A Jandek studio album in 2019 — it’s a surprise, to say the least. The last time the Representative of Corwood Industries released an album, it was 5 hours of piano/theremin duets that tested the patience of even the most dedicated fans. The album had a sense of solemn closure mostly due to the fact that the Representative sneaked in a fantastic poem within the 5 hours of the instrumental conversation. It really felt like all the knots were untied. However, this is the Jandek project we’re talking about. Numerous fans expected him to end everything several times before.
Since 2014, Jandek released several live records which felt like a separate development path. A lot of elements were borrowed from Jandek’s studio discography, but the live project seemed to focus more on the experiments brought in by the guest musicians and the way they riffed against the Corwood classic grey blues. The studio records, especially the latter batch, always seemed to bring out the Rep to the front of the stage and that’s why I always liked them.
So. The Ray is the 55th studio release by the Jandek project. 93rd total release if we count the live recordings. A single track, almost 62 minutes long.
What we get is a bit hard to pinpoint. It’s a psychedelic mixture of tons of elements that are recognizable from the Corwood projects of the past. If I had to choose a previous unit that lands in a fairly similar area, it will be Manhattan Tuesday without a doubt.
The cloudy haze of the interdimensional lead guitar in the back sounds very much in style Loren Connors with occasional shimmers that make it almost sound like a piano. The spoken word performance from the Rep has a similar delivery to the one from the mentioned above live show. The disjointed rhythm guitar strums are in the classic Jandek style post — I Threw You Away. Steady as a train, free as a bird. The bass and the drums manage to lie down a set of grooves that clashes constantly with the rest, giving the recording a signature Corwood indeterminacy. Throughout the entirety of the piece, all the components morph their directions and tempos, mostly relying on the path the Representative’s narration takes.
Speaking of the lyrics, we get more of the Rep’s poetry of loss with what seems like post-breakup indecision whether the protagonist should get over his loved one or mope in his sorrows — Do I need the rain / or is it the dry time?. He then takes a direct flight to Honolulu and, well, he goes for a typical Jandek-style adventure with tons of walking and general surreal imagery. I liked some lyrical elements here, but it wasn’t my absolute favorite Jandek grey narration. It’s still nice to see him exploring his poetry style further on.
Overall, I think this record left me a bit dry due to the fact that I had high expectations of the Jandek studio recording reemergence. It was a really long waiting period and I had a hope that there will be another “reinvention” in line with The Ray. Then again, the Representative has reinvented himself so many times already. Can’t really blame him for playing it safe this time. It’s a good record and I enjoyed it. Might not be the best entry point into the Jandek oeuvre, but it’s great if you’re looking for a psychedelic trip.
You can find out all records from Corwood Industries on their official website.