My Dream On This Planet, had only vocals, no instruments at all. This seems to have been the new form of expression he’d been looking for: two more vocals-only discs followed close on the first’s heels.
    After the voice-only discs, there is another break in style. Beginning with 2002’s I Threw You Away, every Jandek solo album (as opposed to live album) has consisted of vocals and just one of three instruments: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, or fretless electric bass. The singing and playing on these albums (fourteen of them so far!) is recognizably changed from the 1990’s solo albums and has much in common with the singing and playing at the live shows, so it seems reasonable to assume that he is releasing them more or less as they are recorded.
    The music on the live albums is discussed on the Live page.

Corwood Industries

Jandek is unlike most reclusive types in that he is very prolific: 59 albums since 1978, with at least one album every year since 1981, including an early-eighties burst of creativity (seven albums in three years) and a new burst of creativity still in progress (at least two new albums a year since 2001, with four new albums in 2004, four in 2005, six in 2006 (three of them doubles), two in 2007 (a double and a quadruple), five in 2008, and three so far in 2009.
    Jandek albums are produced by the Corwood Industries record label. In the John Trubee interview, Jandek cops to being its sole proprietor. Corwood has had the same address since 1978: P.O. Box 15375, Houston TX 77220.
    Before the nineties, all of Jandek’s back catalog was in print and available. The LP’s gradually went out of print during the nineties, and for a time none were available, but in 1999 Corwood started a comprehensive CD reissue program, and by June 2003, all of the old albums were available again. (Graven Image, the first new Jandek recording to be issued on CD only, went out of print for a couple years, but was re-reissued in mid-2003.) ...

Album covers

One of the richest sources of speculation about Jandek, after the lyrics to his songs, are the photos on the album covers. They are almost invariably blurry, indistinct, enigmatic.
    Here’s some of the things you’ll see on the covers:
  • Jandek himself, on 33 of the 59 covers. No one else ever appears (unless you count the cat on Worthless Recluse, the mannequins on The Place and The Gone Wait, or the pedestrians in the background on When I Took That Train).
  • The outside of Jandek’s house. Several different houses are depicted, it’s not clear exactly how many, although they all resemble each other, as if they are all in the same neighborhood in an older area of Houston. These are older houses, certainly no newer than the 50’s, and always painted white.
  • The inside of Jandek’s house, including some of his furniture.
  • Curtains. Jandek keeps his curtains drawn, as we are repeatedly shown from both the inside and the outside. Plus there are several photos with curtains as backdrops.
  • Musical instruments. There are three photos of the same drumkit, two photos of the same acoustic guitar, one photo of a guitar case that presumably contains this guitar, and one of Jandek and an electric guitar.
  • Streets, buildings, landscapes, and castles in the U.K. and Ireland. Beginning with 2002’s I Threw You Away, six recent album covers have featured snapshots from the British isles.
Several general progressions are evident:
  • Most early covers are black and white, most later covers are in color.
  • Most early covers show interiors, most later covers were taken outdoors.
  • Most early covers show places and things. Most mid-period covers (1985-1992) show Jandek himself. Since then most covers have again shown places again.

    The album covers dating back to Jandek’s early life give some general impressions of his upbringing: parents that apparently cared enough to photograph him fairly often; visits to relatives (Worthless Recluse); a big white house, a little weathered, with flowers planted by it (Nine-Thirty, Foreign Keys); a guitar around his neck already as a teenager (Follow Your Footsteps). His clothes and hair are conservative on the covers of Lost Cause and Worthless Recluse, but then rebelliousness sets in: on the covers of Foreign Keys and White Box Requiem his hair and sideburns are long and shaggy, and then on Six and Six his hair is short again but now he looks like a rock-n-roll rebel.
    Here’s my best effort to put all the photos of Jandek in chronological order. This is not at all easy and some choices are very much arguable.
[album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover] [album cover]
    See the Discography page for further commentary on the cover photos.
    The back covers of all Jandek albums are basically identical in format, although they vary in typeface and other minor details, as if they were done by a succession of different typesetters, each of whom was instructed to imitate the last one. The basic format is plain. The catalog number in small type in the upper right; “Jandek” and the album title in big bold type at the top; the track titles and times (uncharacteristic of Jandek to be so informative!) in the middle; Corwood’s address and a copyright notice at the bottom. The track titles and address are set off from the big titles at the top by two double lines. I have no special interpretation of this format except as evidence of consistency. (But, see One Foot in the North for a strange exception to the rule...) The back covers of CD reissues were re-typeset, not photographically reproduced from the LP issues. Starting in 2002, the CD’s started carrying printed UPC bar codes on the back.


