Joan Of Arc

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Cap'n Jazz: Burritos (1994), 6.5/10
A Portable Model , 6.5/10
How Memory Works , 7/10
Live in Chicago 1999 , 6/10
The Gap , 7/10
Owls , 6/10
So Much Staying Alive And Lovelessness , 6/10
In Rape Fantasy And Terror Sex We Trust , 4/10
American Football: American Football (1999), 6/10
Owen: Owen (2001), 5/10
Owen: No Good For No One Now (2003), 4/10
Owen: I Do Perceive (2005), 5/10
Ghosts & Vodka: Precious Blood (2001), 5.5/10
Joan Of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain (2004), 5/10
Presents Guitar Duets (2005), 5/10
Make Believe: Shock Of Being (2005), 5/10
Joan Of Arc: Eventually All At Once (2006), 5/10
Joan Of Arc: Boo Human (2008), 5/10
Pinebender: Things Are About To Get Weird (2000), 6/10
Pinebender: The High Price of Living Too Long With A Single Dream (2003), 6/10
Pinebender: Working Nine to Wolf (2006), 6.5/10
Owen: At Home With Owen (2007), 5/10
Owen: New Leaves (2009), 5/10
Joan Of Arc: Flowers (2009) , 4/10
Joan Of Arc: Life Like (2011), 5/10

Joan Of Arc is the project of multi-instrumentalist and singer Tim Kinsella, who used to play in emocore outfit Cap'n Jazz with guitarist Davey VonBohlen. Burritos (Man With Gun, 1994) was their only album. The double-disc Analphabetapolothology (1998) collects all of the material recorded by Cap'n Jazz before VonBohlen went on to form Promise Ring.

Kinsella regrouped the ruins of Cap'n Jazz and hired Jeremy Boyle (keyboards, computers, bass) to form Joan Of Arc, who debuted with the EP Method & Sentiment (Jade Tree, 1996), whose Didactic Prom smells like Gastr Del Sol, and the single Busy Bus Sunny Sun (Southern, 1997).

A Portable Model (Jade Tree, 1997) was the true manifesto of that post-rock style that shuns the edgier, sharper harmonies of Don Caballero and almost reaches out to the Palace Brothers' anti-folk. I Love A Woman and Let's Wrestle are prime examples of this art. Others are purely impressionistic vignettes, although of a skewed and ugly kind (Anne Aviary, Post-Coitus Rock, the brief guitar instrumental Caliban) that occasionally degenerate in abstract, free-form and dissonant jamming (the lengthy Count To A Thousand). The songs that more closely approach the traditional song format (The Hands, Romulans) are also the weakest. The notable exception is How Wheeling Feels, which employs crazy samples of ordinary sounds, an unsually steady and loud rhythm and spastic singing. Not everything on this album is fully developed, but what succeeds is already impressive.

How Memory Works (Jade Tree, 1998) continued in that direction but introducing more varied elements. To've Had Two Of is the most lyrical of their rambling and sparse folk ballads, the strings and the guitar parodying a classical madrigal. A Party Able Model Of is a close second, a piano-based dirge that lets the strings float eerily like in a Ligeti piece. The hypnotic strumming of White Out sits at the opposite end of the spectrum, completely devoid of emotion although full of tension.
The six-minute A Pale Orange is a cybernaut's journey around the extreme periphery of kraut-rock and electronic music. The band's skills at assembling alien textures also shine in Osmosis Doesn't Work.
A visceral, rocking, quasi-techno This Life Cumulative and the (gasp) catchy A Name show that, despite appearances, there is still life in their universe. Gin And Platonic rises majestically from a chaos of random notes to a Television-like intensity.

