Since I saw him opening for Black Midi at Rough Trade in a Bristol a couple years ago I have been awestruck by Jerskin Fendrix. I remember watching the show bewildered and excited by what I witnessed, a chap in a parker singing his absolute heart out to a mashup of classically infused EDM, drizzled in saws, sines and sorrow. I remember trying to work out the concept. Between each tracks he stood there, awkwardly, looking down, breathing heavy into the microphone, speaking slowly with a deep and ambiguous accent, now and then the audience would chuckle and he’d ask them why they were laughing. This was received with mixed reactions and you could see the cogs turning in people’s brains ‘is he serious? Is this part of the act? Is this good? Is this awful?’ – Did we witness the Nicholas Cage of support acts?’
As fun as all of that is to ponder the answer is simple; No. Rather, this is genius.
There is an air of parody, or simulacra maybe, the clue being that I don’t think he really is called Jerskin Fendrix. I imagine that there’s likely to be a lot going on that I’m just not aware of.
I dreamt I cooked you dinner
and God the food was good!
All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed it and as soon as I saw that his debut album Winterreise was due for release I hit that preorder button faster than someone else might hit the preorder button? The day it arrived, which may be recently or less so, I really have lost all concept of time this year I hastily tore off the cellophane… no, acutally first of all I removed it from the complementary dust jacket that came with it (thank you!) and then I hastily removed the cellophane, like a greedy toddler trying to get into the sweeties.
I shan’t explain the rest of the process of putting on a record, we all know it, the sweet smell of the shiny new disc of vinyl, the creaseless dust sleeve, the cheeky plummet of the download code slip, the wanton look into the cave of wonders that is the outer sleeve, for any bonuses or goodies! Winterreise does indeed come with a goodie in the form of a photo book, with lyrics and possibly a poster (I can’t remember).
And so the listening process begun. I’ve listened to it dozens of times since that first moment, why? Because it’s epic.
I interpret it to be an absolute masterpiece of jaded post-horrendous breakup poetry. The idea that torment and heartbreak has pushed someone to manifest an entire, largely genreless album speaks as much volume about the experience as the album itself. It’s one of those pieces of art that makes you think that it’s too raw and real to be manufactured, maybe the names and places have changed but I believe this to be the genuine article. As one of many people to be jaded by the cruel hand of heartbreak only to then transform it into some sort of beautifully, sadly addictive music (even if only for my own ears) this, to me, feels real.
But it’s so wonderful that part of me hopes that Mr. Fendrix experiences countless more terrible heartbreaks. Part of me hopes that he experiences transatlantic betrayal every few months so that he may continue to produce such wonderful and wholeheartedly hedonistic pieces as he has. Okay so, obviously I don’t really wish that because that’s mean, ideally I hope that he meets someone who doesn’t break his heart ever, but acts as a musical muse that allows him to make good happy music, maybe…. sure, mmmhmm.
ANYWAY, the album itself comprises ten tracks involving heartbreak and feelings and whatnot. There’s a lot to consider and I don’t want to spoil it for any first time ears. The tracks deviate between electronic, upbeat dance dance revolution style numbers through to beautiful orchestral soundscapes that conjure up old timey film imagery of places like New York which, intentionally or otherwise (I don’t know what others may conjure in their mind brain) is a reoccurring theme of the album.
As a whole, the album stretches out across the great ven diagram of genres and emotions, you can listen to it in a multitude of ways, deciding what to focus on. If you hone in on the instrumentation you can choose to get down and funky to the addictive Ice-cream truck joy inducing A Star is Born – You can enjoy the heavier, industrial smackdown of Swamp before it collapses into the ethereal valley where Boards of Canada live.
Will I ever meet your guy?
To punch his lights out
You can take in the pure emotive bliss of a beautiful piano piece played ever so slightly wrong, but perfectly right at the same time at the very beginning. But the vocals run against all of this, it’s like, they want to be joyous and bouncy too but there’s too much in the way, angst, anxiety, pain, resentment, regret, all those delicious little mindfucks deviate it to a darker place, an obsessive place, sometimes even I want to change my name and address in case he turns up proclaiming his undying love to me. As I said before, it’s very real and if it isn’t he’s just more genius than I thought and I HOPE he turns up and proclaims his undying love for me.
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It does have a poster!
For fun: Jerskin has a tenable link to Cardiacs – recorded Ice Cream with Black Midi for the It’s Briiiiiixmaaaaaas! Christmas compilation. Put together by none other than Stephen Gilchrist (legend) of Hot Sauce Pony & Stephen Evens (which features Bob Leith), Stephen has toured with, written about and continued to support and be a friend to dear Tim and Cardiacs.