I have no clue where the name “Corwood” comes from. What about the name “Jandek”? I’m reminded of Ursula K. LeGuin’s novel The Dispossessed, which portrays a society whose citizens are assigned a name at birth consisting of two random computer-generated syllables; for example, the main character’s name is Shevek. There is a company in England called Jandek Kits (6 Fellows Avenue, Kingswinford, West Midlands, DY6 9ET United Kingdom) that produces some kind of amateur radio equipment; can’t say if there’s a connection. When I was in Budapest some years ago I saw a big sign on a building reading “AJANDEK” — perhaps it’s a Hungarian name? (I have since been informed that “ajandek” means “gift” in Hungarian...) A net search turned up a Heinz Jandek who is a computer programmer at the University of Cologne in Germany, a Rostislav Jandek who lives in the Czech Republic, an Irving Jandek in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and a Hartmut Jandek who got third place in a sailing competition in Spain in 1996 (way to go, Hartmut! we’re all proud of you), so apparently it’s not an unknown surname. None of this tells us much.
    So who is Jandek? No one knows for sure. For decades, he never performed live. He doesn’t perform live or give interviews; he has never made any public statement of any kind. The Katy Vine story above is the only documented encounter anyone’s had with the man in person. She must have done some detective work to track him down, but I suspect it was probably not all that hard. Jandek hides himself, but he hasn’t gone to extreme lengths to cover his tracks. After all, his picture is on his album covers! Residents of Houston report seeing him around town, going about his business. Corwood Industries is a business, and some kinds of information about registered businesses are a matter of public record. But please don’t go after him; when Katy Vine tracked him down, he didn’t refuse to talk, but he mostly steered the conversation away from music, and when it was over, he “stress[ed] that even though he had had a nice time, he didn’t want to be contacted in person by a fan or a journalist or anybody about Jandek ever again.”
    Even if you hung around the Houston post office, you might not catch Jandek himself, but only a Corwood Industries delegate or functionary. If you write Corwood Industries a check, it comes back signed on the back by “Sterling R. Smith”. In the old, pre-live-performance days, several people reported having spoken on the phone with a man named Sterling Smith who handles things like orders from distributors, but who categorically denied that he is Jandek and refuses to answer any questions about him. However, when Irwin Chusid spoke to Smith in 1980 (see Songs in the Key of Z, page 60), Smith talked about the records as “my music”. Katy Vine reports that the man she talked to was the man pictured on the album covers, but he wouldn’t directly admit to having made the music, but the overwhelming impression from various details in the article is that in fact he had. And one record store owner who spoke with Mr. Smith reports that his voice was the voice on the records. So it seems reasonable to assume that Sterling Smith is Jandek, and that the strategy of pretending that Sterling Smith is from Corwood Industries, but is not actually Jandek, is a strategy that was only adopted after the early 80’s.
    Epistemological disclaimer: here, I’m going to try to connect the dots, to make the inferences and possible generalizations that the records and other available information appear to suggest. For example, I will speak as if we knew that first-person song lyrics are at least semi-autobiographical, and other such reasonable-seeming but undeniably questionable assumptions. But as you read bear in mind what I won’t explicitly mention again: the possibility that some of the available signs may be misleading or even intentionally deceptive. Personally, my feeling is that Corwood might hide or misguide, but wouldn’t intentionally fabricate or deceive.
    If you write to Jandek care of Corwood, you may get a few handwritten words in reply, particularly if you ask a factual question about ordering or request permission for something. Other kinds of questions and communications may simply be ignored, but you never know. Irwin Chusid, for example, exchanged a number of letters and phone calls with Sterling Smith in the early 80’s. I don’t know any other such extensive contact with the man in the years afterwards, but in the last few years the live performances have obviously brought Corwood into much greater contact with the outside world, both in person and by phone or letter.
    Direct requests for interviews by Richie Unterberger in 1986 and Chusid in 1998 were refused. In the early 80’s, Smith seems to have been fairly forthcoming with Chusid on some matters, but not on others: “He rambled in a halting monotone, his speech punctuated by aposiopesis (the sudden breaking off in mid-sentence as if the speaker is unwilling or unable to continue). I asked questions; he gave oblique answers. He wouldn’t explain what he did for a living.”
    So, other than general impressions gleaned from the album covers, very little is known about Sterling Smith’s life.
    Presumably he was at least 20 when he made Ready for the House, which would make him at least fifty now. In 1999, Katy Vine wrote that he appeared to be “late-thirties”. According to the copyright records at the Library of Congress, Sterling Smith was born in 1945, making him over sixty now. The man at Jandek’s live appearances could certainly be that old, though he looks younger. I have no trouble accepting the birth year in the copyright records.
    Chusid reports that Sterling Smith said on the phone that he had “no friends”, but if that was true in 1980, it certainly seems to have changed in only a few years, judging from all his collaborators, and from the evident involvement with other people in his lyrics. In Vine’s article he is seen at a bar with his pals from the office.
    He may have a connection to Ohio, perhaps even grew up there. “Nancy” is from Ohio (see “Collaborators” below), and there are some Ohio references on Jandek albums (see “Themes”, below).
    He is a traveler. Nine-Thirty (1985) has songs about a trip through the American southeast. “Rain in Madison” is presumably about a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, and the lyrics refer to sitting in a car. A letter quoted by Chusid refers to Smith’s “experience in living in lower Manhattan”. Five album covers since 2002 are snapshots taken in Europe. Katy Vine says her interviewee “had visited big and small cities all over the U.S., Mexico, and Europe.”
    It seems from the Katy Vine article that he is now a professional or office worker of some kind, wearing “beautiful cufflinks” and living in “one of the city’s nicer neighborhoods”, but his career is “of increasing disinterest”. Consult her article for further tidbits.
    Note that there are many Sterling Smiths in the United States, including several in Houston; it’s not that rare a name.
    Please resist the urge to dig any deeper into Smith’s personal and/or professional life; it’s none of our business.


