John Corbett & Heavy Friends

John Corbett & Heavy Friends

I’m Sick About My Hat


John Corbett is a music journalist of some renown. So, I’m sure he anticipated some of the criticism that would be levied against this CD. Fragmented, meandering, and inconsistent are all adjectives that, were John Corbett not such an accomplished musician/organizer, would apply to this CD.

As a prominent part of the sprawling “Chicago scene,” Corbett has prominent friends. Indeed, these are the “heavy friends” referred to in the title. These friends include Jeb Bishop, Hamid Drake, Mats Gustaffson, and David Grubbs. This is the first CD in the “Heavy Friends” series.

To be honest, this does take a lot of listening to really get a hold of. The tracks often bear very little relation to each other, and for the most part, don’t seem to fit into a cohesive whole. The music goes from soaringly melodic to coarsely dissonant. The tracks sound like they were recorded on a skipping CD player. This is probably because of some obscure concept that I have no hopes of understanding. The cohesive thread seems to be a recurring guitar and cello drone piece. As the album goes on, the drones become thicker and heavier.

Some of the CD is genuinely funny. “Ready Kilowatt” has Hamid Drake laying down a steady ska beat which Mats Gustaffson and Jeb Bishop skronking and braying wildly. “Speed Hump” is a collage with an instructional record about doing some kind of dance. Terry Kapsalis sounds positively malevolent when speaking James Brown’s lyrics in “Cold Sweat.” Her voice is doubled by some sort of processing that makes one sound like an annoying little kid. Most bizarre. David Grubbs has a fantastic reading voice, and it sounds even better through a fan (literally, you know that sound that your voice becomes when you are talking through a fan? That fan-speaking technique is applied here). He reads a poem by Clark Coolidge called “A Note on ‘The Mess’,” to great effect.

I’ve had this CD for a while, but still, I’m not sure what to make of it. I like it, but I’m still not sure why.

Atavistic, P.O. Box 578266, Chicago, IL 60657;

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