Califone

There are many kind of stitches: seams to secure sleeves into armholes... sutures closing wounds and deep incisions... loops or crosses of embroidery floss... a sudden pain in the side. Stitches, the new album from Califone, touches on all these definitions, its episodes of discomfort and healing rendered with exquisite beauty and craftsmanship.
Intimate timbres—garage sale drum machines, slack guitar strings, hushed vocals—offset the album's cinematic inclinations. The listener moves through a landscape of Old Testament blood and guts, spaghetti Western deserts and Southwestern horizons, zeroing in on emotions and images that cannot be glanced over. Motes of dust dance briefly in afternoon sunlight.
"This is the only record I've made in my life where none of the work was done in Chicago," says Califone's Tim Rutili. The writing and recording began in Southern California, then continued in Arizona and Texas. "Those dry landscapes and beaches and hills and shopping malls all made it into the music," he acknowledges. Uniquely homespun elements are interwoven into the songs, too, including sounds Rutili recorded in his backyard during rainfall and while driving in his car.
Brass, pedal steel, and strings color in the edges and outlines songs like "Frosted Tips," "We Are A Payphone," "Moonbath.brainsalt.a.holy.fool" and "Moses," yet Stitches is no Ennio Morricone-meets-Cecil B. DeMille pastiche. Gritty electronics, the mesmerizing thrumming of tablas, and eerie keyboards also pepper these ten new selections. A cartographer could spend lifetimes mapping the terrain of Stitches.
Archetypes and mythological figures rub shoulders with bruised civilians throughout this odyssey. Though Rutili is not a religious man, episodes from the Bible in particular kept entering his psyche as he wrote. "I'm fascinated with why some stories and characters resonate and last for thousands of years, and are so easily transposed onto all our lives and rites of passage, no matter how absurd or surreal they are."
Rutili has not been idle in the years since the release of Califone's critically acclaimed 2009 album All of My Friends Are Funeral Singers. He wrote scripts and painted and collaborated on the music for several films, including the score for the 2012 documentary Beauty Is Embarrassing and the Starz TV series BOSS. He lost a few band members and stopped all Califone activity for about a year. "Then one day I woke up and started writing songs again."
At first he churned out a lot of songs that didn't make the cut. He kept moving. The larger themes that would eventually reach fruition on Stitches began to emerge. "During this process, I started to really look at myself and find a clearer, more honest voice," he reveals. "I forced myself to write as much as possible. I allowed myself to be crabby and vulnerable as much as I could stand it... and slowly the songs got better."
Eventually Rutili commenced recording with Griffin Rodriguez in Los Angeles, Michael Krassner in Phoenix, and Craig Ross in Austin, along with a raft of guest musicians. "We treated each song as its own particular planet. Bringing in different people and recording in different places helped bring some tension to the whole thing. I wanted this to be a more schizophrenic record, stitching together conflicting textures and feels." Rutili's old Red Red Meat colleague Tim Hurley stayed with him for a few months and they recorded together for the first time since Califone's eponymous 1998 debut EP.
In some regards, Stitches harks back to those earliest days of Califone. There was more home recording, and musicians came and went as the songs dictated. "It was a much more solitary process, and that freed me up to feel less self-conscious about singing and writing more personal lyrics." Yet the ultimate outcome sounds like the work of an artist reborn. "I tried to keep the songs visual and poetic, but it was more important to allow myself to feel and be vulnerable and not hide in the music," Rutili says. "Instead of writing from my balls and brain, this time I wrote from the nerves, skin, and heart."
Stitches—the word and the album—can mean different things to many people. Your own interpretations are welcomed and encouraged.

The Luyas went into the studio on a February morning with the plan of getting some drum sounds to start writing songs for a new album. As the mics were going up, the band received a phone call. There had been a sudden death. The incomprehensible event left the band in an existential daze. The mics put themselves up that morning.

The resulting LP, Animator, opens with "Montuno," a 9-minute account of a hallucination about the repetition of days, the split seconds that define us, and the strangeness of the certainty of death.

There's something almost supernatural to the feel of the record. "Animator is supposed to be some weird resuscitation. The animator's job is to create the semblance of movement in things that cannot move themselves. The musician's is to make us feel like something is happening with a sound" explains singer and multi-instrumentalist Jessie Stein.

Recorded and produced at the Treatment Room by band member and experimental brass player Pietro Amato and mixed by Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes at his Breakglass Studios in the band's hometown of Montreal, Animator is a cathartic sophisticated collection of songs. As melodically compelling as it is artistically rich, Animator is intuitive, seductive, moody and textural. It slowly unfolds its beauty and trusts the listener to stay with it.

Just as dance pioneer Loïe Fuller, whose image graces the album cover, beguiled the world with the Dance Serpentine, the songs on Animator have a hypnotic effect. Sarah Neufeld and Amato's arrangements of string and horn float throughout, fragile and fleeting. Stein's gentle vocals have an eerie insular feel. Mathieu Charbonneau and Mark Wheaton's rhythm section put you in a trance. Fleets of strange noises dot the horizon. Like Portishead or the Silver Apples, the Luyas exist in the world to communicate something original yet fundamentally relatable without resorting to nostalgia.

The band's riveting live show has been charming fans since the release of 2011's Too Beautiful To Work, and they've toured the world with the likes of the Antlers, the Dodos and Blonde Redhead. The Luyas are ascending a trajectory of artistic vision and creativity, and asking if we, too, are curious.

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Califone with The Luyas

Tuesday, January 7 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at The Chapel