Morse Code in the Modern Age: Across the Americas

Thrill Jockey
thrill 091 - 2001
Morse Code in the Modern Age: Across the Americas is the new release by Douglas McCombs under the name Brokeback and follows on the strength of two singles and the debut cd, Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table. Begun as an outlet for Douglas to record compositions outside his other bands (Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day and Pullman), and find new musicians to collaborate with on various levels of obligation, Morse Code is the most actualized version of his original idea to date. There are more than a few notable changes from the last outing, some permanent and some for the sake of this recording alone. The result is a recording that relies heavily on the collaborative process. The first most notable difference is the inclusion of Bassist Noel Kupersmith of the Chicago Underground Trio/Quartet as a permanent member of Brokeback. Noel has been playing live with Douglas on a regular basis for the last three years, and when Douglas went to work on Morse Code turning Brokeback into a duo was a logical progression. Where as Douglas recorded Field Recordings in the mindset of a solo artist at work on his debut record, Noel contributes heavily to each composition on Morse Code... Another notable difference is the more improvised feel and the use of extra musicians. While touring in spring of 99 Noel and Douglas did an impromptu recording session with Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico and Giant Sand in Tucson, ostensibly for a potential Calexico record. The result among others was \"Flat Handed and on the Wing\" which Noel and Douglas were so taken with that they immediately asked Joey\'s permission to use it for our own purposes. After this session they arranged to have similar \"loose sessions\" with various friends. Included in these mostly improvisational recording sessions were James McNew of Yo La Tengo, Alan Licht (Run On, Love Child, Hoffman Estates), Mary Hansen of Stereolab and Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar Guitar. Back in Chicago Noel and Douglas selected the most interesting sections, edited them together and wrote parts to go over that. The result is Morse Code in the Modern Age: Across the Americas. As an added bonus and an extension of the idea of collaboration Douglas brought in filmaker, old friend, ex-Chicagoan and current New Yorker Braden King whom he had worked with before. The two had worked together on the soundtrack to his feature length documentary \"Dutch Harbour: Where the Sea Breaks its Back\" and Braden had handled projection on some live Brokeback performances. McCombs was very pleased with his musical collaborations with filmaker King, who was equally excited to make a short film for DVD/CD-Rom use. \"Flat Handed and on the Wing\" is an edited version of the airplane footage Braden projected at the live show and \"Lives of the Rhythm Experts\" is a highly manipulated travelogue shot in So