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Posts Tagged ‘The Dodos

Something’s Going On: Calexico

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“You’re a pretty thought I suppose
I’m just trying to hold up as I go
And one day I swear I’ll spread my wings
I’m on my way to finer things.”

—‘Fortune Teller’ (taken from ‘Algiers’, 2012)

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry


The arrival of a new Calexico record is always a cause of celebration and pure joy. For me, Calexico’s music is the most pivotal and endearing of artistic creations that seamlessly seeps into your veins and hits directly to the heart’s core. ‘Algiers’ is the new album and stands tall as their strongest work to date. Like so many music fans, I look up to Joey Burns (singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) and John Convertino (drums, songwriter, percussion, vibes) in such a profound way that I’m eternally grateful for the songs and music the core duo have composed and performed over the years. It’s their windswept, breathtakingly beautiful instrumentals (is there anything more pure and beautiful as ‘Minas De Cobre’, ‘El Picador’ or ‘Above The Branch’?), heart wrenching ballads (‘Bloodflow’, ‘The News About William’, ‘Fortune Teller’), brooding cinematic opuses (‘Red Blooms’, ‘Black Heart’, ‘The Vanishing Mind’), life affirming symphonies (‘Quattro’, ‘Epic’, ‘Victor Jara’s Hands’), songs of hope etched in the heart of darkness (‘Para’, ‘Crooked Road And The Briar’, ‘..Not Even Stevie Nicks’, ‘Trigger’) and momentous rejoice (‘Crystal Frontier’, ‘Guero Canelo’, ‘No Te Vayas’, ‘Inspiracion’). As always, the deeply rooted music telepathy between Burns and Convertino, combined with the peerless musicianship of the greater Calexico ensemble (spanning continents and encompassing worlds of sound) and producer supreme Craig Schumacher, means that true art is endlessly created.

I was very fortunate to see Calexico on two occasions during their ‘Algiers’ European tour in September. The concerts in Ancienne Belgique, Brussels and at the Vega, Copenhagen were both testaments to the power and glory of these new songs. The anticipation for their long-awaited return was palpable. The pure joy of the sold-out audiences gravitated to unforgotten realms of possibility. The musicians alike were performing out of sheer joy. Inspiration flooded the live auditorium spaces. Calexico’s lineup of Joey Burns (vocals, guitars), John Convertino (drums, percussion), Jacob Valenzuela (trumpets, vibes), Martin Wenk (trumpets, vibes, accordion, guitar), Jairo Zavala (guitars), Sergio Mendoza (keys, piano) and Ryan Alfred (bass) weaved magic through their deep musical connection. John Convertino on stage right, centre orchestrated the cast of stellar musicians. To witness John Convertino’s drums “set ablaze the rafters and the roofs” on ‘Para’ and ‘Black Heart’. The set closer ‘The Vanishing Mind’ that left you awe-struck.

In Brussels, where Joey dedicated ‘The Vanishing Mind’ to my brother and I was a moment we’ll forever cherish. The old and new songs folded seamlessly together unleashing a spectrum of human emotions. The new song ‘Dead Moon’, awashed with dark, brooding grandeur that just missed out on the new album cut. The musicianship on display. The gorgeous duet with Laura Gibson on their reinterpretation of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Waiting For The Miracle’ at the Vega, Copenhagen. The miracle in itself of witnessing Calexico perform live, now and forevermore.

The road atlas of Calexico is a constant, forever striving for newness, while remaining true to their aesthetics. This road atlas began in ’97 with their debut ‘Spoke’ and a wealth of monumental releases later, Calexico remain as this special cosmic force, unparalleled in the atmosphere’s clouds of sound. ‘Algiers’ sees Calexico (as always) immersed in a creative vibe, where music and song rises up and fills the human space. Like the lyric to ‘The Vanishing Mind’, the band’s journey is one of great significance, wherein my heart’s impulse will always bring me back:

“It’s what brought you here

It’s what keeps you here.”


‘Algiers’ is out now on City Slang (EU) and on Anti (US).

Calexico (with support from The Dodos) play Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on February 14.


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February 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Ten Mile Stereo

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Ryan Francesconi & Mirabai Peart ‘Road To Palios’ (Bella Union)
A collaboration between two gifted musicians; Francesconi’s immaculate acoustic guitar playing and his partner Peart’s beautiful violin. Francesconi is also a key member of Joanna Newsom’s band and his own solo LP ‘Parables’ is among the finest albums of recent years. ‘Road to Palios’ is a life-changing journey.

Oliveray ‘Wonders’ (Erased Tapes)
This gem was put out a few years back by Berlin-based label Erased Tapes and continues to reveal more with every single listen. A stunning collaboration between Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick (Olive and Ray are the authors’ middle names) includes two incredible covers, of Tiny Vipers (‘Dreamer’) and Efterklang (‘Harmonics’).

Cheval Sombre ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral)
Cheval Sombre is the pseudonym for New York-based Christopher Porpora, a poet-turned-musician whose debut self-titled lp was released in 2009. Cheval Sombre’s ‘Mad Love’ album was one of the hidden gems of last year. A beautiful and rewarding collection on the Sonic Cathedral label.

Nat Birchall ‘Sacred Dimension’ (Gondwana Records)
Dubbed ‘Spiritual Jazz’, I picked up Birchall’s (a UK-based saxophonist)’Sacred Dimension’ lp somewhat by chance (via the always-trustworthy speakers of Plugd Records). ‘Sacred Dimension’ is an incredible odyssey of an album and provides a moving experience for the listener.

The Great Balloon Race ‘Cardboard’
‘Animals Burning’ is the album-opener from this very talented Cork-based band whose debut album ‘Cardboard’ was released at the end of last year. Ambitious and complex. A Band with a very bright future indeed.

The Dodos ‘No Color’ (Wichita)
I First discovered The Dodos by their ‘Visiter’ Album; a wonderful showcase of the talents of this American duo; Meric Long and Logan Kroeber. Now, on their fourth album – ‘No Color’ (Witchita Records) – the band will soon embark on a European tour supporting Tucson Arizona’s Calexico.

Broadcast ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ OST (Warp)
The stunning soundtrack by Warp’s Broadcast for the equally-stunning second film by British director Peter Strickland. Like all things Warp, the soundtrack should be purchased on vinyl to get the optimum benefit of the amazing sleeve.

Nils Frahm & Anne Müller 7fingers (Erased Tapes)
Collaboration between Berlin-based musicians and friends; Frahm and Müller. Anne Müller’s cello is breath-taking while Frahm’s immaculate attention to detail on production duties are on full display here. Electronica and cello combine to stunning effect.

Birds Of Passage ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ E.P.
Birds of Passage is multi-talented New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Across all her LPs to date (‘Dear And Unfamiliar’, ‘Without The World’, and current ‘Winter Lady’) her music is simply breathtaking. Also, in her stunning back-catalogue is the ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ EP. Mastering duties by Nils Frahm.

Hidden Highways ‘Hidden Highways’ E.P. (Out On A Limb Records)
The stunning debut self-titled E.P. from Tim V. Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan recalls the magic chemistry of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood recordings, while equally reminiscient of the dark folk tales of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The E.P. features the incredible cover of Jeff Alexander’s ‘Come Wander With Me.’ Hidden Highways’ debut album will be released in Spring 2013 and is sure to be one of the albums of the year.