Wed Nov 12 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
If art is the communication of feeling, then on Canaris, Chris Brokaw proves himself to be an artist in full. Brokaw, who splits residence between Brooklyn and Boston, accomplishes this in spite of—or perhaps because of—the fact that Canarisis an album of solo acoustic guitar. Though he’s vastly skilled as a singer-songwriter, his sandy vocals are simply not missed here.
The record’s ingredients are little more than a blend of strumming and picking (the bracing 17-minute title track is a howl of drone and feedback). But Brokaw is no newbie in thrall to passed-down folkie wisdom; his playing contains multitudes. His two main ’90s bands, Codeine and Come, specialized in crushing emotional intensity, and since those days his expressive power has only grown: On the opening track, “Exemptive,” he leans into a repeated chord with slight insistence, spinning an air of languor into something no lyric could describe or improve.
Another piece is called “Watching the Clouds,” and rarely does an instrumental so fully summon the mood of its title. But the centerpiece of Canaris is the nearly 13-minute “Drink the Poetry of Celtic Disciple”—remarkably, a cover of a song by arcane French black-metal band Vlad Tepes. This is Brokaw at his best: A pastoral figure draws you in, then breaks into a breathless run, evoking a dash with a new paramour through field and wood, all of it so vivid you can practically smell flowers. The occultish naturalism almost surely present in the original is reduced to hinted-at darkness, balanced with sunlight: a masterful transformation.
Chris Brokaw plays Pianos Dec 10.