When the kick drum enters halfway through side two, it is the only sound on the record that is not an acoustic guitar or a solo voice. Joan of Arc's s/t album (also known as "Self-Titled" and "Charlie Chaplin and The Elephant Man") is Joan of Arc grappling with simplicity and minimalism.
Side one is six folk songs, five of them very short. Each song offers a different perspective, layering the recurring classic folk themes of work, performance and endurance.
"Bas Jan Ader Song" pays simple tribute to the slapstick Dutch conceptual artist whose final piece "In Search of the Miraculous" culminated in the artist's death at sea. "John Merrick Song" recounts The Elephant Man's happiest memories of a holiday in the country. "King Song" repurposes an Elvis melody to situate the singer's desperation at a deeper level. To consider how leisure-time can be a means of control just as much as work-time, "Need New Body and The Dead Milkmen" takes its cue from the beach-songs of the two Philadelphia bands.
Side two is a single piece, considering the simplicity of acoustic guitars through a different tradition: twentieth century minimalism. "Chaplinesque" was first commissioned by The Chicago Book Expo as an original score to the Chaplin film His New Job, performed live in the very same space that the film was shot in 97 years earlier. Inspired by the works of Arnold Dreyblatt and Rhys Chatham, it is performed on five acoustic guitars playing the same open strings, with the exception of which harmonics are muted to create fluttering overtones. Re-arranged to stand alone without the film, the piece was renamed "Chaplinesque" in tribute to Hart Crane, another death at sea.
Featuring a cover painting by Chicagoan Dmitry Samarov, "Self-Titled (Charlie Chaplin and The Elephant Man)" [as it's known in long form] is Joan of Arc pressing for complexity and compelling expressiveness in the simplest of familiar forms.