An outside vocalist makes her first appearance, on a song on Chair Beside a Window called “Nancy Sings” — we’ll call her “Nancy”. On this first song she sings in a high breathy voice, while on later albums she usually sings in a lower, brassier voice, so while we can’t be absolutely certain it’s the same person, it sure sounds like it to me.
    The following year, a drummer makes his first appearance, on a song on Your Turn to Fall called “John Plays Drums” — we’ll call him “John”. The word usually used to describe “John”’s drumming is “primitive”, not in the Maureen Tucker steady-pounding sense, but more of an untutored crashing-and-banging sense. He usually sticks to hitting one drum at a time.
    “John” and “Nancy” are both very important to Jandek’s music. In his book Irwin Chusid gives an excerpt of a December 1982 letter from Sterling Smith about John and “Nancy”. It’s worth quoting here:
Nancy was Nancy [last name withheld], a southern Ohio cosmopolitan hillbilly type who ran across my path one day and I asked her to sing what I had written as I played the guitar. There were no notes or anything and she just picked up the paper with words and sang and I played guitar as simple as that!... She’s featured in many future cuts, mostly electric. The cut “No Break” on side 2 features her sister Pat [last name withheld] on vocals, myself on elec guitar and Nancy in a very unaggressive drum stint.
    [Other tracks feature] myself on 6 string elec guitar + vocals, John [name withheld] on base [sic] and John “Poe” on drums. They were around the house “Poe” lived there next door. I asked them to sit in. I don’t believe “Poe” ever played drums beore. I was so impressed. I couldn’t think of another drummer so absolute except maybe Ginger Baker from Cream...
    There is a multitude of further electric composition. With a myriad (maye 12) other performers. Also cuts on entire sides of myself overdubbing base, 6 string, vocals and drums all performed by myself...
    I have yet to go back and carefully review the albums in light of the information in this letter. There’s been some detailed discussion of this on the Jandek mailing list that I plan to review and incorporate into this page at some point.
    On later albums, particularly You Walk Alone (1988), there is clearly a second electric guitarist. The acoustic guitarist on Blue Corpse (1987) is probably this other guitarist, not Jandek. Jandek is heard saying “Take it, Eddie” before a guitar solo, so we’ll call him Eddie.
    Two songs, “Sadie” and “Give It the Name”, from On the Way (1988), are sung by a male vocalist who is definitely not Jandek (and presumably not named Sadie either). The first three songs on Blue Corpse are sung by an alternate male vocalist as well, as are a few other songs on albums from that era (circa late 1980’s). (A few people on the Jandek mailing list are still disputing this, but I regard the case as closed — the two voices are easy to tell apart. It’s harder to tell whether there is a third male singer or not.)
    There are drums on the early 90’s albums, which sound like they’re played by John to me, although much more subduedly than on earlier LP’s. Nancy’s sister Pat, who initially appeared briefly on Chair Beside a Window, is featured at greater length on Somebody in the Snow. While the sisters’ voices are similar in many respects, they’re fairly easy to tell apart because Nancy’s singing is clearer and stronger.
    Some of these extra musicians might actually be Jandek himself using overdubbing, but I don’t think that’s usually the case. The extra guitarist(s)’s style(s) are quite distinct, and on several songs, you can hear the musicians saying things to each other. Nonetheless, we know from the letter I quote above that there are some one-man-band overdubbing jobs. The Rocks Crumble is a possible one-man-band candidate. Another candidate is side two of Somebody in the Snow. For example, “Remind You” has Jandek doing separate and sometimes overlapping vocal tracks in the left and right channels, so that’s definitely overdubbed. That suggests Jandek could be the drummer on these tracks as well. Elsewhere there are some songs, such as “I’ll Sit Alone and Think a Lot About You” from On the Way, where the guitar and vocals are both by Eddie, so if Jandek is playing anything on those songs, he’s playing drums.
    I Woke Up (1997) is the only CD-era Jandek album with obvious outside musicians. Most of the vocals are taken by someone who I think Jandek calls “Mike” at one point. “Mike” mostly recites rather than sings. This CD also has drumkit on one song and hand percussion on one song — could be “Mike”, or “John”, or Jandek himself.

