Synopsis by Mark Deming
Even by the standards of underground and avant-garde music, Jandek is a man who has pushed the notion of deliberate obscurity to the outer limits. In 1978, an album called Ready for the House appeared, credited to "The Units" and released by Corwood Industries, a nascent label out of Houston, TX; a collection of spare, haunting songs dominated by atonal acoustic guitar and murmured (or mumbled) vocals, Ready for the House received cautiously enthusiastic reviews by the very few writers who bothered to cover it, and the same artist, now billing himself as Jandek (a San Francisco synth-pop group was using the name the Units), released a second album, Six and Six, in 1981. By 2004, Jandek had issued 38 albums, all following the same pattern -- a front cover featuring either a grainy photo of a tall, thin man with blonde hair or obscure snapshots of houses, empty rooms or street scenes; a back cover that was all back type on a white surface; music that was simple, obscure and harrowingly personal; no information on the artist; and distribution that suggested the albums weren't released so much as tossed to the winds to see what might happen. Almost in spite of himself, Jandek became the center of a small but fervent cult following, despite the fact he receives almost no radio play, doesn't tour, has made only one known live appearance (unidentified and unannounced), doesn't promote his releases, and refuses to talk to the media or even publicly acknowledge his identity (the man has given all of two interviews, both under difficult circumstances). Filmmaker and Jandek enthusiast Chad Friedrich's documentary Jandek on Corwood examines the enigma that is Jandek and takes a long look at both his music and what this artist's purposefully obscure approach to his work says about him and his audience. Jandek on Corwood features interviews with musicians and journalists Calvin Johnson, John Trubee, Byron Coley, Barry Hansen (aka Dr. Demento), Richie Unterberger, Phil Milstein, and many more; a representative from Corwood Industries who may be Jandek is heard in a brief telephone conversation.
independent-music, indie-rock, interview, music-industry, musician, mystery [enigma], recluse, rock-music, speculation