Jandek, Institute of Contemporary Art, June 8, 2007
MYSTERY MAN: Jandek reaveals himself.
“My eyelids are heavy/I wish they were closed/I’m just waiting for the time/When I don’t have to think about it,” Jandek sang in a descending baritone moan as the clattering of avant-noise fluttered around him. The inaugural edition of the Institute of Contemporary Art’s “Summer Music Surge” was anything but typical. First, there was Jandek, a ghostlike figure whose near-anonymity in an information-saturated world is more the point than his avant-folk music. Second, Jandek’s three supporting musicians, selected weeks in advance and allowed to practice only once, represented some of the more challenging players on the scene: Greg Kelley (trumpet), Jorrit Dijkstra (saxophone), Eli Keszler (drums). Third, the crowd. (“It’s the best of the underwater Nazi movies,” was a snippet of overheard conversation.) These were record nerds — if you were to cross-reference the attendance with eBay power sellers, you’d be sure to find half the vinyl kingpins in Massachusetts. Jandek’s music is so esoteric that only a few stores sell it; one of them is Harvard Square’s champion of obscurities, Twisted Village. After a brief introduction, in which organizer Stacie Slotnick was given a round of applause, the audience hushed in anticipation. Through the side door of the ICA’s blackened shoreside theater, Jandek made a shadowy entrance. Seated with an acoustic bass guitar, and further hidden behind a music stand and a wide-brim fedora, he never looked into the crowd and never spoke between songs.
The music, which is written expressly for each show, was a continual, desolate dirge. Only brief interludes kept one song from melding into the next. “Happy to be hopeless/Depressed,” he moaned, later mumbling, “I don’t want to party.” Our local avant-gardistes did their best to keep up (drummer Keszler in particular kept looking for clues in Jandek’s blank face), but each song was nearly identical — bleak swells of skronk and sorrow. The slow shift of the sparse and elegant lighting was more intriguing. To focus on the music would mean getting sucked into Jandek’s whirlpool of sadness. Or, as he kept referring to it, his “house of despair.”
: Live Reviews
, Eli Keszler, Institute of Contemporary Art, Greg Kelley, More