Antecedents and followers

An interesting thing to know about Jandek would be how aware of his precedents he is. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the Godz (definite vocal resemblance, similar ragged rhythms, and a similar way of straddling the acoustic/electric divide), Skip Spence (Oar is amazingly Jandek-like), the Shaggs, early Half Japanese (in reference to Jandek’s loudest rock stuff), Loren Mazzacane Connors, Tim Buckley (I’m thinking specifically of Lorca), Hasil Adkins...
    So far as I know, before the release of Summersteps Records’ Jandek tribute CD, there existed only two cover versions of Jandek songs:
  • One is by Dump, which is a solo project of James McNew of Yo La Tengo, and it’s on a 7″ released in approximately 1995 by 18 Wheeler Records in an edition of 1000 copies. The song covered is “License to Kill” from The Living End.
  • The other is by Charalambides, and it’s on a compilation called Drilling the Curve on Fleece Records out of Houston. The song covered is “Variant” from Blue Corpse.
The tribute CD, released in 2000, contains versions of Jandek songs performed by Low, Gary Young, The Goblins, Amy Denio, Ivory Elephant, and others. The cover photograph of a graveyard was supplied by Corwood. Summersteps’ website includes track listings, ordering info, and scans of the two disposable cameras full of graveyard photos sent by Corwood.
    Since then some more Jandek covers have surfaced:
    Palace’s Days in the Wake (Drag City, 1994) has a cover photo that appears to be a direct Jandek homage (complete with curtains), and the music sounds a lot like Jandek’s, too.
    For a while in the nineties there was a band named after the album Telegraph Melts.


Jandek’s aesthetic is austere, but not perfectionist: he releases multiple versions of songs, cuts off songs by stopping the tape in the middle, and flaunts his disregard for what most people would consider good “singing” (although note that he always sings, he never talks his way through lyrics a la Lou Reed or the male vocalist on I Woke Up [1997]). A lot of songs end with a sort of sharp thump that might be Jandek hitting the stop button on the tape recorder, or striking the body of his guitar. He does have an obsessiveness with regard to his albums (steady release schedule, consistent appearance) and a flair for cross-reference: songs have sequels; lines from songs later become album titles; characters reoccur (e.g, “The Janitor”, “Janitor’s Dead”).
    Here are all the proper names that appear in the titles of Jandek songs: Judith, Jenny, Max, Jessica, Gretchen, Alexandria, Michael, Steve, Robert, Fatima, Harry Idle, the Quinn Boys, Sadie, Helena, Phillip, Ezekiel, Joab, and of course the aforementioned “Nancy” and “John” (“Nancy” is mentioned again in a 1994 song title). There are three references to historical figures: Jackson, Napoleon, and “Governor Rhodes” (presumably the Ohio governor who was in office at the time of the Kent State shootings).
    Many of Jandek’s album titles previously appeared as lines from earlier songs, sometimes with more than ten years intervening. He particularly often raided the lyrics of his first two albums for titles. (See also notes to You Walk Alone.)


