Calliope

(In) Organics

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With release number three for Chicago's Thick Records, Calliope gently morphs from a characteristic shoegazing space rock swirl into psychedelic dream pop spins. Light-headed and layered, (In) Organics does an admirable job melting vastly different elements into a surly -- yet cohesive -- soup of influences. Sure, the band still provides obvious nods to both the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine with waves of extraterrestrial bliss-out. But the Lansing, MI, foursome's prevalence of an almost jazzy mix of melodic trumpet romantics and soft-brushed drumming -- personality traits that previously set the group apart from its space rock ancestry -- are trumped this time by the inclusion of sitar and even hip-hop-style record scratching. These morsels fit snugly within the characteristic Calliope context, however. The sitar furthers the band's knack for windy psychedelia, giving it more of a '60s feel in the first track, "Did You Get What You Came For?" And the scratching peaks out in track six, "Umbra," amid some usual noise experimentation. Its inclusion simply provides an extension to the effect of playing tape or a record backwards. Warmth comes in a few simple acoustic guitar sequences and smooth bass rhythms. J. Andy Dryer's vocals mimic this warmth in "Told You So." At points they also mimic the delicate nature of Belle & Sebastian vocal escapades, which takes the band more into the Scottish dream pop realm than its previous Cocteau cockpit seat in the Scottish spacecraft. One barely notices these song-to-song genre swaps, which can be credited to the able production of the band itself. (In) Organics marks the group's first foray into self-recording. The musicians bought the recording equipment for their Trash 180 Degrees studio after making some money from "A Taste for Killing," a song on their self-titled first album that appeared in a Coke commercial. (In) Organics brings the band to a higher level of musical maturity; there's less stoned silliness and the experiments and arrangements are sculpted as equally as they are deconstructed. The lyrics, however, leave a lot to be desired. The group might draw its roots from bands that could get away with lackluster lyricism because the ethereal vocals played an "instrument" role. But Dryer's vocals are much more opaque. Also, while the album is sonically more mature, it's also somewhat less fun. However, the overall atmosphere is pretty, thick, and glossy, not unlike an ocean-weathered piece of glass. (In) Organics indeed.

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