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August 19, 2007

Writing With Jandek

jandek_cell.jpgI'm finishing the second draft of a script that I started writing back in June, about a man driving up North to see his dad. I don't know what will come of it, although it's something I could and certainly would like to make in the foreseeable future. It's a harsh, cold and unhappy bit of writing, and the process behind it was enriched by, infused with and eventually fueled by the record that has become the soundtrack of my summer: Glasgow Monday by Jandek.

I've been aware of the man known as Jandek for some time, but had never actually heard his music until I was sitting in the front row at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW last spring, where he played the twenty-third concert of his thirty year career (I wrote about the experience here). A month or two later, while we were shooting Moxie, Brad passed on an assortment of his records. I've been listening to them ever since but, as anyone who's ever heard his work knows, he's not exactly easy to listen to. His music is jarring, discordant, dissonant; in fact, the prefect adjective, with all its Plutonic parallels, is simply the prefix dis, to the point that it's sometimes physically unpleasant to listen to him. And yet people do listen to him, and his fanbase has grown ever since his first self-released LP in 1978. As it's put at the Guide To Jandek website, "Some find it crude or inept at first, but upon exploration it reveals incredible depth, intelligence, feeling, and rewards for the listener. "

Earlier this summer, I randomly started listening to Glasgow Monday while working on the early scenes of this script. And then I listened to it again, and again, and before long I was suitably obsessed. The album is a recording of a live performance in Glasgow in 2004, and it's ninety minutes comprise a ten part piece of music entitled The Cell. Foregoing his usual electric guitar, Jandek sticks to the piano, working in and around the same simple phrases for the entire performance, softly singing his seemingly nonsensical lyrics as the the strings of a bass are ground with a bow in accompaniment. It's simple, protracted and repetitive; each part blends into the one before it, and it doesn't take but a track or two for the haunting, meditative qualities to work their spell. It's beautiful, and moving. There's a purity to it, a sort of gut level aesthetic that verges on the sublime.

Of course, beautiful and pure are relative terms, especially when dealing with an artist in such frequent conflict with common standards of musical quality. But it works for me, and I love it, and I would recommend Glasgow Monday as the perfect gateway recording for the unitiated. To that end, here's a sample from the album. It's ten minutes long, and fairly representative of the piece as a whole (minus the majestic applause the signals the performance's conclusion):

Jandek: Glasgow Monday / The Cell - Part One (mP3)

I don't have a title for the script that's come out of so many afternoons spent listening to this record, but for the time being I'm just going to wear my influences on my sleeve and refer to it as Glasgow Monday, even though it takes place in the American Midwest on a day that's probably not a Monday. It's still perfect.

Posted by David Lowery at August 19, 2007 11:31 PM


so glad you enjoy this record david! it's also my favorite jandek album..and the first one of his i listened to.

i wish i could listen to it over and over again, but i can only handle it once every month or two, it's too intense for me to listen constantly. yay for inspiration!

Posted by: brad at August 20, 2007 03:31 AM