Here are some common themes in Jandek titles and lyrics:
Numbers and dates
Six and Six, “Number 14”, “May 7, 9:15 a.m.”, “May 3”, Nine-Thirty and “Nine-Thirty”, “Twelve Minutes Since February 32nd”, “Number 512”, “Part II”, “Bring it Back to Seventy-Five”, “Four by Four”, and the strangely numbered “Spanish in Me 003”, “European Jewel 613”, and “European Jewel 501”. “First You Think Your Fortune’s Lovely” contains the line “Three times four is twenty-seven.”
Rivers and Spain
In Jandek songs, people float down rivers. Often to Spain, sometimes specifically Madrid. Sometimes over and over in the same song (“Only Lover”). Spain pops up in other contexts as well (e.g., “Spanish in Me”).
Jandek doesn’t have a Texas accent, and in “Georgia East” he sings “You people sure are strange to a city boy from up north.” In “I Want to Know Why” “Nancy” sings “Why did I ever leave Ohio?” One song title, “Chilocothe”, is the name of an Ohio town, and another, “Governor Rhodes”, apparently refers to a former Ohio governor. There are several other Ohio references in other songs. And in Chusid’s book he says Jandek described “Nancy” in a letter as “a southern Ohio cosmopolitan hillbilly type.” It’s reasonable to guess that Jandek himself is originally from Ohio as well.
More common on later records. Titles include “Show Me the Way, O Lord,” “The Spirit”, “Preacher”, “Nothing is Better Than God”, “Spiritual Song”, “Bring It in a Manger”, “Angel” {or maybe this is just a love song?}, “God Came Between Us”, “Twelfth Apostle”, “Ezekiel”, and “Joab”. “Blood and Bone”, off Staring at the Cellophane, is about Jesus, and in “Take My Will”, off Glad to Get Away (reprised eleven years later on Raining Down Diamonds), Jandek asks: “Jesus take my will, give me yours.” Jandek isn’t exactly Amy Grant, but he is apparently a Christian. (Or at least, he is deeply fascinated by Christian themes and imagery.) Jandek threw us all a curveball in 2005 though when two consecutive album covers showed a young Jandek bearded and wearing a kind of hat associated with Muslims; and as if to confirm this impression, the second disc is called Khartoum.
Love songs
Too many to mention, and not all of the unrequited-love variety, either. Jandek’s love life seems to have been pretty active.
Beginnings and ends
Album titles include The Living End and The Beginning (both also song names), and 2004’s The End of It All. Other song titles include “The Second End”, “The First End”, and “The Electric End”. Those are just the ones with the actual words “beginning” or “end” in the title, but particularly since the mid-nineties, Jandek seems obsessed with ends and beginnings in general. Since 1994, he’s had I Woke Up, New Town, “Closing”, “First Awake Moment”, “Just Die”, “One Last Chance”, Pending Doom”, “Stopped”, and “The World Stops”. And if you add the themes of entering, leaving, and returning, of going inside and outside, then also just since 1994 you have Glad to Get Away, “Going Away My Darling”, “Going Away”, “Approaching the City”, “Get Back Inside”, “Steal Away Home”, “I Went Outside”, “In the Cave”, “Out of the Cave”, “I Stepped Out Of It”, “The Highway”, “I Just Might Go Now”, “I See the Open Door”, “Find Me Again”, and “I Hadn’t Been There Before”. And that’s just song titles; if you read the lyrics, the last ten years of Jandek have been an almost nonstop turning over of these themes. Each recent album gives the impression that it might be Jandek’s last, but then soon enough another one comes along. His next-to-latest release was called The End of It All, but it hardly seemed possible it could be so, and sure enough, only two months later another one came along.
A lot of Jandek’s music could be described as depressive if not depressed, and some would say depressing too. (He’s made some serenely or exuberantly joyful music too, especially in the mid-1980’s.) Starting in 2000, though, with the trio of a cappella releases, many of Jandek’s lyrics lost their often elliptical or oblique character and started treating depression head-on, in the starkest and bluntest terms imaginable. “I Need Your Life” (from Put My Dream On This Planet) is the lengthiest and most harrowing example. This trend has continued even at live appearances; in Gateshead on May 2005, the first words out of Jandek’s mouth were “Depression/ There’s no way out” and two songs later he began, “Every morning when I get up/ I want the day to end.” Jandek's concert in Manhattan that September (not available on CD yet) treated the theme at length: “It's a swamp I'm stuck in... I can't see a reason to continue... Just don't care... Can't think up a reason to do anything”, and many other similar statements, though the evening concluded with a measure of mental peace: “So this is what I'm living for...”. His most extended lyrical treatment of this peaceful state was earlier that year in Glasgow in the suite “The Cell” (also not available on CD yet), where Jandek counts his blessings; the suite is linked by the repeated line, “What do I have?”


Paul Fehler and Chad Freidrichs made a feature-length documentary about Jandek, called Jandek on Corwood. They started work in June 2002 and the documentary was completed in May 2003. The documentary has a website, www.jandekoncorwood.com, where you can view a trailer, read press information, find out about upcoming screenings, and order the DVD, which includes significant extras. The documentary premiered at the Leeds International Film Festival on October 11, 2003 and there have been numerous screenings elsewhere since. Several interviews with the filmmakers have been published:
The Internet Movie Database entry for the movie is at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0381287/combined. Here is a list of the songs used in the films. There are a few gaps and question marks; write me if you can clarify.


