Marking another chapter in the befuddled make-believe world of Joan of Arc, this is a scintillating, ramshackle journey through the mind of ex-*Cap’n Jazz *member Tim Kinsella, and the sound of a skewed take on reality as the multi-instrumentalist grapples with his feelings and warped sense of true meaning in a modern existence.
Perhaps less conceptual than previous releases, '…Mark Twain' still reflects their leftist tendencies, the title alone reflecting its content as a blurred, disjointed soundtrack to the similarly dysfunctional rhetoric of America’s political ideology. But actually listening – sorry, tackling - this cluttered post-modern amalgam of twisted art-strumentation you sense a title like 'Ben Folds, Frank Zappa *and *Béla Bartok…' might be more apt, fragments of all three drifting in and out of focus as you journey through the album, occasionally occosted by some freakish, otherworldly sounds in the process.
Just take 'White And Wrong' _as it skips and jumps like a robotic horse leaping over sparkling, psychedelic turnstyles, or the guitar in _'Apocalypse Politics' _ as it plucks with an inconsistent, off-beat pulse like fragile raindrops falling randomly, or even the two minutes of pointless electro glitches flickering solomnly in _'Still'. It’s an eccentric, utterly disjointed listen throughout, but it’d be unfair to label it chaotic.
Indeed, Kinsella’s soft vocal lilting calms and tames such trip-happy instrumentation, bringing it under his control. He keeps watch while coarse strings jab harmlessly at a wandering Hammond organ in 'Questioning Benjamin Franklin’s Ghost'; he whispers like a neurotic *Nick Drake *underneath the tribal scrum of 'Abigail, Cops And Animals'; he comforts a solitary, melancholic piano line in 'Onomatopoeic Animal Faces', bringing colour and warmth to it’s atonal meandering. This, it seems, is the key to understanding Joan of Arc, of tapping into such esoteric instrumentation that makes such little sense to our brainwashed ears. However, the balance of unsettleing noise and artistic appreciation wavers perhaps a little too much and, as admirable a band as they are, wrapping your ears around their album unfortunately proves to be a little too much work.
6Mat Hocking's Score