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Jandek, "Raining Down Diamonds"

This is Jandek's first album since releasing the live document of his performance with Richard Youngs and Alexander Neilson in Glasgow, Scotland. I had feared that some of the mystery that made him so appealing was going to disappear with his emerging worldly presence, but Raining Down Diamonds is as baffling as his legacy and far darker than one might expect from a musician who recently invited his audience far deeper into his house than ever before.

Corwood Industries

In 2003 Jandek debuted his use of the bass on The Gone Wait. It was described as a nice contrast to all the squalls and screams that he'd been pulling from his guitar at the time. Two years later, Jandek seems to be approaching the bass again, but in a confusing way as it seems like both a bass and an acoustic guitar on being used on Raining Down Diamonds. There's no mention of a second musician and, furthermore, the two instruments mimic each other rhythmically throughout the album, never faltering or falling out of sync with one another.

Jandek might have his guitar tuned down to create a muddy, bass sound or he might actually be playing a bass.  Songs like "Your Visitor" make it very difficult to distinguish exactly what's being played and, at some point, the two instruments seem to bleed together and dispel any idea that Jandek might be employing more than one musician on this record.

The musical haziness is consonant with the lyrical topics. Jandek begins with a statement so strong that it cannot be confused for anything but the subject of the entire album: "I don't know where things are / It's so dark I have to feel my way around." His voice drones low, imitating the hum and ramble of the music, but it stands out among the throbs of sound, punctuating the music and providing the heft of the album more so than the instrumentation. The album contains a strange take on suicide or death ("It's Forever"), a dedication to the food gods ("You Ancient"), and the strangest love song in all of music. The album ends with a kind of triptych; three eight-plus minute songs, one of them being a new version of "Take My Will" and the other two being the kind of Jandek that might freak some friends out if you played it for them at night, under a full moon, in the middle of the woods.

"Your Visitor," however, sounds like Jandek trying to explain why he loves someone. He's drinking wine and recalling his life and simultaneously paving a new one ahead where he is waiting for his love. His delivery is confusing because it's impossible to be sure of any punctuation or structure; his voice simply buzzes along, full of resonance and sadness. The last lines say everything about the Jandek mystery and, at the same time, cast the nature of this love into doubt: "You've got all kinds of every love / And your visitor lasts so long / So listen and find me if you can / I'll be all around your loneliness."

I was so sure he was talking to me the first time I heard the record that I had to restart it, I was afraid I'd missed something, like I had a better chance of finding him because he'd performed at a concert, revealed that he was the man on the covers, and even let us know that he couldn't possibly have been a hermit his entire life. I was wrong: Jandek is still hiding. He's receding and expanding and, in all honesty, there's no knowing who he is or why he writes his distinct music. Listening to Jandek, however, is fun precisely because he's been such a damned enigma throughout his 42 albums continues to be one without any apologies or signs of slowing down.



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