Califone [EP]

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With their second eponymous release, Califone apparently wants you to know their name. And if you followed the often difficult, frequently sublime Red Red Meat -- whose 1998 meltdown spawned Califone -- then you probably are already trying to explain to your friends why they too should know their name. Over the course of this five-song EP, Califone communicates more than contemporaries might need a double album to convey. In that short span, Califone proves a mastery of vastly disparate styles -- from ballads whose layers of electronic texture and beats rival those of Radiohead ("Electric Fence," "Beneath the Yachtsman," "Dock Boggs") to straight folk numbers ("St. Martha Let It Fold," "Don't Let Me Die Nervous") that might have been penned at the turn of the last century rather than in the year 2000. While the "well-read" listener will appreciate this movement between 19th century simplicity and 21st century instrumentation/production, the range can be alienating to someone accustomed to bands whose mien is less complicated, relegating the talents of central contributors Tim Rutili, Ben Massarella, and producer Brian Deck to an unwarranted obscurity.

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