Leonard Las Vegas “Jagmoor Cynewulf”
File under: Drone Pop/Indie/Shoegaze/Postrock
From: Berlin, Germany
Format: Book, vinyl, tape, CD, download
Label: Blackjack Illuminist Records
Jagmoor Cynewulf Facebook Page
French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre would have been a Shoegazer. Talking purely about the sound of it it’s this very genre and Post Rock which eject its listener out of themselves, out of their I. Thick, layered genres like these swarm, whirr, drone around heads and numb them until you feel like you’re watching yourself from the outside – and, according to Sartre, see the real you. –Well, this is, of course, pure nonsense, but that doesn’t hold back Jagmoor Cynewulf, the protagonist of Leonard Las Vegas’ new album. His aim to understand human existence, his existence, even if it’s just a vague hint of the truth, leads him down to the bottom of the human psyche. He will fail, eventually. If you want to go with him you may want to read the 18 chapter long book which accompanies the album.
Songs like the Dream Pop opener “Where To Go?”, the more Indie Rock “Anything But This”, the seemingly slackly “Need To End” with its creepy group shouts at the end, the Shoegazer “Give Me Darkness” or the somehow French Pop “Eve, What About You?” which offers a Post Rock Drone Harmonica solo may all work as timeless radio singles but, in the first place, more importantly, play their part in a dramatic course of events in which the album drags its listeners into the maelstrom of a dark soul, and, at the end, spitting their exhausted bodies out. You won’t end where you started with the first song. At one point Jagmoor will recognize the depressing and sad worthlessness of one’s existence. The inner turmoil of the protagonist is best portrayed by songs like the floating “Every Ugly Detail”, the wish to live and die “At The Same Time” or the last song “Flush Of Victory, Champagne & Confetti” in which you can not only hear that the I is dissolving more and more with every minute — doesn’t it?
Leonard Las Vegas is the brainchild of Alexander Leonard Donat (born in Berlin) who started the one man band in 2007 in Greifswald at the Baltic Sea releasing an album (about 13 different perspectives on the end of the world) and a mini album at the same time. After a dark ambient album in 2008 Leonard Las Vegas was ready for the next stage and moved to Würzburg, Bavaria. Donat casted 4 musicians with whom he went to tour the follow-up album in 2009. The band played all over Germany and in Donat’s favourite city: Amsterdam (Hup, Ajax!). When it became clear that not all members were as fully commited as Donat and drummer David Kandert wished they went on as a duo. Crammed into a small room without any daylight the band began rehearsing songs for the new album “Jagmoor Cynewulf” – more than four years before it should be released (Alexander Leonard Donat wrote the basic tracks within 12 days in the summer of 2010). Donat and Kandert became stronger as a live duo than they were as a 5 piece. The fun they have on tour can be experienced in the numerous video blogs where you can see that both are actually one heart and soul. Still, after the end of their Berlin label Record 1fourFIVE no new label was in sight, so the band decided to wait, and wait and wait. And tour. Also, within the next years piano tracks were recorded for all 12 songs (2010) and the work on a book for Jagmoor Cynewulf began during Donat’s teacher training years, when a colleague of him joked about Donat’s question: “Man, I got cut 4 hours a week, what am I going to do with my time?” – His colleague answered: “Man, I don’t know, write a book.” Donat took that idea seriously, connected the songs of the album (and the 6 outtakes) to a disturbingly dark atmospheric narrative (especially compared to the rather poppy album – the most accessible material Donat ever wrote). After the band recorded the drums for the album (Kandert played them , which was a premiere as Donat had always played all instruments on the previous albums) it almost took two more years before Donat decided to release Jagmoor Cynewulf on his own label.
Jagmoor Cynewulf track by track (Disclaimer: Spoiler alert!):
- “Where to go?”: Jagmoor landed somewhere (an airport?) and is picked up by two known faces (his parents?) who take him home. He thinks about the purpose of his life.
- “Checkout & Goodbye”: The protagonist decides to leave his parent’s (?) place at a rainy night hoping to find out why he is who he is. He has no idea how he’s going to do that.
- “Anything But This”: Jagmoor on the loose. He is happy and doesn’t think about anything too hard while driving some 1000 miles across the country he lives in. He meets a girl with whom he watches wolves at night. Jagmoor feels strangely close to these animals.
- “Through The Dark Of The Atmosphere”: The protagonist is beginning to blend in with other personalities, or even animals. He sees through the eyes of a deer when panicking during a walk in the woods where he almost drowns because of a bad storm. He breaks into a house and a falls asleep for one and a half day.
- “Need to end”: Having met a wonderful girl on a train traveling from the rural parts to the big city Jagmoor goes out to party in a minimal club. Everything seems perfect, both are obsessed with the respective other. Yet, full of grandeur, Jagmoor ends the new-born relationship while his late night dancing. Only the moment seems perfect. In ending his relationship Jagmoor hopes to preserve it.
- “Every ugly detail”: Jagmoor awakens at a strange house, he doesn’t know how he got there. He decides to hold a speech for an anonymous and fictional audience – a speech about the meaning of life. But all that the people show is greed. They would kill for the meaning of life, eventually they all drown during a sudden appearance of the ocean. Jagmoor wakes up in a shower cabin. He learns that he cannot properly differentiate between real life and imagination.
- “Give Me Darkness”: Now all hedonist, Jagmoor doesn’t care at all any more. His taking part in the night life is all about pleasure.
- “Eve What About You? “: Another experience during a stay in a night club turns into a serious meeting with a young woman called Eve. Jagmoor sees her as a kind of epiphany, it seems she might be the one person that can change him into a more stable human being. But when the club closes Jagmoor doesn’t dare to speak or kiss. He loses the girl.
- “Birth & Death, Stuff That Freaks Us Out” : travelling back in time Jagmoor visits his parents’ house touching himself through the belly of his mother who has a man by her side whose face isn’t his father’s. Are his parents the reason for his character? Travelling back to the future Jagmoor’s psyche gets more and more destroyed.
- “At the same time”: Jagmoor thinks about dying and living. Both at the same time would be the perfect combination. He is convinced that he would never reach the goal to understand himself. Living is an endless run for Jagmoor.
- “What will you tell your kids?”: After a violent crime – he killed a jogger who is a symbol of today’s competition and aim for success – Jagmoor is sentenced to death. He thinks about himself: What would people talk about him? Imagination and real world blend into another. There’s no turning back.
- “Flush of victory, champagne and confetti”: Lying in nothing but white sheets Jagmoor meets an appearance of Eve again. It’s his death-bed, and she cuts his throat. Millions of colours splash out, for a brief second he sees what life is about, but he forgets, it’s just to much to bear. A massive orange cloud rolls over him. In this moment he sees the world as it is: naked. Jagmoor sinks into the bottom, giving up on society. Then he recognizes he is stuck in some kind of loop. He has a deformed self that keeps him from dying or living.