Friday, October 16, 2009

Jandek's "Vienna Wednesday", October 14, 2009

My reports on earlier gigs are lagging so far behind, I have decided not to post any further update for those - which is a pity, considering quite a few great gigs have taken place in between. However, two days ago, Jandek offered a nice reason to revive my failed blog. May it unfail (or so)!

My enthusiasm for Jandek's first ever gig in central Europe stemmed not only from my admiration for the man's liberated approach towards whatever instruments he uses, including his voice (based on my knowledge of an admittedly small percentage of his vast discography, but I'm working on that), but also from my trust in his sidemen for Wednesday's show, Primordial Undermind's Eric Arn (bass) and DD Kern (drums) of Fuckhead, Wipeout and Bulbul, both of whom I've seen play excellent shows of vastly varying sounds and approaches here in Vienna. And indeed, the show delivered on its line-up's promises.

The B72, while not sold out, had filled up quite nicely when the show started at around 10pm. The representative of Corwood Industries played his guitar in a fierce and piercing way that made me think of my first encounter with his music, the CD release of his first ever live performance (the fabulous Glasgow Sunday); unlike on that recording, however, the first piece, or at least Kern's drumming, seemed almost straightforward, and while the trio eventually steered into what felt like rhythmically freer territory after this instrumental, a bizarre form of (rhythmic, textural, or - presumably and undefineably - overall?) catchiness was showcased here that seemed to inform big parts of the evening's music. There was a certain spikeyness and angularity to some passages that made the questionable term "Math Rock" pop into my thoughts - based more on an idea of what that term might have been used for than on any actual knowledge of its use (although some moments here and there almost seemed a bit Slint-esque to me).

We're talking about maths' most delightfully paradox aspects here though: Arn's often melodic yet unpredictable serpentine bass runs, making me think of vintage psych as well as his free jazz excursions with his usual instrument (the guitar), added a unique touch to the overall sound; Kern's drumming, meanwhile, didn't stay content with the beginning's straightforward drive, instead heading into all kinds of different directions, depending on the situation. It was obvious that Jandek's partners are as adept in various rock modes as they are in decidedly free playing. Both musicians, as different as their backgrounds may be, are regular participants in Viennese free jazz cellar blow-outs, and their playing stayed versatile, alert and adaptable throughout the evening - and they must have had plenty of fun all the while. Jandek himself turned to vocals on every second song; the evening's second piece, the first one to feature the representative's familiar voice, ended up being a personal favourite, a slow-moving entity of what almost seemed like a rather abstract form of desert rock to me, evoking a hot and tedious Texan afternoon to this friend of sonic Americana imagery. Jandek's stage presence was absolutely remarkable; together with his vocals, their unique emphases and patterns, it made me think of a good Butoh performance, effortlessly intense as his singing was. Seemingly strange or grotesque yet going way beyond these simplistic and hierarchic descriptions, closer to forming a language of its own, his performance always felt profound without having to refer to any signifiers of profundity. It all gelled remarkably well, a challenging performance seeming like the most joyfully obvious thing in the world to do (which it probably was). As the performance has been filmed and, like all of Jandek's gigs, recorded, I assume we'll be able to confirm that impression once Corwood drops a Vienna Wednesday 2xCD/DVD release in a few years.

(Also, more people should discover the pleasures of dancing, but then I'm always ranting about that.)