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coverpic flag US - Illinois - Full Moon 250 - 01/12/17

Califone
Roomsound - Deluxe Reissue
Dead Oceans

'You know that feeling when an old friend walks through the door? They're familiar and new all at once? Well today our dear friend Califone has released the beloved record Roomsound as a deluxe reissue. And boy are we excited to share it with you. Initially released 15 years ago, Roomsound began as a Red Red Meat record. But a stolen car, a few lost notebooks, and a particularly brutal Chicago winter later - it became Califone's first proper album.' (Dead Oceans, October 2016).

Any friend of Califone, I consider a friend of mine. While awaiting a new album following the brilliant, phenomenal Stitches (2013), I'll go 'revisit' the reissue of Califone's first album proper, Roomsound (originally released on Califone's own label Perishable Records, 2001). As there seems to be a 3 to 4 year cycle between every new album release by Tim Rutili's (and Ben Massarella's) Califone band, I'd say there might be a chance for a new album by the end of this year but we'll probably have to wait until 2018. Last year's Insect Courage EP was a mini of sketch-like songs - but: Hey, they were good, though.

Roomsound was an album made when Red Red Meat turned Califone. It's got some of the sand-dusted blues-rock sound that we've used to know as the Califone sound, obviously. But Califone came to refine this, their sound, over the years, throughout their albums. Improving the songwriting and their sound. Always getting better. The sound of sadness. The sound of the deserted, yet picturesque scenery of some rough wasteland. The audio-visual 'views' from the oustskirts of town, prensenting some rural, rustic twang. The speed of the sound of loneliness, or rather: the sound of the speed of loneliness. Califone's musical capsules are meant to last for years and years, I believe. They've been written to last forever. Rootys rock, not Americana (mind you) for eternity. Folk songs from the the dizzying, criss-crossing patterns from the blurred map of indie rock, or different rock, or art-alternative rock. Who else covers Psychic TV, name their songs "Buñuel, "Black Metal Valentine", "Rattlesnakes Smell Like Split Cucumber", or "Moonbath.Brainsalt.A.Holy.Fool". You immediatly sense, or know this is a band flirting with avant-rock and surrealism.

'Lyrically, Roomsound penetrates the breath of pirates, poison apples at a tango contest and the waiting room between death and canonization where missionaries have quit and 19th-century prostitutes have been rescued for all the wrong reasons.' (Secretly store)

The original Roomsound held ten songs. This new, deluxe (double LP) editon has got five extra tracks added on it. Rarities and obscurities. Among the bonus tracks, there's a couple of 4-track versions: One is an 'alternate' version of "Wade in The Water", while the other is "Mittens" - originally from the Quicksand/Cradlesnakes album (2003). "Silver & Gold" was also included on the the Japanese edition of the Quicksand/Cradlesnakes record, but the song also appeared on two different split 7" singles - one with the fine act Sea and Cake (Numero Group, 2003), the other along with fab NZ band The Bats (Social Music Records, 2010). The other rare tracks are: "Cluck Old Hen" - originally from the V/A record Shanti Project Collection 3 (featuring Arab Strap, The Black Heart Procession, Kinski, and Sigur Rós) and the obscure "Stanza VIIITrout", of which I don't know nothing about (origin, appearances, etc.).

Califone is a percussive band, but they're also a melodic band of fractured and hidden melodies, that is. The opening "Trout Silk" is driven by a laidback piano and some Ry Cooderish steel strings, and the track has got a feverish feel within it. "Bottles And Bones (Shade And Sympathy)" points towards furture greatness of the magic Califone to come. Lyric-wise the somewhat odd storytelling of Rutili at times reminds me of Tom Waits' songs, describing characters on the shadowy side. Strange stories stitched together by Rutili's imaginative, feverish mind. Such as inn "Porno Starlet Vs. Rodeo Clown":

Watching her own body fake and writhe
Mascara around her cataract eyes, bruises on her knees
She goes home to a rodeo clown
Pissing on his hands for luck
Dragging from the balls of a bull
Concussion barrel sings..."

The dry, rasping vocals of Rutili makes me at times think of J Mascis. "Wade in The Water" is a bit different from the 4-track version, but they're not that far apart from each other. The mood is the same. When hearing the songs of Roomsound, I come to think of tumbleweed and dusty air. It's almost like my mouth dries and my eyes start dripping, aching only by listening to these songs. Like I said, Califone's songs (and albums) are getting better and better. Roomsound is an interesting listen, especially with the additional tracks. The album is somewhat varied but the album as a whole isn't a classic or a great album. It's fine, but it can't compete with the Califone albums to come over the next dedcade. I still believe there is magic in the Califone universe for future releases. I'm certainly up for a new album soon. Don't think I can wait till next year. Well, while waiting I'll put on Roots & Crowns (2006), All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (2009), and Stitches for some new rounds on the stereo. Never goes wrong.

Copyright © 2017 H. Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Califone articles/reviews: Deceleration One, Insect Courage EP, Stitches.

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