Jandek has a disconcerting habit of following albums that imply a modicum of personal contentment with releases that see him plunging a few thousand leagues deeper into the pits of despair. The recent "Raining Down Diamonds" featured the unusually positive "New Rendezvous", and a blurry cover picture of a serene-looking, bearded Jandek in a white prayer cap. "Khartoum" features a similar photograph, oddly tinted a ghostly blue, but the contents depict a soul in distress. The familiar hacking chords of his detuned acoustic guitar also make for a more abrasive listen than the preceding album's bass rumble.
On recent albums, Jandek's lyrics have tended to alternate between spiritual and relationship matters, and at times it has been difficult to determine whether he's addressing a lover or a deity. Here, both concerns coincide and conflict as never before. "You Wanted to Leave" describes the dissolution of a relationship, but Jandek is distracted by higher thoughts, wanting "to go to the spirit world". However, this becomes a cause for regret ? on "New Dimension" he discovers "All the spirits in the spirit world don't equal you / Because you're gone, and I took you for granted".
"I Shot Myself" is, as one might suspect, a particularly harrowing five minutes. This, presumably metaphorical, suicide does not provide a quick release from earthly miseries, but agonizing self-annihilation. Yet somehow the protagonist survives to find himself paralysed with depression and apathy on "In a Chair I Stare". Like a Beckett character, Jandek can't go on... he'll go on.
Jandek's early albums could sometimes work on a mantric, hypnotic level, but you couldn't use a record like "Khartoum" as mere background music - the only way to take it is to strap yourself in and absorb every jarring cadence and anguished moan. There's a lot going on on this one. It's easy to overlook recent Corwood releases and to see them as "business as usual", overshadowed as they are by Jandek's live appearances, often with very notable collaborators. But the fact that albums as vigorous and intense, and ultimately rewarding, as this are appearing simultaneously is remarkable. Jandek can be seen as a virtuoso in a genre of which he is the sole exponent. 9/10 -- Paul Condon (28 June, 2006)