Joan of Arc
’s umpteenth studio album, this summer’s Testimonium Songs
(Polyvinyl), documents the band’s involvement in a multitiered performance piece
put together by Chicago artists Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish (aka Every House Has a Door
), which premiered in October. Called Testimonium
, it was inspired by the objectivist poetry of Charles Reznikoff, who in 1933 began transforming American criminal courtroom transcripts into poetry (eventually published in the unfinished 528-page book Testimony
). In his liner notes Goulish writes that Reznikoff “imagined an alternate history of the United States, one that would include voices omitted from the history books.” Only the hooky opening track, “Amelia,”
borrows directly from the poet, whose work can be quite specific to its period; for his original lyrics, bandleader Tim Kinsella devised present-day analogues to Reznikoff’s writing, delivering philosophical inquiries and gnomic observations. Joan of Arc developed this material over a two-year period, but it never feels overworked or fussy; though the songs complicate the objectivist notion of the poem as a kind of self-contained object, the knotty music carries its own weight, especially on the 14-minute “The Bird’s Nest Wrapped Around the Security Camera,” which unspools constantly shifting permutations of a simple set of phrases. Kinsella and company are coming off a long European tour, and knowing them this show will balance glad-to-be-home casualness with the dialed-in sharpness that comes from playing almost every night for six weeks. —Peter Margasak Pinebender opens.