"In the morning after the night/ I fall in love with the light." The words swirl and overlap, as Califone play "Orchids", the intoxicating centrepiece of their latest album, [Roots & Crowns]. Strangely for a Chicago-based experimental folk-blues band, Califone have let it be known that the work of Genesis P Orridge's industrial-rock outfit Psychic TV was the inspiration for the album.
Califone had their equipment - including a 1917 violin - stolen during their last tour and a resulting sense of freedom, of spiritual and musical renewal, pervades their eighth release. [Roots & Crowns] is a gorgeous cacophony of percussion, backwards guitar, field recordings, altered piano, violin drones, plucked banjo and Tim Rutili's primal and poetic lyrics.
Tonight, though, only Rutili and one other musician, Jim Becker, are here to recreate the album's sonic richness live. With, at first, just an acoustic guitar and violin, they introduce the many elements of what becomes a diverse soundscape in the intimate space of The Social. Rutili's eyes are half open through his glasses, his mouth curling to the twang of his croaky Mid-west accent. Becker alternates between playing the violin, which pierces and sears the venue, and adroit banjo-plucking.
The rhythm of "Orchids" emerges from a din of tunings and drones. Live and pared back, the album has a surprising feel of The Velvet Underground to it. The dynamic between the two musicians is compelling, while their warm, crackling vocal harmonies appear as effortless afterthoughts.
"Our Kitten Sees Ghosts" treads quietly, with its half-murmured dreamspeak and simple shifts between two chords. "The Eye You Lost in the Crusade" layers its lyrical evocation of transience over electric and explosive bursts. Rutili and Becker's off-kilter riffs are magically poised, and "Burned by the Christians" elicits huge applause.
Only five instruments are used in all, but many more seem to be present; the spirit of the album is beautifully captured. Rutili jokes that they don't know what can happen with these songs - that they are on the "training wheels they use out in the suburbs back home". But it's a great ride.Reuse content