Wolk, Douglas. “Mystery Man: The Jandek Story”, Providence Phoenix (and various other alternative weeklies), September 1999. Online at http://www.providencephoenix.com/archive/music/99/09/30/JANDEK.html. Vine, Katy. “Jandek and Me”, Texas Monthly, August 1999. A reporter tracks down Jandek and has a beer with him. Much is revealed, and at the same time, very little. Online at http://web.archive.org/web/20041105103137/http://www.texasmonthly.com/mag/1999/aug/jandek.html. The article is also included in full on the Jandek on Corwood DVD. Chusid, Irwin. Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music, A Cappella, January 2000. Chusid is a record collector, WFMU DJ, record producer, and author. Book includes a full chapter about Jandek. It contains excerpts from a long letter Jandek wrote Chusid in 1982, as well as a note from 1998. An earlier and substantially shorter version of the chapter was published by WFMU and is available online at http://www.wfmu.org/LCD/22/jandek.html. Chusid doesn’t like the music, which he describes as “unashamedly repellent”. He mostly plays Jandek for laughs, but nonetheless the article and book contain many apt descriptive passages and choice bits of information, including an account of a phone conversation with Sterling Smith in 1980. Also available is a compilation CD of the same title which includes “They Told Me I Was a Fool”, from Ready for the House. The Jandek on Corwood DVD includes a 37 minute interview with Chusid from 2003, conducted by Joshua David Mann and Andrew Warren for WHRB. It mostly covers the same ground as the chapter, but he amplifies on or clarifies a few things. He also reports on some recent interactions with Corwood around the compilation CD. (One odd discrepancy is that in the book he says Jandek told him in 1978 he had ten albums already recorded, but on the radio he says repeatedly that it was thirty.) Kasley, Ian. Jandek-centered web pages. Contents include digitized versions of as-yet-unreissued LP’s plus photographs of Jandek’s post office box, Yellow Pages listings, and a building listed as Corwood’s address in some business records. Online at http://www.kasley.com/jandek/.

Buyer’s guides

Aaron Goldberg has written a piece for Perfect Sound Forever with irreverent reviews of Jandek’s first 42 albums, with ratings on a scale from “masterpiece” to “shit”. Here are just the ratings:


