Examining one Jandek album is like looking at a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that reveals nothing about the larger picture. The five songs that stretch out over The Ruins of Adventure, Jandek’s 48th release, ramble over warped plucking and sliding on a fretless bass. Dark atmospheres teeter between an arrhythmic plod and nagging spaciousness. Songs like “The Park” and “Bluff Brink” are the polar opposites of the tin-can haze found on early Jandek albums, like Six & Six and Chair Beside a Window.
“Completely Yours” and “Mysteries of Existence” drift like clouds that smother the moon out of the night sky, while his lyrics settle on an exhausted and despondent drawl. The words of each song unfold like one-sided dialogue demanding to be spoken aloud, but fester in the mind hours after an argument has ended. Jandek’s spite could be pointed at God, a lover or himself, but the truth is never revealed.
The soft edges of each lumbering bass swell demand that the volume be turned up high, lest real world sounds, traffic, the upstairs neighbor stomping around and the buzz of the CD player spinning drown out the peripheral subtleties. But each lumbering surge bounds back with distant, percussive pressure. The Ruins of Adventure isn’t the ideal entry point for the Jandek novice, but a higher level installment for the devoted listener. It’s a beautiful, but challenging record that words like “brooding,” “murky” and “dreary” are meant to describe.
(Originally published by Flagpole Magazine, 2/14/07).