Live in Chicago 1999 (Jade Tree, 1999) is not a live album. It is a very calm and subdued album, unfortunately marred by tedious vocals. Joan Of Arc lives the contradiction of being a band that plays personal, intimate songs when their forte are the eerie, loose soundscapes. Kinsella barely whispers the story of It's Easier To Drink and let it float in a cloud of electronic reverbs. The psychedelic feeling of this song flows into the following, six-minute tour de force Who's Afraid Of Elizabeth Taylor, which features one of their most delicate guitar works spiraling down into a hypnotic and hazy minimalism, but then re-emerging with their most linear and engaging lullaby ever. When The Parish School is of a similar stock. The foggiest piece on the album is Sympathy For The Rolling Stone, that takes a while to take shape from a magma of sleepy tones
Interrupting the "David Crosby meets Nick Drake" theme of these songs, If It Feels Good Do It sticks to the basics of a pseudo-bossanova ballad (with an unusually soulful sax) and Better De'd Than Read is a humble instrumental vignette a` la Leo Kottke. I'm Certainly Not Pleased.
On his way to becoming a more regular singer-songwriter, Kinsella is leaving behind part of the reason he existed.
Overall, the instrumental backdrop is not as creative and evocative as on previous albums.

The Gap (Jade Tree, 2000) is more conceptual and unfocused (on purpose), drawing as many elements as possible into the cauldron of unstable structures. The band's program of juxtaposing traditional acoustic balladry and atonal/unstructured textures shines in the lengthy As Black Pants Make Cat Hairs Appear, opened by broken dishes and closed by a grotesque choir repeating the melodic theme over and over again (a theme that progressed from a Burt Bacharach-esque aria to a childish nursery rhyme). The contrast is even stronger in Knife Fights Every Night, that whose whispered litany is punctuated by the noodling of a chamber ensemble (with sirenes) until they seem to annihilate each other, and in the similarly organized and equally depressed Me and America, whose strings intone an upbeat dance a` la Michael Nyman.
At the two extremes of this art you have the disjointed chamber piece Another Brick in the Gap and the dejected folk ballad Can Not See You, which simply separate the constituent elements of the other tracks.
Emotions are scant and tentative. The music is not powerful enough to sustain them. The singing is not strong enough to utter them. The best that Joan Of Arc can do is hint at an emotional level, that never truly surfaces. In Your Impersonation This Morning of Me Last Night the guitars' hypnotic strumming paints an impressionistic landscape in which Kinsella embeds his flat-tone singing. The overall effect is akin to a Buddhist trance.
Joan Of Arc inhabit a niche of sub-folk music with the likes of Nick Drake and Smog, but they add the disturbing vision of a neurotic soul in the making.
This would remain their most experimental work.

In the meantime, Mike Kinsella had launched American Football (Polyvinyl, 1999), a more convetional "emo" effort. Mike Kinsella's first solo was the voice and acoustic guitar EP He Sang His Didn't He Danced His Did (Troubleman, 2001), that collects leftovers from Gap, followed by a new project, Owen (Polyvinyl, 2001), a collection of mood pieces entirely played by him at home using software (instead of being recorded in a studio), continued on No Good For No One Now (Polyvinyl, 2003), Kinsella's first album that actually told stories, I Do Perceive (Polyvinyl, 2005), with Playing Possum for a Peek, Owen's first collaboration with another artist (Nate Kinsella on several instruments) and At Home With Owen (2007), with Bad News. These albums established Owen as a leader of the post-emo scene.

Drummer Mike Kinsella, singer Tim Kinsella and bassist Sam Zurich of Joan Of Arc re-joined guitarist (and old buddy) Victor Villareal and started yet another project, Owls, basically a reunion of Cap'n Jazz minus Promise Ring's Davey von Bohlen. Compared with Joan Of Arc, the eight-song Owls (Jade Tree, 2001) is a traditional rock album: the four members stick to the traditional rock line-up, Tim Kinsella's singing actually delivers witty lyrics, and the sound is the most straightforward of their career, notwithstanding out-of-tune singing, odd time signatures and disjointed guitar counterpoints. Songs like What Whorse You Wrote Id On, I Want The Blidingly Cute To Confide In Me and I Want The Quiet Moments Of A Party Girl are both demented and atmospheric. By far the friendliest tune is Everyone Is My Friend. On the other hand, the free-form jamming of Anyone Can Have a Good Time appears to be continuously falling apart.

The EP How Can Anything So Little Be Any More collected unreleased tracks.

Friend Enemy, which released Ten Songs (Perishable, 2002), is a Tim Kinsella side-project.

