mon 22/07/2024

CD: Califone - Echo Mine | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Califone - Echo Mine

CD: Califone - Echo Mine

Chicago's finest rock experimentalists return after seven years

The sound of limbs in motion and souls in flight

Inevitably expectations were high, given that this Chicago experimental rock band are one of my favourite groups of the 21st century, and this is their first album for seven years. And at first it’s hard to know what to make of Echo Mine.

There are only three traditionally structured songs (and one of those comes in two versions), while the surrounded tracks are largely meandering minimalist instrumentals of various shades and angularity. But then I discover that this is music for a dance piece by Robyn Mineko Williams inspired by the Chicago dancer Claire Bataille (who sadly died lost her battle with cancer before the project was completed), and it becomes clear that a different approach is required.

As with a film soundtrack, this is music designed not to get all the attention but to be part of something much larger. Having grasped this, it’s possible to appreciate the grace and beauty of the whole for its admirable restraint. There’s an "old armchair" ease in how core members Tim Rutili, Ben Massarella and Brian Deck work together. Rutili, in particular, seems to have long been preoccupied by the idea of conveying the physical presence of the objects from which the sounds issue: how brutally or softly the guitar strings have been struck; how a ride cymbal metallically sings with a presence that suggests it's hanging in the air before you; or how a synth sound appears to have been chosen for its specific vintage, just as you’d choose the right wine for a meal.

At one profoundly moving juncture Claire Bataille’s gentle voice looms out of the sonic forest, talking to some interviewer, once upon a time, about finding her inner performer to help get her through the day as she struggled with her illness. Like everything Califone have produced there’s a lot to take in, layers to penetrate, textures to unravel and lyrics to be baffled yet oddly moved by. Oh and by the way, the three "proper" songs are all absolute jewels, particularly the crawling, swelling “Night Gallery/Projector” and the languid yet celebratory “Snow Angel”. If it’s songs you're after, that is.

A synth sound appears to have been chosen for its specific vintage, just as you’d choose the right wine for a meal


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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The record is called Echo Mine. And yes, it is fantastic.

You're right of course. Now corrected.

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