JANDEK The Beginning
Corwood 0766 (1999)
Singer/songwriter Jandek may not make the kind of music that results in massive popularity and record sales, but he's a critic's dream; they get to use words like "cryptic", "hermetic", and "idiosyncratic" like there's no tomorrow. Jandek is what you might call a "cult artist"'s cult artist; since the late 1970's he's been recording albums of totally original, utterly unclassifiable songs that usually feature no more than his own wandering, keyless vocal meanderings over a seemingly untuned guitar. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he's released close to forty albums on Corwood Industries, his own record label, and maintained a small, devoted following, all without touring or (until recently) playing any live concerts or making any public appearances whatsoever.
Stylistically, The Beginning doesn't deviate very far from Jandek's earlier releases; most songs are addressed to a "you" that could be a (former) lover with little in the way of standard pop melody, as Jandek's guitar pumps out harsh, steady ostinatos. The exception is the title track, coming at the end of the album and clocking in at over fifteen minutes. It's an instrumental piece played on a, you guessed it, poorly-tuned piano that nevertheless achieves a majestic, almost classical beauty by its abrupt end.
To learn more about Jandek, check out Jandek on Corwood, an excellent documentary now available on DVD.