Chris Brokaw: Now, Forager OST

[9 June 2014]

By Alex Franquelli

The Gentle Art of Writing Poetry

The obligatory string of titles, achievements and collaborations adorning any review or interview with Chris Brokaw as its protagonist is sometimes an intimidating and cumbersome presence. The variety and notability of most of the acts involved tends, to somehow create a prejudicial aura around this American indie mastermind’s new releases. After all, when the likes of Rhys Chatham, Thurston Moore, Liz Phair and GG Allin adorn your resume, you’re expected to deliver the goods. And make sure they are brilliant.

Whatever Brokaw must have learned from his former bands (mainly Codeine and Come) is surely embedded into the folds of this record. If, in fact, previous film scores – one for the indie remake of 1932’s Yasujirô Ozu’s masterpiece I Was Born, But … and savvy environmentalist flick Road in 2005 – resulted in Brokaw’s acknowledgement as an artist capable of writing intense and vivid sonic renditions, with Now, Forager, we have a composer with a clear sense of measure and proportions.

The movie revolves around a couple – Regina and Lucien – who gather wild mushrooms to be sold to elegant restaurants in New York. The tension between their spontaneous modesty and their clients’ refined sophistication manifests itself in all its tragic normality when Regina decides to accept a full-time job in an exclusive restaurant in order to guarantee a more stable income. It is then that their expectations, desires and lives can’t help but clash.

Nylon string guitars take centre stage. The overwhelming intimate feel resulting from the minimalist structure of the score does not command or enhance the suggested visual perception; it stands by itself. In other words, the music of Now, Forager does not gravitate around the pictorial media, but it is revealed as an artistic element with its own meaning and purpose. Themes may recur (“Lucien Theme”, “Garrison Piano”, “Leaving DC”, “Meat Babies” and “Driving from R.I. to N.Y.”), but their reinterpretation is instrumental to the overall discipline of the record. Even the noise deviation that is “Pine Barrens” seems logical in this context (although apparently not in relation with to movie itself) as it resets the melodic pattern lead by the main theme to suggest a new beginning (the lone, percussive swagger in “Undrum”). Then it’s back to the main idea (“Garrison Piano”) and the album can start again.

Brokaw’s work on this record is consistent and inspired, while at the same time drawing from genres substantially diverse. There is Codeine’s slowcore revolving around Regina’s theme (“Regina Subway”, “Regina’s Going to Rhode Island”), folk digressions (“Meat Babies” and “Fish Butchery”) and noise (the aforementioned “Pine Barrens” and “Winter Mushroom Hallucination in N.Y.C.”) and the drones on “Poison Mushrooms”. There is yesterday and today’s Chris Brokaw. Now, Forager OST is the artist building his future upon his past. A surprisingly good album that happens to make a fine soundtrack.

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