[29 January 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Canaris could very well be called The Two Sides of Chris Brokaw if it were an album interested in being straightforward. It is an album of instrumental pieces performed solo by Brokaw on acoustic guitar. The first half seems to be simple enough, all clean chords and picked notes repeating over and over. But the way they rise and fall, the way parts blend into one another make the album more complicated, more intricate as it goes, even as its parts remain simple. But it is on the second half, where Brokaw employs loops and pedals to the guitar, that he really shines.
The title track is an 18-minute mess of squalls and long stretches of droning guitar. It builds on itself, shedding skins as it goes only to take on new layers of muck. The track is a big risk, taking up much of the album and straying far from all of the tracks before it. But the gamble pays off, as any patient listen to the track will be rewarded with hidden surprises in the wall of sound. Brokaw always excelled as part of bands like Codeine and Come in the past, but here, with no bass or drums to work with his guitar, with his sound left to stand alone, he still sounds like one of the most compelling guitarists in music today.