So Much Staying Alive And Lovelessness (Jade Tree, 2003), recorded live in studio banning all sound effects, is Joan Of Arc's most linear work ever. Which also means that it is by far the most accessible. By their standards, Olivia Lost, Mean to March, The Infinite Blessed Yes, Dead Together are pure pop. The loose, oneiric six-minute On a Bedsheet in the Breeze on the Roof, and oddly structured textures such as Perfect Need and Perfect Completion and So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness, betray Tim Kinsella's mad genius, and the off-key, oblique, disjointed Mr Participation Billy unveils his true spirit.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Joan Of Arc è il nome del progetto del poli-strumensta e cantante Tim Kinsella, che già suonava nei Cap'n Jazz col chitarrista Davey VonBohlen. Burritos (Man With Gun, 1994) fu il loro unico album. Analphabetapolothology colleziona tutto il materiale registrato da quel gruppo prima che VonBohlen se ne andasse per formare i Promise Ring.

Kinsella formò i Joan Of Arc dalle ceneri dei Cap'n Jazz, reclutando Jeremy Boyle (tastiere, computers e basso), con i quali debuttò con l'EP Method & Sentiment (Jade Tree, 1996), dove Didactic Prom profuma di Gastr Del Sol, e il singolo Busy Bus Sunny Sun (Southern, 1997).

A Portable Model (Jade Tree, 1997) fu il vero manifesto di quello stile post-rock che evita le armonie più taglienti e affilate dei Don Caballero, e quasi raggiunge l'anti-folk dei Palace Brothers. I Love A Woman e Let's Wrestle sono primi esempi di quest'arte. Altre sono pure vignette impressionistiche, sebbene di un tipo obliquo e sgradevole (Anne Aviary, Post-Coitus Rock, il breve strumentale chitarristico Caliban) che a volte degenerano in un jammong astratto a forma libera (the lengthy Count To A Thousand). Le canzoni che s'avvicinano maggiormente al formato-canzone (The Hands, Romulans) sono anche le più deboli. L'eccezione degna di nota è How Wheeling Feels, che impiega folli samples di suoni ordinari, una ritmica inaspettatamente ferma e fragorosa, e un cantato spastico. Non tutto è pienamente sviluppato, ma quel che succede è già impressionante.

How Memory Works (Jade Tree, 1998) continua in quella direzione introducendo altri variegati elementi. To've Had Two Of è la più lirica delle loro ballate folk nomadi e sparse, dove gli archi e la chitarra sembrano parodiare un madrigale classico. A Party Able Model Of è la seconda, una messa pianisitca che che lascia gli archi fluttuare nel sovrannaturale, come in un brano di Ligeti. Lo strimpellìo ipnotico di White Out è al capo opposto, completamente priva di emozione, ma prodiga di tensione.
I sei minuti di A Pale Orange è un viaggio cibernetico nell'estrema periferia del kraut-rock ai confini della musica elettronica. L'abilità con cui il gruppo assembla strutture aliene rispecchia anche in Osmosis Doesn't Work.
Un quasi-techno viscerale e rock, This Life Cumulative e la (gasp) orecchiabile A Name mostrano che, a dispetto di quanto sembri, c'è sempre vita nel loro universo. Gin And Platonic cresce maestosamente da un chaos di note casuali fino a raggiungere un'intensità di livello Television.

Live in Chicago 1999 (Jade Tree, 1999) non è un live album. È un album decisamente calmo e docile, sfortunatamente accompagnato da una voce tediosa. Joan Of Arc vivono la contraddizione di essere una band che suona canzoni personali ed intime, quando il loro forte sono gli acquarelli sonori strani e sconnessi. Kinsella sospira a malapena la storia di It's Easier To Drink e la lascia fluttuare in una nuvola di riverberi elettronici. Il feeling psichedelico di questa canzone scivola nella seguente, Who's Afraid Of Elizabeth Taylor, un tour de force di sei minuti che ospita uno dei loro più delicati lavori di chitarra, che scende a spirale in un ipnotico e  confuso  minimalismo, per poi ri-emergere con la loro composizione più lineare e impegnata di sempre. When The Parish School è della stessa pasta. Il pezzo più nebbioso dell'album è Sympathy For The Rolling Stone, che attarda un po' prima di prendere forma, partendo da un magma di toni onirici.
Interrompendo il tema "David Crosby meets Nick Drake" di queste canzoni, If It Feels Good Do It si attacca alle basi di una ballata pseudo bossanova (con un inusuale sax) e Better De'd Than Read è una stralunata vignetta strumentale à la Leo Kottke. I'm Certainly Not Pleased.
In procinto di diventare un cantautore più regolare, Kinsella si lascia alle spalle parte delle ragioni che ha creato. La parte strumentale, comunque, non è più quella creativa ed evocativa che era negli album precedenti.

