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Jandek on Corwood

Jandek on Corwood

Studio:Unicorn Stencil
Screen Writer:Chad Freidrichs

By Bret McCabe | Posted 11/24/2004

THE MOVIE: When a representative of Corwood Industries was joined by bassist Richard Youngs and drummer Alexander Neilson at Scotland’s Instal festival Oct. 14, it was—to the best of everybody’s knowledge—the first appearance of the Texas recluse known as Jandek in his 26-year career. And it caps a year of almost hectic prolificacy for the mythic outsider. In addition to this first public appearance, the singer/songwriter—though applied to Jandek the term is misleading, as the man finger plucks and strums guitar and sings/moans/bellows in ways like nobody else on the planet—has released four more CDs this year (his 35th-38th releases). And director Chad Freidrichs and producer Paul Fehler’s 2003 documentary Jandek on Corwood has come out on DVD, after making limited appearances on the festival circuit.

Jandek on Corwood is by far the most multifaceted single portrait of the mystery man, corralling interviews with music journalists (Byron Coley, former Op magazine contributor Phil Milstein, Douglas Wolk) and other fans (Matador Records’ Nils Bernstein, K Records’ Calvin Johnson) to tell the shadowy story of a musician who has consented to only one (and perhaps two) interviews in his career and has preferred to exist as a Pynchonian enigma since 1978. J on C delves into the stylistic changes in an oeuvre as impenetrable as it is intoxicating, and touches on Jandek’s fans’ bewildering allegiance, whether it’s the music itself that attracts them or the utter lack of contextualizing information that permits them to project anything they want onto the man and his music.

THE DISC: Director Freidrichs cagily crafts the documentary to appeal to both members of the Jandek army and utter neophytes, creating acutely appropriate visuals to accompany this spare music. The DVD extras reward the fan with a fine assortment of Jandekiana. Audio tracks contain extended interviews with included journalists and song excerpts from four Jandek albums released since the movie was completed. Jandek reviews and articles—such as Katy Vine’s 1999 “Jandek and Me” piece from Texas Monthly—are included. But the best bonus is an approximately 20-minute featurette tour of Jandek cover artwork with commentary from Douglas Wolk and two other fans very well Jandek-versed. Jandek’s bad photography covers, frequently of a thin, blond man everybody has always assumed is Jandek himself, have always been the only visual cues to who may be behind the music contained inside. Wolk and company dissect the images like art scholars pouring over a forgotten canvas, discovering their own visual and lyrical leitmotifs and overlapping images—the comment that some photos have to be from the same roll of film is priceless—which is as amusing as their speculation about the man himself.

E-mail Bret McCabe

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