Giles Corey – Giles Corey Giles Corey – Giles Corey

This is a bleak prospect.

A project, named for a man accused of witchcraft and later crushed to death. A book, a CD written and recorded by Dan Barrett in various bedrooms around Connecticut between 2008 and 2010 and mastered by James Plotkin (OLD, Khanate, everything recently heavy).

Born out of suicide and the specious history of a man named Robert Voor who, through his vulgar, cursed blood ties to a place of outcasts – witches and poor, grew a community in the New York wilderness dedicated to the experience of death. And not just any death. Not transcendence. Not Judeo-Christian hope nor neo-pagan “friendly” ghosts. The cult (I think we would be safe to call it that) developed around the notion of death as terminus, abyss. Despair manifest in the absence of light and continued until…well, forever.

A hallmark, perhaps rite of Voor’s followers was the use of a device.

The Voor’s Head Device (as Mr. Barrett describes it) is “A hood worn over the head to induce mild asphyxiation and hallucination. Take a plastic bag, preferrably (sic) opaque and black, and puncture with a needles (sic) many times, enough to create a steady but insufficient supply of air. Sew this bag into an outer bag, this one made of black cloth. Affix to neck with a belt.”

Its goal was to indoctrinate the wearer into the aegis of death and even among some of Voor’s more devout followers, the device was ill-received.

Mr. Barrett has used the device, however, and afterward attempted suicide. There is a recording of the experience and it forms the piano, screams and horror that punctuate the album’s opener, “The Haunting Presence.”

(I told you this shit was bleak)

So that’s the story (or some of it, abridged and bastardized) that is Dan Barrett’s Giles Corey. And there’s a good chance that most, if not all, of it is untrue.

So why I am I telling you?

Because this isn’t just a record, it’s a story. A mythos. The CD comes with a beautiful book that details both the history of Voor and a strange outland known as Dogtown. It also contains lyrics, tortured “ghost” photographs scrawled with poetry and Mr. Barrett’s frank considerations of death, dying and depression.

To read it is to understand the dark reaches of a man at once so sure of his abilities and yet so frail, so terrified, so vain and self-pitying that he would rather chum the dark harbor of destruction than allow himself the mundane glories that routinely shield the rest of us from oblivion.

But that’s depression, isn’t it?

That’s the fucking blues.

And since we’re really here to talk the music, let me tell you that Mr. Barrett has crafted (willingly or woefully) the finest piece of unflinching blues I’ve heard in twenty years, at least.

And by blues, I’m not talking the common, electric safety aggrandized by the White Stripes of the Black Keys. I’m sorry if that sounds petty but when I think blues I think Furry Lewis, Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Great storytellers using their guitars to reflect something intangible. Feeling. Dark, deep honest feelings that can reveal themselves in any man (or woman, but we’re keeping with the masculine) willing to pick up a fucking guitar and sing until his throat’s hoarse and his heart stops bleeding…if only for a moment.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it downright fucking funny.

Take “Grave Filled with Books”. What opens as a bastard 50s slow dance quickly reveals itself to be an ironic smirk on the watershed of self-deprication. “I’m not the only one that you’ve never loved,” Mr. Barrett sings. “Boo-Hoooooo!”

Of course, that’s a bit of a respite from the otherwise raw and devastating sentiments of this record. Some songs dive straight into hatred (“No One Is Ever Going to Want Me”). Others, reckless pity (“I’m Going to Do It”). All the while alternating between bombastic synth, blown out drums, acoustic guitar and homegrown EVPS. Often, this record is so honest, so brutally articulate that it’s difficult to absorb the whole wretched thing.

But it’s important that you do.

Because death is not romantic. Pain is not poetry. And unlike so many artists keen to capitalize on these two great human vulgarities, Mr. Barrett has proffered a singular experience that is tender, savage and crude.

So what if the story isn’t all true? What matters is the truth.

Dan Barrett is alive.

And so are you.

1. The Haunting Presence
2. Blackest Bile
3. Grave Filled With Books
4. Empty Churches
5. I’m Going to Do It
6. Spectral Bride
7. No One Is Ever Going to Want Me
8. A Sleeping Heart
9. Buried Above Ground

Giles Corey - Giles Corey, reviewed by Charles on 2011-07-11T08:11:42-07:00 rating 4.7 out of 5

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