The Gap (Jade Tree, 2000) è più concettuale e sfuocato (nello scopo), disegnando più elementi possibile nel calderone delle strutture instabili. Che l'intento della band sia quello di giustappore tradizionali ballate austiche, e textures atonali/non-strutturate è lampante nella lunga As Black Pants Make Cat Hairs Appear, aperta da uhn rumore di piatti rotti e chiusa da un coro grottesco che ripete continuamente la stessa litania melodica (un tema che progredisce da un'aria bacharach-iana fino ad una filastrocca da asilo). Il contrasto è ancor più forte in Knife Fights Every Night, la cui litania sussurrata è puntellata dai rintocchi di un esemble da camera (con sirene) finché non sembrano annientarsi a vicenda, e, similarmente organizzata e ugualmente depressa, in Me and America, in cui gli archi intonano un ritmpo ballabile upbeat à la Michael Nyman.
Ai due estremi di quest'arte, si hanno lo sconnesso pezzo da camera Another Brick in the Gap e la demoralizzante ballata folk Can Not See You, che semplicemente separano quelli che erano gli elementi costituenti nelle altre tracce.
Emozioni sono scarse e provvisorie. La musica non ha abbastanza spazio per sostenerle. Il cantato non è forte abbastanza per esprimerle. Il meglio che i Joan Of Arc possano fare è abbozzare un livello emotivo, che però non emergerà mai veramente. In Your Impersonation This Morning of Me Last Night lo strimpellìo ipnotico della chitarra  dipinge un paesaggio impressionista, nel cui Kinsella incastona il suo cantato sotto tono. L'effetto generale è vicino ad una trance buddhista.
Joan Of Arc occupano una nicchia di musica sotto-folk insieme a gente come Nick Drake e Smog, ma vi aggiungono la visione di un fantasma nevrotico.
Questo rimarrà il loro lavoro più sperimentale.

Il primo album solista di Mike Kinsella è un EP per chitarra acustica e voce He Sang His Didn't He Danced His Did (Troubleman, 2001), che collezione outtakes di Gap, seguito da un nuovo progetto, Owen (Polyvinyl, 2001), una collezione di pezzi sentimentali.

Il batterista Mike Kinsella, il cantante Tim Kinsella e il bassista Sam Zurich dei Joan Of Arc richiamano a loro il chitarrista (and old buddy) Victor Villareal e cominciano un nuovo progetto, Owls, fondamentalmente una reunion dei Cap'n Jazz. A confronto dei Joan Of Arc, le otto canzoni di Owls (Jade Tree, 2001) si muovono in un rock tradizionale: i quattro membri si legano alla tradizionale formazione rock, il cantanto di Tim Kinsella sciorina testi arguti, e il sound è il più diretto della loro carriera, pur non disdegnando canzoni fuori-tono, tempi dispari e sconnessi contrappunti di chitarra. Canzoni come What Whorse You Wrote Id On, I Want The Blidingly Cute To Confide In Me and I Want The Quiet Moments Of A Party Girl sono al tempo stesso demenziali ed atmosferiche. Alla lunga, il motivo più orecchiabile è Everyone Is My Friend. D'altra parte, la jam free-form di Anyone Can Have a Good Time sembra continuamente dover cadere a pezzi.

L'EP How Can Anything So Little Be Any More contiene inediti.

Friend Enemy, che realizzano Songs (Perishable, 2002), è un progetto parallelo di Tim Kinsella.

