Joan of Arc: Tim Kinsella's sound collage


There's a

prosaic reason for why Oh Brother, the

new album by Chicago-based, indie-rock band Joan of Arc on local experimental

rock label Joyful Noise Recordings, came out the way it did: Tim Kinsella, the

band's sole permanent member, lead guitarist and lead singer, had just bought a

new version of Pro Tools, the music editing software suite, and he needed to

work with some raw material to help himself master the program, to ride out the

learning curve.

So he seized

upon tapes from some of his own recording projects that had never come to

fruition: several aborted Joan of Arc sessions that came very close to being

completed as albums, with only vocal tracks left to be recorded; an aircheck

tape from an improvised session on a college radio station that was never meant

to be released. And he set about piecing them together into a sound collage,

thereby giving new life to these abandoned works from his recent past.

The end

result is an 80-minute double-album comprised of four 20-minute tracks, each

the length of one side of an LP. Kinsella, whose Joan of Arc will play a

release show for the album Friday at the Melody Inn, told me that, just as

digital technology inspired the creation of the album, analog technology, in

the form of the long-playing record, helped to determine how it took shape.

"The big

thing is I had finished grad school, and was really excited to return to music

after a couple years of being like a Sunday-afternoon painter," Kinsella

explained before a concert in Washington, D.C., this week. "So we had a

few Joan of Arc practices where we were talking about what we wanted our new

songs to be like. We were talking about mp3s, iPods, people listening to things

on shuffle, and we were like, our songs need to be one side of a record long.

If it's going to be a record, it should fulfill the format of a record...So we

were writing these songs, and we'd get home and listen to the demos, and we

we're like, 'Wow, that's really fucking boring. That's just way too


While Joan

of Arc's new material didn't end up working at a length of 20 minutes per song,

Kinsella kept the idea in the back of his mind, and resurrected it for Oh

Brother, on which each flowing, dream-like

piece seems to need an entire side of a record to develop, to build from the

stasis of a drone to the activity of a full-on rock jam session.


started out by working with four abandoned album projects and one live

recording. Eventually, employees at his band's primary label Polyvinyl decided

they actually wanted to realize one of those abandoned albums, and Kinsella was

left with four recording sessions to edit together.

One planned

album, which would have been called "Friend/Enemy," was recorded in

November 2004, or just after the Bush/Kerry election, as Kinsella times it. It

was a prolific time for Joan of Arc, with all band members living together in a

loft space.


were pretty obsessively recording a couple records," says of that time.

"At any moment, 24 hours a day, two people were somewhere working on the

record, in one nook or cranny."


project, oracularly named "Mineral Totem" by Lungfish lead singer Dan

Higgs, took shape while Kinsella spent two weeks as a producer-in-residence at

an Ohio arts colony.

A third

abandoned album would have been called Likins, and was a collaboration with

Lichens bassist (get it?) Rob Lowe. A covers project, it was comprised of songs

that he and Lowe listened to when they met, during the summer of 1995 —

tracks by Huggy Bear, Nation of Ulysses, Antioch Arrow, Lungfish.

And Kinsella

also worked with a live recording never intended for release, a performance

with Chicago-based free jazz drummer Frank Rosaly that was part of a weekly

series of live improvised concerts broadcast on a University of Chicago radio



Brother is Joyful Noise Recording's second

release by Joan of Arc, and the first release of new material by the band that

is exclusive to the label. Labelhead Karl Hofstetter first connected with

Kinsella after he approached Polyvinyl with the idea of releasing a cassette

retrospective of Joan of Arc's full-length work, an idea realized

last year with a limited edition run



hopes that "Oh Brother" won't be heard as only a sound collage, but

as a coherent, full-length work that happened to have been constructed out of

material recorded across many years and with many different collaborators.

"In the end,

it should be expressive as a full piece, and that sort of editing or collage

could be disruptive. So it's intuitive to be aware of not letting the collage

aspect or the editing get too clever or intrude on the expressiveness of the

thing as a whole."