Chicago avant rock act Joan of Arc has seen many permutations under the guidance of bandleader Tim Kinsella, from acoustic-leaning post-emo poetics to strange concept albums. Testimonium Songs definitely falls into the more conceptual field of Joan of Arc's discography, with the six movements here written for a live performance to accompany experimental theater group Every House Has a Door in an interpretation of poet Charles Reznikoff's Testimony, a work that collaged courtroom transcripts of cases of workplace negligence between 1885 and 1915. A concept this involved might be too arty or pretentious in the hands of a different band, but Kinsella has never shied away from the obtuse or the complicated, and Testimonium Songs takes Joan of Arc's trademarks of melodic repetition and surreal lyricism and intertwines them with more involved compositional arrangements than anything heard by the band before.
While Tim Kinsella’s work as Joan of Arc frequently features a few usual suspects as support, last year’s self-titled album let him stand largely alone, his eccentric, literary, deeply detailed ideas displayed in acoustic solitude. Though superficially different thanks to use of a full band and electric elements, Testimonium Songs dips further into that bookish vein, as the album was written to accompany an experimental theater company’s interpretation of the works of Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff. As a movement, Objectivism emphasized a clear, informed, and sincere observation of the world.
No Joan Of Arc album is ever just an "album" anymore. These days, this ever-evolving collective usually write and record music with a broad or specific conceptual framework in mind. In recent years, that has meant anything from a wall-cracking live soundtrack to the silent film The Passion Of Joan Of Arc or, as with 2009's Flowers, booking two days of studio time and recording completely improvised songs using whatever instruments were lying around.