E Jugend Last Exit Wedding

[Taping Desk O-Phon; 2000]

Styles: odds-and-ends compilation, indie – but in a richer sense than we’re used to
Others: Baja, Jandek, Can

E Jugend is a German duo composed of two gents who refer to themselves as “5 and 9” or “Baja” and “Ma Chérie for Painting.” Under the name Baja, Daniel Vujanic released a curious, compelling record last year entitled Maps / Systemalheur. For Last Exit Wedding, he’s working again with Joachim Henn (Ma Chérie for Painting), and we’re treated to much the same everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach that Vujanic used so provocatively on Maps. This vinyl-only release compiles recordings the two have made in their wide travels since 2001. So it’s better to think of the album as a scrapbook than a linear, chapter-by-chapter narrative. I imagine these guys slipping into back rooms at sketchy youth hostels to lay down the odd guitar track or play around with a delay pedal they somehow fit into a rucksack. The record’s rich in erratic, unaffected DIY grubbiness.

Approaching the recordings as a kind of haphazard travel journal can help unlock their charm, and that of the group, which changes costume midtrack more often than not. They try on everything from drone to indie rock to minimal electronica to folk in just under forty-five minutes, but do it capably and without pretense. Anyone with an amp, a delay pedal, and Audacity can be a multi-genre practitioner these days, and E Jugend seem to know this and enjoy it. Unabashed playfulness is their primary virtue (but they’re not childish). They can hopscotch through the bright conceptual squares sketched on the post-rock playground without tripping and tumbling into wonky pretense or flaccid rehearsals of once-fresh ideas. At their best, they achieve a rough synthesis of Jandek’s tunelessness and Can’s grotty wanderlust.

Maps performed genre tourism with precision and skill, in spite of its crooked trajectories; the songs on Last Exit Wedding feel much more desultory and, on first listen, even lazy and unfinished. This will likely be a deterrent to impatient listeners, but over time my admiration has grown for E Jugend’s willingness to speak in new (and sometimes unaccomplished) voices, even if it results in occasional self-indulgence. Following the story of someone’s travels can be fascinating (Invisible Cities) or terribly mundane (“and here’s me in front of the Eiffel Tower!!!!!11”). These fellows are clever enough to keep their chopped-up anti-narrative from sagging. Last Exit Wedding may lack some of the thoughtfulness that enriched Maps, but it provides a nevertheless charming set of musical puzzles for the listener to work through.

*I genuinely loathe having to rate these guys. A five-point scale seems irrelevant to what they are all about. What they make is really not about being “good” or “bad” according to conventional aesthetic parameters – it’s music that serves as an insight into a creative process and a prompt to more tolerant listening. They’re not going to win the Shortlist prize and I don’t think they care.

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