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Jandek - Raining Down on Diamonds

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Artist: Jandek

Album: Raining Down on Diamonds

Label: Corwood

Review date: Nov. 13, 2005

"Oh, but I’m in my cave", Jandek moans on “What Things Are”. "It’s true, I can’t get out," he continues, his voice straining against the vowel of can’t, pushing the line - and any sense or story it might carry - close to oblivion. However, with the next line he recovers and reminds the listener and, one suspects, himself, by singing in a disturbingly confident voice, "But also they can’t get in." A better capsule of Jandek’s career might be hard to find: He, the inscrutable and reclusive singer, exploring his internal labyrinth and searching for escape, while the listener, the curious and probing spectator, is held at bay.

Attempts at elucidation like the documentary Jandek on Corwood only add entrances to the maze. Jandek's latest release, Raining Down Diamonds, doesn’t help the search either. Its waters are muddied by a bass played in some private key, the only accompaniment one finds to lyrical content that Jandek delivers as deranged spoken word, the meaning of which hides somewhere between therapy and solitary confession. He begs to Jesus, supplicates himself before a food deity, serenades a pitch-black room, and describes the revelation of staring motionless for hours, all with an oblique and strip-mined verbal palette.

As Jandek molests his bass, crashing wave after leaden wave of atonality on the listener, the effect becomes so oppressive that one has only two choices: turn it off, or try to fill in the musical and lyrical blanks he leaves. At times a blues cadence flutters past or, if you put your ear close enough to the track, a melody might emerge. "Listen and try to find me," he challenges on “Your Visitor”, "I’m all around your loneliness." It’s a knife-twisting line that comes at the close of the disc, one that suggests Jandek is aware of the shadows he casts on himself.

But extracting biography from art is inherently a crapshoot - all one really has to go by here is the music, which on Raining Down Diamonds is a window that looks out over a very bleak and very dark psychological landscape. The landscape is so bleak and so dark, in fact, that one has to consider if staring into it is worthwhile, for it reveals nothing except an opaque suffering, one akin to the very dark joke about a blind person, a circular room and looking for a corner.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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