US - Illinois - Full Moon 209 - 09/19/13
Califone's Stitches is the follow up to 2009's sad and beautiful, highly acclaimed All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, and it'll be interesting to see
how this new album is sewn together. Some more of the dark, low-toned experimental rock to come. Enter.
Califone was originally Tim Rutili's solo project after Red Red Meat, who had 4 albums under their belt during 1990-1997 broke up. Eventually he got band members to
sign up for duty, all being multi-instrumentalists like Rutili himself. Stitches had its 'birth' in California, as the song-writing and recording started there.
Hotel Califone. Califone dreaming. It's time for a new round of Rutili's dreams and stories.
Stitches is Califone's 7th album (not counting the extremely limited collection of rare recordings, radio performances, live material and unreleased songs,
Everybody's Mother (Volume One), nor the two albums with music for films - including the 1922 silent Salome - Deceleration One and Deceleration
Two), and the late follow up to the mentioned All My Friends.... Last year saw the re-release of their debut album, Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad
People (2000) - available for the first time on vinyl. Califone's line-up includes Joe Adamik (drums), Jim Becker (banjo, violin), Ben Massarella (percussion), and
last but not least Tim Rutili (vocals, guitar, keyboards).
Stitches is fascinating stuff. It's a twisted, dark, eerie, and absolutely brilliant piece of work. The album's got quite an organic feel, but here's spicy
electronic details. "Frosted Tips" and "Stitches" are stand-out tracks. Like in STAND-OUT. The former with its drone-like drive, the latter being a song sneaking under
your skin. It feels like and sounds like Stitches takes you on a mysterious and exciting travel to a place you didn't believe you dared to go. To a place you couldn't
imagine was real, and a place you thought you didn't want to return to. Except you do want to go back even if you don't know why, because you can't remember what
it was like there. Stitches is levitated music. It's from a level high above, almost divine. Here are marvellous songs like the glory of "Magdalene" and the
desert rose "Movie Music Kills A Kiss", not to forget the cinematic "Moonbath.brainsalt.a.holy.fool" (which makes me think of the movie Paris, Texas), and of
course "A Thin Skin of Bullfight Dust" and "We Are a Payphone". Oh, those song titles... The music somehow/sometimes (partly, only partly) makes me think of Bowie's
darker and more experimental songs. It's probably Rutili's voice. The instrumentation is quite perfect, which according to the label counts: "Brass,
pedal steel, and strings color in the edges and outlines songs... garage sale drum machines, slack guitar strings, hushed vocals... Dead Oceans also add: "...homespun elements are interwoven into the songs, too, including sounds Rutili recorded in his backyard during rainfall and while driving in his car." About the writing and recording process, which took place in Southern California, Arizona and Texas, Rutili says: "Those dry landscapes and beaches and hills and shopping malls all made it into the music". Rutili continues: "I wanted this to be a more schizophrenic record, stitching together conflicting textures and feels... I tried to keep the songs visual and poetic... Instead of writing from my balls and brain, this time I wrote from the nerves, skin, and heart." Rutili isn't said to be religious, but '...episodes from the Bible in particular kept entering his psyche as he wrote'. Again, the Dead Oceans label: "The listener moves through a landscape of Old Testament blood and guts, spaghetti Western deserts and South-western horizons, zeroing in on emotions and images that cannot be glanced over."
So, Stitches all summed up, then, in brief: Intimate. Introvert, yet highly expressive. Religious music for those who are not religious. It's a radiant record. Period. So, let's leave the last words to Dead Oceans for one last quote: "A cartographer could spend lifetimes mapping the terrain of Stitches."
Copyright © 2013 Håvard Oppøyen