In addition to the interview with Chusid, the Jandek on Corwood DVD also includes a 28-minute interview with Phil Milstein and a 31-minute interview with Byron Coley. Milstein is the curator of the American Song Poem Archives and wrote the first-ever review of Ready for the House, for Op magazine; see the discography section for extracts from the review. In a brief letter circa 1988 (and also in the 1985 John Trubee interview), Corwood credited this review with inspiring them to continue releasing records; Milstein reads the letter on the air. Ludo Maas has written a piece in Dutch about Jandek, for the online magazine Kindamuzik. It’s online at http://www.kindamuzik.net/article.shtml?id=9075. Fabio Russo has written an Italian-language Jandek retrospective for the webzine Sentire Ascoltare. The retrospective is online at http://www.sentireascoltare.com/CriticaMusicale/Monografie/jandek.htm, and also on the author’s own site at http://digilander.libero.it/flanders1/Jandek.htm November 5, 2002 was officially declared to be “Jandek day” by the mayor of Houston, as approved by the Houston City Council. Here’s the official proclamation (click for full size image):
The proclamation was made at the request of an anonymous Jandek fan (who didn’t receive official news it had passed until two weeks after the date had passed...!). Public Radio International, “Studio 360” program, aired a story about Jandek on July 21, 2001, produced by Michael May. It included interview segments with Irwin Chusid, Byron Coley, and Katy Vine; Corwood declined to be interviewed. The program is available online in RealAudio format at http://www.wnyc.org/studio360/show072101.html. anonymous (credited as “The Sucksters”). “Hit & Run 01.25.01” column on Suck.com website. Includes a few paragraphs on Jandek. Excerpt: “For those unfamiliar with the Jandek phenomenon, he’s a Texan... well, ‘musician’ is one way of putting it... who moans a sort of DSM-IV vers libre, usually while picking at a thoroughly non-tuned guitar, in the same sense that one picks at one’s food [...] He’s occasionally accused of perpetrating a dilettantish art project, but if you do something on a regular basis for over two decades, are you really a dilettante? In any case, Jandek deserves praise for his total non-interest in fame and willingness to hide behind a pseudonym.” Full column online at http://www.suck.com/daily/2001/01/25/. Marks, Daniel. The beginnings of a Jandek site are up at http://www.geocities.com/alfredggnome/jandek.html, with reviews of four Jandek albums. Emrich, Brad. Track listings for two Jandek mix tapes. Online at http://geocities.com/bradleybee/jandek_comp.html. Mirov, Nicholas. Corwood Industries Unofficial Home Page. Contains a scan of the Corwood catalog. Online at http://www.corwood.com/. anon. Forced Exposure online catalog (http://www.forcedexposure.com/). “Jandek is an obscure Texan who has been privately releasing beautiful documents of fractured, internalized song genius, since the very late 70s. There have been no tours, no interviews, no public appearances but the representation of individualistic creation has never been more perfectly rendered than via the Corwood discography. Utilizing guitars (one at time, both acoustic or electric), voice and percussion, this is music from the ultimate void -- vaguely related to genres like folk, blues and avant-garde but in the end it can only be the sound of Jandek. And there’s never been anything else quite like it.” ???. article about Kurt Cobain in Spin, October 1993. “A Jandek record is next. On the cover there’s a very blurry photo of a man sitting in a lawnchair. ‘He’s not pretentious,’ Cobain says, ‘but only pretentious people like his music.’” Trubee, John, and Rasen, Edward. “Jandek”, Spin #???, pg. ???. Coley, Byron. Spin #???. (Described to me as capsule reviews of all the Jandek LP’s to date at the time of publication, but I haven’t seen a copy yet.) Coley, Byron. Spin V6#1 (April 1990), pg. ???. These pieces in Spin are the only ones that I’m aware of that has appeared in anything more commercial than a fanzine. Spin listed Jandek as one of “the ten most interesting musicians of the 1980’s”, right in there along with Prince and Madonna. The piece was penned by Coley, Spin’s (at that time) “underground music” correspondent, but apparently the decision to include Jandek on the list was that of Bob Guccione Jr. himself. There is a scan of the Coley piece online at http://geocities.com/bradleybee/jandek.html. O’Flaherty, Mike. “An oral history of Jandek as told to Seth Sanders”, A Nest of Ninnies #3, pg. 7. “Yeah, I’ve got about ten Jandek records. They’re all boring, but they’re cheap as dirt... Maybe ‘Jandek’ died 23 years ago in ’Nam and they’re just old family snapshots on the covers of all his records... Some things are just so entertaining they’re painful.” Harvard University’s radio station, WHRB, broadcast a Jandek “orgy” on January 20, 21, and 22 of 2003, 10pm-6am. (Their frequency is 95.3 FM, and you can listen online at whrb.org.) They played all of Jandek’s LP’s and CD’s in their entirety, and broadcast interviews with Byron Coley and others. The broadcast was put together by Andrew Warren, Joshua Mann, and Angela Sawyer. WHRB’s description follows:
clint eastwood’s man with no name was good at walking into any given town and annihilating anyone who got in his way. with every violent action, the man with no name’s blurry and blank character became more crisp and defined, and his name, or the need to know it, became less important. in the case of the artist known as jandek, we actually have the benefit of a name to attach to the mystery man who has crafted 32 unique albums. but that is all we have. jandek is largely undefined. what we have are thirty-two unique albums that represent the actions which we use to define the artist known as jandek. the photographs on the covers of these albums serve to define the man nearly as much as the music itself. there have been attempts to pierce the confounding psyche and persona of jandek, but these attempts are flailing hypotheses based on unknowns and cauterized by conjecture; they amount to darts thrown in the dark. jandek forces you, the listener, to form your own characterization and your own meanings, ignoring any preconceived notions because they simply aren’t intended to exist. is jandek a pedophilic albino with a slick haircut? possibly. is jandek a musical auteur who deconstructs his own skills to the point of unlistenability? maybe. is jandek even the man we see on the record covers? uncertain. the jandek orgy proposes not to answer these question definitively, but to provide the listener with 26 hours of the tools necessary to reach their own conclusions based on the evidence of the man’s entire creative output. additionally, the 26 hours will feature music that includes the most atonal machinations forged in the intestines of some darkly profound and personal hell as well as the most spritely elegant and orphic footsteps ever trodden on some elysian field.
