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Jandek, "Austin Sunday"

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This double disc set from Jandek's live debut on US soil (August 28th, 2005) is the least entertaining of his live releases to date. The upwards quality trajectory of this documentary series seems to have faltered here due to a combination of some poor songs and an unsteadily flailing rhythm accompaniment from a duo of drummers.



This isn't an especially tough listen for anyone familiar with Jandek's music; it's the same core elements of his first two live discs using a local improvisational backing crew. Unfortunately the very evident lack of chemistry between the percussionists and Jandek on most of the songs here leaves around two-thirds of this album sounding tattered and unconnected.

Lacking the obvious intuitive chemistry of the Youngs/Neilson backing, on these discs its left to Juan Garcia's electric bass to support Jandek as both Nick Hennies and Chris Cogburn on drums fail to find their improvisational feet. Instead of providing any kind of real stereo effect or exploring different sonic areas they end up merely effacing each other or blanding out into a soft mass. It's a great idea on paper, and it could have easily taken off in several directions and added another twist to his so far impeccably realised and recorded live work. Their improv credentials certainly would have made them appear like great choices to back Jandek, but this subdued splay isn't a very interesting route. The poorest material here comes over as a fumbling mush in places and in others like random cracks and bangs of players who have lost any thread they might have followed.

Along with this less inspired playing, there is a sometimes syrupy lethargic pace at work here too. Miles away from the more thoughtful and active pieces are songs like "Throw me Away" and "Lonely Dog," which are good examples of the sometimes aimless and thuddingly barren paths that this album can take. Even when Jandek and band pick up the pace with the scrabbled teen punk turn of "The Police," the drums keep the song nauseously unsteady. Only Garcia's bassline runs help to redeem the song from veering into total wreckage. This record’s themes feel that little more simplistic and easily exposed, featuring hefty doses of imagery relating to lost love, drowning of self and turning away from others. It is worth mentioning at the point that the bass lines here are more forcefully melodic than the ones Richard Youngs offered up on his shifts as Jandek bassist. Juan Garcia seems to be closely following the guitar work and almost instantly building brief melodic patterns in the wake of Jandek’s guitar shards.

Even still there is a good third of Austin Sunday that is easy to get swallowed up in. Pulling the nightmarish "Let me try Again" out of the bag for the record's closer goes a good way to redeeming this show's inadequacies. As a slice of hell-trailing blues it leaves a path of scorched footprints across the record, capturing in a 13 minute nutshell (and better than any of the three live discs have yet) the essence of the man's recorded work. His ability to build a web of incredibly 'other' narratives from experiences rooted in everyday narratives leaves me with little doubt that backed by more capable improvisers this could have been a much more assured release.


Last Updated on Sunday, 31 December 2006 06:40  


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