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Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table

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Album Review

On Field Recordings from Cook County Water Table, Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs' solo debut as Brokeback, the Chicago scene veteran doesn't let his ideas get cluttered or allow the album to lapse into a needless Tortoise-rehash. A number of the songs are far less structured than Tortoise's, while others indulge in a loose-limbed groove that the band's TNT album avoided. On the glacially unfolding "The Wilson Ave. Bridge at the Chicago River, 1953," McCombs introduces a friendly, low-toned rhythm and then adds a higher-register solo on top, moving forward only with the add of some simple shakers. Tortoise fans will devour the head-nodding "The Field Code" and the final four minutes of "The Wilson Ave. Bridge at the Chicago River, 1953," two classic swatches of bottom-heavy bliss. "A Blueprint" serves as the more sprightly relative to Tortoise's "Along the Banks of Rivers," featuring husky bass accompaniment from Noel Kupersmith and Tortoise's John McEntire on triangle (McEntire engineered the album). "Returns to the Orange Grove" and "The Flat Curving" go in a different direction, resembling the skeletal playing style of guitarist Loren MazzaCane Connors. For the Pell Mell-ish "Seiche 2," the album's most "rock" track, McEntire steps behind the drum kit to provide a fine strut underneath McCombs' slinkily cool melody.

Field Recordings has more than enough interesting material to make it appealing for listeners other than crusty Chicago scene trainspotters, its simple methods a welcome contrast to the thick studio polish of TNT. [The CD was also released with a bonus track.]


Formed: 1997 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Brokeback is the name of Tortoise bassist Douglas McCombs' side project. Following two 7" EPs, in 1999 he released the project's first full-length, Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table, which revealed a slightly less constricted version of the post-rock sound Tortoise had made famous. Relying heavily on a Fender six-string bass, Brokeback began as a minimalist fusion of low-end jazz and a plethora of other influences, ranging from rock to ambient to hip-hop. Field Recordings featured...
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Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table, Brokeback
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