Carried To Dust
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US LP pressing. 'Carried To Dust' is the sixth studio album from Joey Burnsand John Convertino's Calexico. Recorded at Wavelab Studiosin Tuscon, Arizona with long time collaborator Craig Schumacher, the album sees Calexico successfully bring together the rock orientated elements of their 2006 album 'Garden Ruin'with the classic Mexican inspired border town Americana that graced their early albums. 'Carried To Dust' also featuresguest spots from the likes of Iron and Wine's Sam Beam, Canadian singer Pieta Brown and Amparanoia's Amparo Sanchez.
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Some might get the idea that the "Mexican" influence means Calexico's music sounds like a failed Taco Bell ad campaign, colorful tacos and sombreros mandatory. They'd be dead wrong. It's more like the self-assured, world-wise output of Chile's storied and excellent Inti-Illimani---based upon certain elements, but ever steering the ship into uncharted waters---or the alternative soundtrack to Tarantino's awful Kill Bill movies (no offense to Morricone intended).
Perhaps the defining Calexican moment was singing and dancing along with their "Sunken Waltz" (from 2003's near-flawless Feast of Wire), a modern folk-pop fairytale about a maverick who builds a machine to sink California into the Pacific Ocean. Carried to Dust's opening cut, "Victor Jara's Hands," crackles with the same experimental folk energy. Expert Latin horns and drumwork infuse it with an elusive mystique uncommon to folk Americana. Elsewhere, slower cuts like "Falling From Sleeves" or the closing "Contention City" deliver more pastoral vibes.
The album is a "return to non-form" of sorts, as Feast of Wire was the biggest step outside of a comfort zone evident on other Calexico records, with tracks like the introductory subsonic rumbling of "Pepita," or the truly unique "Quattro (World Drifts In)." Nothing on Carried to Dust quite matches up to these moments in terms of strangeness, but it is certainly a more varied and gratifying effort than the lackluster Garden Ruin (2006).
Fans of this intoxicating blend of playing Frankenstein with American folk rock may also enjoy the oddity of Slim Cessna's Auto Club or Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots, purveyors of a rollicking new "Denver sound"---a heady mixture of spooky Americana and psychopunk/rockabilly.
"Carried To Dust" (15 tracks; 45 min.) brings a mesmerizing mix of indie-folk-electric-country-Latin sounds, and even these descriptions don't do full justice to the band. The album consists of a slew of short (in the 3-4 min. range) songs (with 2 short instrumentals) that make their point, and then the band moves on. It all results in a dreamy state of affairs that I just can't put down. There are of course no 'hits' on here, but plenty of highlights: the opener "Victor Jara's Hands" sets the table; "Man Made Lake" ends in a searing electric guitar solo; "Inspiracion" is a Spanish-song little ditty with great Mexican horns; "House of Valparaiso" features Iron & Wine's Sam Beam on vocals; and so on. There are really no weak tracks on here, period.
In all this is a great album that deserves all the critical acclaim it has gotten. I can only hope to see these guys live at some point, what a show that I suspect it would be. Hopefully they'll be either at Coachella or Bonnaroo, both of which I'll be attending this year. Meanwhile, "Carried To Dust" is highly recommended!