1997 CMJ Review Foetus: York

York (First Exit To Brooklyn)

Jim Thirlwell’s work has never been for the squeamish add the narratives of Lydia Lunch and the musical muscle of folks from bands like Unsane, Firewater, Boss Hog and Lounge Lizards and you’re in for some demanding times. For York, this eclectic ensemble took a libretto and elaborated upon it with improvisation during its performance. This is one of Thirlwell’s most demanding works to date. It’s a symphony Thirlwell composed about the notorious Farragut Housing Project that is located underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, across from which Thirlwell has lived for 10 years. The lyrics and narratives are based on what he and Lunch experienced while living at the edge of this warzone. Since the characters are real people, these pieces vividly portray, with near documentary precision, the moral lepers, baseheads and thieves that frequently populate Thirlwell’s work. Recorded live with only vague guidelines as musical cues, Thirlwell’s crew does an excellent job of capturing the broken-down setting. Coming full circle, this live recording of York was performed in a concrete space with 50 foot ceilings that just happened to be at the base of the Brooklyn side of its namesake bridge. A homage of sorts that the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce would like to ignore, York is a tidy package inspired, created and performed all within a square mile of Brooklyn.

CMJ New Music Report, Issue# 518 (21 Apr 1997), by Tad Hendrickson.