A man is crying.
It’s more than a sob, but not quite a wail. It’s punctuated by sniffles and nose blows. At times it sounds like he’s laughing. When he’s spent, he coughs, then cries some more. He is cut short, two minutes and forty-nine seconds later, by deranged throat singing.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have just heard the first three minutes of And Love, the latest album by Canadian visual artist and musician Jordan Seal, painting and recording under the name Joucous. (Pronounced “joww coose”)
Seal is an intriguing figure. Painting from a very early age, his wild imagination kept him separate from his peers. Ultimately, he chose separation to concentrate fully on finding his soul through creative pursuits. It’s an outlook, encompassing religion, spirituality, but with one eye on rationalism, that is detailed in New Imagination, a 270-point document that is not so much an artistic statement but a singular manifesto for one man’s life, love and well-being.
1. Anything is possible.
2. Nothing is impossible.
3. At any point in time reality can unravel. The backwards will be inside out and fall upside down. The never imagined will happen before you. The earth will shatter. The sky will fall. A thousand unseen never seen colors whose parents aren’t blue or red or yellow or black or white will be visible. You will fly faster than the speed of light. You will stay still faster than the speed of light. You will be a living creature inside the hottest core of the sun. All of this can happen at any moment without any warning. All of this and far more can happen.
Though I speak as an atheist, it is hard not to be moved by his passion for seeing God within everything, and for what he calls the “art life,” a way of being that, on the basis of New Imagination, manifests itself in such an all-encompassing way. The document’s length and detail shows that Seal didn’t reach this mindset overnight, nor on a whim. It’s a beautiful, inspirational thing. And during our recent email communique, his positivity is clear to see. It’s not a light read, but I highly recommend putting an hour aside and studying it. It can be downloaded as a Word document here.
I don’t feel entirely qualified to discuss his artwork for now, what with my knowledge of art being limited, but “I know what I like”, and I like it very much. Reminds me of traditional oriental paintings as channelled by Jackson Pollack. Have a gander around his website for plentiful examples, and his YouTube account for some of his "live painting" work. So to his music. In conversation with friends I have tried to describe him as what happens when Tom Waits attempts a cover of Jandek, but the truth is Joucous makes Tom Waits sound like a choirboy. Acoustic guitars and violas are routinely bashed, mangled and abused, not so much making melodies as perpetually shifting tuned stacatto rhythms, but it’s his voice that makes this music wonderfully strange.
Is it grunting? Throat singing? Falsetto? The sound one makes after running a marathon? Whatever, it’s a primitive, almost tribal vocal that, when I first heard it on And Love's second track (just after all the crying), the acapella 'Almia Sanguraa Yuna', took me completely aback. Jaw on the floor, utterly gobsmacked, bowled over by just how intense this voice was. Almost impossible to describe, his growl might as well have been a scream directing into my brain, such was its impact. And just when you think that it's pure vocalising, this happens:
Detached and untangled.
Piece by piece dismantled.
Muscles and sinews stretched between teeth.
I am to be chewed on until I can’t take it anymore.
Fall into the stomach.
Forced down below.
I travel under.
I go there to melt.
So, to answer your question: no, he’s not taking the piss. And this is but the tip of the iceberg, as all three albums, Horrible Songs of Joy and Wooden Skull Melodies being the other two, lyrically (poetically? Print these in a book and one mightn’t know they were ever set to music…) cover similarly soul searching, self-destructive themes, between deranged acoustic instrumental tracks. Like MisanthropiK (formerly JRocc), one might struggle to decipher it in the first few listens. Unlike him though, he publishes all his lyrics on Bandcamp, where you can also download all three albums for free. If you only download one though, download And Love. That’s where I started, and for me, it’s his most exciting work. If you’re pushed for time though, try this live set, recorded in front of an audience of two.
His website is, quite literally, a work of art. Even his news updates are exquisitely presented. Keep reading and you’ll find his paintings and drawing scattered amongst poetry and details of his Manifold Collective of artists.
And yes, I know it’s been a long time since the last update. Truth is, with a new job in childcare, Christmas, an imminent theatre production I’ve been roped into assisting with and my own ongoing musical concerns, I’ve had very little time to write. There may be another long-ish delay between this and the next post, but trust me, your support is always greatly appreciated.