Calexico - Feast Of Wire
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Calexico
Feast Of Wire

Calexico is one of those groups that I found about somewhat later than I would have liked to, but caught up with their back catalogue quickly and have watched them seemingly grow a bit stronger with each release. I enjoyed The Black Light immensely, and The Hot Rail was a step up from that. Even though last years Even My Sure Things Fall Through was only an EP, it still had a couple of the best tracks that the group had ever done, and it found them experimenting with some new sounds to good effect.

Only a short time later, the group has returned with Feast Of Wire, and although I can't say that it's another step up for the group, it's still a solid effort. Musically, it finds them branching out in even more directions, and although many of them work, some of the time the tracks simply feel like a portion of an idea that wasn't carried through the entire way. The disc opens with two absolutely solid tracks, as "Sunken Waltz" swaggers along with their almost trademark southwestern feel, while "Quattro (World Drifts In)" builds with a slow burn, as Joey Burns adds hushed vocals. Eventually, it peaks with bursts of horns and swirls of pedal steel, but it's one of those tracks that packs a punch with restraint rather than release.

"Black Heart" is the first real changeup from the group, and it's a nice one. After opening with a thick layer of distorted drums, the track drifts into a string-drenched cinematic number that would make Morricone jealous. On the other side of the coin is what is quite possibly the least interesting track on the disc in "Not Even Stevie Nicks." The track not only buries Burn's vocals in crappy effects (after he just really started unfurling his chops in the past two releases), but doesn't do much outside a fairly typical rock structure. Fortunately, that track is offset by the quiet beauty of "Woven Birds," mixing a bit of dark lounge into the warm track.

Elsewhere, the group offers up the somewhat shorter instrumentals (like "The Book And The Canal" and "Whipping The Horse's Eyes") that I mentioned above, and although they provide a decent bit of atmosphere, they break up the album into even smaller disjointed parts. For every track like that, though, the group pulls off at least 3 fine ones, like the excellent "Across The Wire," which feels like the logical sequel to "Crystal Frontier" from Even My Sure Things Fall Through, mixing bittersweet lyrics with a rather upbeat musical backing. "No Doze" closes out the disc with a downright narcotic pace, sludging through trembling strings and acoustic guitars while Burns' vocals again drift in the background. Overall, the album moves in a fairly different direction that their last two albums seemed to be leading up to. If you're a fan of their more experimental instrumental work, you'll find plenty to be interested in here, as the album as a whole feels a bit scattered. Somewhat disappointing, but definitely not a wash.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00