Residing in a neighborhood where Captain Beefheart and 70s AM radio not only coexist but share the same turntable, Tim Rutili’s band Califone examines the strange landscape of villagers. It is, to say the least, an interesting trip, one where musique concrète coexists with the music of Marin County.
Wrapping one’s head around Califone requires a different way of looking at the world. One where you need to understand that sounds don’t exist in a vacuum, they constantly intersect even if you don’t want them to do so. Within that context, villagers is a most intriguing collection. One that won’t quite drop you on the head, just leave it spinning, thinking about things in ways you’d never expected.
In order to enter this world you need to check your expectations at the door, because there is no way to prepare for the aural assault of ‘the hapsburg jaw’. Beginning with the concise concrete opening, Rutili along with collaborators like Brian Deck, Michael Krassner, Rachel Blumberg and Ben Massarella combine music with a mélange of noise to create what you never knew you needed to hear, as he tells a tale of a conversation with an inbred European monarch.
We live in a messy world and Califone seems to revel in getting their hands dirty. ‘eyelash’ almost seems like a return to normalcy, seemingly lacking in strange noises. Amongst the people he calls in for extra help in his endeavors, folks like Nora O’Connor and Macie Stewart add their vocal stylings to the proceedings, so by the time you get to ‘macmansions’ everything begins to make sense. It’s combination of sweet and sour works as well with his music as it does with chicken.
Once you are fully indoctrinated in this brave new world, a song like ‘villagers’ becomes much easier to understand. Instead of a straight-forward narrative, Rutili offers a several dealing with a survivor hiding from an ambush, and residents who remain stone-faced while tourists run riot. Elders attempt to bury the past while the youth struggle to keep it in view. In some contexts the song sounds almost too familiar. We are, after all, in this together.
Combining worlds of music that wouldn’t seem capable of going together, Califone finds the connective tissue to new worlds on villagers. Rutili and his cohorts decompartmentalize the world we live in. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything is experienced all at once, just like this album. Listen without prejudice. Califone outlines a most interesting world, the one we live in.
Words by: Bob Fish