Chris Brokaw originally released Canaris as a CD on his own Capitan Records in 2008. Among the six tracks of solo acoustic guitar music, the title track offers more than 17 minutes of controlled feedback, created by amplifying the instrument and manipulating it in a manner that transforms a primitive howl into an arresting tone poem. If that doesn’t sound unusual enough, it’s preceded on the album by a 12-minute acoustic piece called “Drink the Poetry of the Celtic Disciple.” While nowhere nearly as loud as “Canaris,” it has an equally visceral source: It was originally recorded by Vlad Tepes, a black-metal band from France. Brokaw clearly has a fondness for the source material, strumming aggressively to recreate the tension of the original even as his delivery adds a new sense of beauty to it.
After playing in New York and Boston with ’90s indie rock bands like Come and Codeine, Brokaw knows a thing or two about sustaining momentum. The shorter tracks on Canaris don’t feel any less engaging. Their unique voicings might recall veteran acoustic pickers, but Brokaw plays with an intensity that sounds very current, even nine years after it was recorded.
Dan Allen always felt that Canaris needed to be heard on vinyl. The avid music enthusiast launched the Omentum label to do vinyl re-releases for the first Modey Lemon; their successor Old Head; and Texas garage punks Lord High Fixers. Doing the same for Brokaw was a foregone conclusion. The record not only recreates Pittsburgh artist Bill Wehmann’s original cover art, which he redrew for the occasion; it also includes liner notes by both Vlad Tepes member Wlad Drakkstein and Steve Lowenthal, of Swingset Magazine and VDSQ Records, who has released albums by Brokaw. Drakkstein submitted the notes unsolicited after Brokaw contacted him for permission to release the song on the record.
Allen, always one to espouse the power of vinyl, said he even noticed new elements in Canaris in this format. “There were some sounds popping out that weren’t there when I heard it on CD,” he says. Brokaw’s return to Pittsburgh doubles as a cassette-release show for openers Expires.