Brokeback Field Recordings From the Cook County Water Table

With Brokeback, space and bass are the key places to start — this solo project by Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs has plenty in spades. A trio of bassists, including Josh Adams and Noel Kupersmith, opens the album on “After the Internationals,” starting things off with an improvised feel that’s only heightened with Isotope 217’s Rob Mazurek steps in with his cornet. The album continues with such a stately feel, it often feels like its warming up to something, but without urgency; there’s a certain maturity about the way that Field Recordings savours its moments, keeping its next move close to the chest. The thrills do come, albeit quietly, in the form of twangier sounds that move into the country of Calexico — no surprise, since Brokeback’s touring incarnation has included that band’s Joey Burns and John Convertino. This album never gets so revved up as to harsh your mellow; it’s all the more remarkable in its restraint, given the opportunities McCombs is surrounded with. Recorded at bandmate and studio wiz John McEntire’s place, the album does feature McEntire, as well as Tortoise’s John Herndon, but this is McCombs’ show, and he never lets it get away from him. Never mind the sonic presence of trains going by, or loons calling, these are field recordings of the mind. (Thrill Jockey)