???. WHRB program guide, January 1991. (WHRB presented a six-hour “orgy” of Jandek’s music.) “Although Jandek is a name that’s been tossed around for a while, there’s very little definite information to give. He got what might have been a big break last winter when he was named one of the most important artists of the last five years by Spin magazine. However, his records are not widely available and he remains elusive as is suggested by the dark, grainy album photo depicting a young god fleeing into anybody’s house. The most eloquent and accurate epithet seems to be ‘shirtless.’ We present his bluesy, druggy, often naked, and always haunting sounds that make many sit and wonder.” Unterberg, Richie. “Jandek”, Option magazine, 1986. Reproduced in full on the Jandek on Corwood DVD. “A man sits hunched over a microphone, guitar in hand, gushing forth unresolvable demons from the darkest recesses of his soul... No, these aren’t the legendary Robert Johnson sessions of the mid-thirties. This is happening right now in the midst of the technocratic eighties... Sales and airplay are virtually nil, though respect from the underground critics is considerable. But even if these records were wholly ignored, one has the feeling that the man known to the world only as Jandek would be compelled to bare his psyche on vinyl nonetheless... The lyrics are not carefully constructed vignettes or romantic reflections, but have a stream-of-consciousness flavor... He can rant, mumble; sound hostile or tentative; irritate, or evoke sympathy... Initially shy, almost demure in his manner, he’s grown increasingly bold and assertive over the years... The enigma of Jandek is that, despite his deep need to communicate, and despite accolades that would put virtually every other indie artist press kit to shame, he is more reluctant to reveal anything about himself than any other ‘cult’ musical artist... When contacted recently regarding an interview, Corwood replied, ‘Good news about the article. Questions etc. can’t be arranged. Also, we think your article will be better without them. At least we hope so. Anything else, just ask.’” Unterberger, Richie. Unknown Legends of Rock ’n’ Roll (quoted in: Chusid, Irwin, Songs in the Key of Z, pg. 58). “When it comes to idiot savants with mystique, no one can beat Jandek... who has self-released over two dozen albums featuring spooky, slightly demented stream-of-consciousness rambling and guitar playing which rarely strays from set notes and chords, none of which can pick out anything close to a melody. His voice can range from a hushed whisper to a Janovian primal scream; unsettingly, he hardly ever mines the wide territory between those extremes. Sometimes the guitar is acoustic, like a deathbed Neil Young; sometimes he sounds like the 13-year-old who’s just gotten his first electric for his Bar Mitzvah... The albums are issued in plain sleeves with no liner notes, and enigmatic cover photos with all the attention to framing and focus of the do-it-yourself stalls at Woolworth’s.” Scaruffi, Piero. The History of Rock Music, Vol. 4 (website). The latter part of Jandek’s career is summarized as follows: “The acoustic Twelfth Apostle (1993) ranks with his best, but Graven Image (1994), Glad To Get Away (1994), White Box Requiem (1996), I Woke Up (1997) and New Town (1998) are mainly full of filler. The 16-minute solo-piano title-track from The Beginning (1999) and the a-cappella albums Put My Dream On This Planet (2000) and This Narrow Road (2001) are a welcome change.” The page also an Italian-language summary of Jandek’s earlier career, plus individual English-language reviews of many discs, all of which are quoted here on the discography page. Raggett, Ned. All Music Guide (website). Capsule biography. “He’s succeeded in his own low-key way at creating a series of distinct, unique artworks while at the same time maintaining a near complete anonymity in terms of the public sphere... It’s not quite Thomas Pynchon in terms of the relative fame level, but it does mean whatever attention he’s received, when not idly speculating about his identity, gets focused solely on his often-astonishing recordings... while the sheer volume of material makes both investigation and appreciation hard, he’s created a series of songs with humor, angst, and cryptic qualities fully intact (and he’s not afraid to laugh at himself once or twice either).” Mirov, Nick. Pitchfork (website). Online review of Summersteps’ Jandek tribute compilation CD. Carew, Anthony J. Online review of Summersteps’ Jandek tribute compilation CD. Brogden, Garry. Vinyl Absolution #20 (October 2002) (website). Article/review on Ready for the House and Interstellar Discussion. Brief quotes included here on discography page. Ludic Kid (website). Online essay about Jandek. “Occasionally, it’s downright great, even when its greatness doesn’t spring from anything that could be identified in, much less applied to, any other performer. Part of why I like it is its absolute originality: there just isn’t anything else like Jandek anywhere in the world. But mostly, it’s because it forces you out of the modes of critical assessment you get locked into with traditional music. It’s so alien, so at odds with conventional musical structure, so completely removed from the terminology and theory normally used to critique music, that it makes you open up new venues of expression to describe it. And that’s a skill that comes in handy when you go back to the world of ‘real’ music.” Phillips, Nick. “Mystery White Boy”, City Pages, Vol. 22, #1087 (10/3/2001). Article about Jandek. “Jandek’s music was like the sound of my life: absolute nothingness, a core numbness, entropy carved out by apathy. Put simply, the record was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard... This wasn’t the usual cultivated eccentricity of Half Japanese or their ilk. No, something about it was organic and genuine. My uneasiness told me Jandek was for real.” Also discusses This Narrow Road, quoted on discography page here. Berman, David. “???” in Spex #???. (I have yet to track this one down.) - tisue.net/jandek/press.html

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