April 11, 2002

Test Spin: Califone

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Like a slowly collapsing house, Califone’s music plods and creeps along. Their junkheap percussion is the sound of footsteps up a rickety staircase; occasional sole piano notes represent the rats skittering around in the rafters; the simple, jagged guitar strumming is the house settling on its foundations.

This album collects the band’s two out-of-print EPs, plus two bonus tracks. On all 14 songs, Califone crafts offbeat Americana that sounds like the work of a few guys staggering around in the desert. “Silvermine Pictures” is an affecting acoustic track, but the rest of the album is not nearly so simple. On “Electric Fence,” dense rhythmic undertones drive the skeletal guitar lines and whispery vocals. Unique rhythmic ideas are the band’s trademark; never once do they use a traditional drumbeat. With several percussive instruments crafting a unique desert-flavored backdrop, Rutilli’s guitar and vocals merely serve to complete the picture — a brown-toned painting of a lonely Western vista.

Archived article by Ed Howard