So Much Staying Alive And Lovelessness (Jade Tree, 2003), è un live in studio, in cui sono banditi gli effeti sonori, ed è anche il lavoro più lineare dei Joan Of Arc. Ciò singifica anche che è il loro lavoro più accessibil. Secondo i loro standards, Olivia Lost, Mean to March, The Infinite Blessed Yes, Dead Together sono puro pop. La sconnessa, onirica On a Bedsheet in the Breeze on the Roof  e le textures bizzarramente strutturate come Perfect Need and Perfect Completion e So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness, rivelano il folle genio di Tim Kinsella, e la fuori chiave, obliqua e sconnessa Mr Participation Billy disvela il suo vero spirito.

In Rape Fantasy And Terror Sex We Trust (Perishable, 2003) collects the leftovers of the sessions of So Much Staying Alive And Lovelessness.

Joan Of Arc's bassist Matt Clark formed Pinebender, that released the avant-slocore (slow, loud and catchy) of Things Are About To Get Weird (Ohio Gold, 2000). After Clark abandoned the project, Stephen Howard became the new lead guitarist and the band released The High Price of Living Too Long With A Single Dream (2003), an even more immaculate blend of Dinosaur Jr and Codeine, and Working Nine to Wolf (Lovitt, 2006), in a post-metal manner that grafted a higher degree of dynamics onto the cathatonic songs sandwiched between two dramatic juggernauts, the 14-minute Parade of Horribles and the 12-minute Fifth And Last.

Cap'n Jazz's virtuoso guitarist Victor Villareal formed the all-instrumental combo Ghosts & Vodka, that released Precious Blood (Six Gun Lover, 2001) and a single, all collected on the anthology Addicts and Drunks (Sixgunlover, 2003).

Kinsella's art remains self-absorbed and self-indulgent on Joan Of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain (Polyvinyl, 2004), but the arrangements are broader in style (employing an arsenal of guitars, viola, cello, pianos, organ, vibes, synth). Gripped By The Lips and Questioning Benjamin Franklin's Ghost benefit from the new instrumental openness. The discordant psychodramas of Abigail Cops and Animals, Onomatopoeic Animal Faces and I Trust a Litter of Kittens make the mistake of not following the same intuition, and thus sound contrived and predictable. The tortured polyphony of White and Wrong and Apocalypse Politics is the same song the group has been making since the first album, no matter how interesting they try to make it sound.

Presents Guitar Duets (Rercord Label, 2005) is precisely that: current and former Joan Of Arc guitarists play ten (untitled) instrumental duets.

In the meantime, Tim Kinsella had already launched a new project, Make Believe, with Sam Zurick on guitar (Ghosts & Vodka), Bobby Burg on bass and Nate Kinsella on drums. Their Shock Of Being (Flame Shovel, 2005) is Kinsella's most linear effort yet, grounded in the usual blend of lo-fi jazz, folk and rock but structured in a way that reneges on the vocalist's former sonic anarchy. Songs such as Say What You Mean surely pack a lot of power, but but his lyrics and his vocals remain the weakest element of the formula. Of Course (Flameshovel, 2006) was a showcase for the instrumentalists, notably Zurick and Nate Kinsella.

Nate Kinsella also plays in Decembers Architects.

Mike Kinsella's Owen returned with At Home (2006) and the understated and colloquial (if not melodic) New Leaves (2009), a middle-aged meditation that finally sounded like a traditional singer-songwriter.

The Intelligent Design of Joan of Arc (2006) collects singles and rarities.

Joan Of Arc's Eventually All At Once (2006) explored a side of Mike Kinsella that is a lot less jarring, meekly driven by acoustic guitar and largely immersed in a subdued and humble mood. The same route towards a friendlier sound was pursued by Boo Human (Polyvinyl, 2008), that instead featured more vigorous arrangements.

Flowers (Polyvinyl, 2009) marked Kinsella's lowest artistic point, redeemed only by the instrumental Flowers.

Life Like (2011) reshaped Joan of Arc's gloomy rock around melodies, thus approaching the anti-cathartic epos of emo, while maintaining instrumental dignity with the ten-minute opener I Saw the Messed Binds of My Generation and the mostly instrumental Messed Blinds.

Ben Vida/ Keith Fullerton Whitman (Amish, 2011) was a collaboration between Ben Vida and Hrvatski.

Ben Vida's Music For A Soft Epic (Root Strata) contains a soundtrack scored for synthesizer.

American Football returned with American Football (2016) and American Football (2019).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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