Damien Jurado: On My Way to Absence
There comes a time in every artist's career when he disconnects himself from the public. Fans, friends, critics, they'll all be left behind in the creative process; maybe for only a spell, maybe forevermore. When that break happens, it's both liberating and terrifying. With On My Way To Absence, Damien Jurado has made such a break. He hung up the phone and left it lying there on the counter, and in the process has created a quintessential Jurado piece of work; a masterpiece by one of today's most incredible voices.
Stripped of any inclination or genre-adopting (his past albums deliberately each wore a different cloak: Waters Ave S's pop, Rehearsals For Departure's folk-rock, Ghost of David's ambient-experimentalism, I Break Chairs' rock, and Where Shall You Take Me?'s americana), On My Way To Absence is the sound of Jurado and long-time collaborator Eric Fisher locked in a mental space for four months, periodically inviting friends (including Rosie Thomas, Crooked Fingers frontman Eric Bachman, and familiar faces Josh Golden, Seth Warren, David Broecker, Casey Foubert and Andy Myers) in to contribute to the piece, but ultimately just the two of them immersed in the canvas. Stripped of a hope to please, Jurado journeyed inward and veered into darker and darker territory. On My Way To Absence has ultimately become what Jurado refers to as "a tribute to jealousy". It approaches a dangerous ledge and by the album's end, with the powerful "A Jealous Heart is a Heavy Heart", the listener is left somewhat dangling in a scary place. In the past, Jurado may have been concerned with leaving listeners in such a precarious position, but the beauty of On My Way To Absence is that it does not make such calculations. It just builds & builds, raccoon-eyed & bleary. When the needle raises at the end of side two, one wonders if there'll ever be another side. This is the sort of story that is created in an artistic vacuum, the sort of insularity that artists such as Jandek and the Microphones have creating wonderful albums within. It's a dark portrait that would fit well on the plaster walls of a Fassbinder home, right next to Lou Reed's Berlin in terms of sheer emotional audacity. He finds the quick truth, the good stuff, and he sings it from his gut. Such is the magic of Damien Jurado.