Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chris Brokaw - I Ace Sociopath King (Already Dead, 2012)

Chris Brokaw is a busy man: his list of collaborators includes The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Pullman, Consonant, The Empty House Co-operative. He used to play in seminal indie rock bands Codeine and Come. He has played on recordings by Cobra Verde, Manta Ray, Rosa Chantswell, Karate, Via Tanie; and as an accompanist to recordings and performances by Steve Wynn, Evan Dando, Thalia Zedek, Alan Licht, Tara Jane O' Neill, crime writer George Pelecanos, and Rhys Chatham. He has written scores for theater and film. He has performed and recorded solo, over an impressive array of CDs, cassettes and LPs (one of which i discussed over here.

With this in mind, it is somewhat bewildering that he is not better known than he is. Sure, Codeine gets some love among the shoegaze faithful, and Come played with Johnny Depp on Kicks Joy Darkness, a tribute record to Jack Kerouac (a great record, btw, which i highly recommend.), but he has not attracted the same amount of adulation heaped on a Dean Wareham or an Adam Franklin. Its probably because his music is so non-assuming, steady and constant, like an unending tarmac highway, weaving its way through valleys, cornfields, and mist.

I've been appreciating the subtle, heartfelt beauty of his work for several years, so i was almost shocked and awed when i saw that my buddy Sean Hartman, co-founder of Already Dead Tapes out of Kalamazoo, Mi. had put out a cassette with Brokaw. I Ace Sociopathic King is a live document, recorded in Chicago, Il., and is split between two hemispheres; one electric, one acoustic. This is what Sean had to say, about the pairing:

"Chris Brokaw is a master performer. His music has a depth I've rarely seen matched and witnessing him live is a profoundly captivating experience. We're honored to have Chris join the family.
His first release with us is a live c40 recorded in 2011. Sides are divided between electric and acoustic tracks. If you've never heard Chris's music before, this is a perfect starting point. He's been around the block and the songs have only improved with age."

The most notable diversion from Brokaw's other flood of releases and collaborations is the presence of vocals, he sings a lot more on this record than previous works that i have heard. What we are presented with is one voice, one guitar; sparse but not thin, just not hiding anything. He's shining, out in the open, no obfuscating gauze of hiss and trickery. Clear and plain-spoken, Chris Brokaw's shimmering songs stand up well in the foot-lights. He shows himself to be romantic, thoughtful, weary at times, hopeful. This is my favorite kind of music right now, to be honest, warm as a dying fire, as late afternoon. Not flashy and ego-driven, it is subtle and graceful and humble. The guitars tremble and purr on I Ace Sociopath King; the electric side has a classy, classic surf-twang to it, the acoustic side is dry and biting. The vocals are clear and comprehensible, showing that his lyrics are inspired as well.

Jesus, i'm blown away!

The whole package sounds fucking great on the cassette format, and Already Dead always have a keen design sense; this is a necessary addition to yr library. This label just keeps getting better and better! They only made 200 of these, so don't wait and have to find it on eBay.
For first-time listeners and long-standing devotees alike, I Ace Sociopath King is a necessary addition to Chris Brokaw's canon.

Codeine is reforming for a select few dates, starting in April, and Chris will also be playing in a new duo with Stephen O' Malley, of Sunn O))) and Khanate fame, so scope his page to keep tabs on yr new favorite artist.

1 comment:

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