Roots & Crowns
Eight years in and Chicago collective Califone are hitting their stride. After 2004's Heron King Blues, the band went on a brief hiatus - with band leader Tim Rutili moving out to California to work on film scores until repeated listening to Psychic TV's track Orchids prompted him to start writing again. That debt is acknowledged here with a sublime cover of the song, but let's start this review at the beginning.
Pink & Sour opens the album with a superb layered guitar sound that builds up with Rutili's hushed vocal's weaving in and out of the music like another instrument, before segueing perfectly into a near sing-a-long with Spider's House.
A history of touring with such bands as Smog, Sonic Youth and Wilco gives you some idea of where Califone are coming from and the album is often reminiscent of Loose Fur's self-titled debut album - never in a hurry and always enjoying itself, subtly building up and easing back. However, where that album could often be accused of being a side project, Roots & Crowns is always on-message. The delicate acoustics of Burned By The Christians sit comfortably next to the loops and sounds of Black Metal Valentine, or the crackling piano of Rose Petal Ear. Images of re-birth and evolution slowly creep through, creating a cohesive and focused vision.
Although it can sound both modern and subtly electronic in places, the album's over riding sound is the booming acoustics of layered guitars, low harmonies and organic, complex drum beats. With moments reminiscent of bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash, the album takes traditional sounds and brings them forcefully into the 21st century. While on the first few listens the album may seem slightly flat in places, with further and further repeat listening Califone's subtle sounds will echo round your mind, embedding themselves to be stirred and re-energized with repeat listening.
18th Oct 2006 - Tumblr3.5
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