After a pair of EPs and extensive touring, Chicago supergroup Califone finally sat down to make a full-length album. Drawing on the vaguely avant-garde inclinations of their past work, the band has made yet another shotgun marriage of modern, electronic techniques to old-time American folk music. Likely one of the few bands in the country to demonstrate equal influence from Brian Eno and Hank Williams Sr., Califone make fascinating music out of the struggle between old and new sounds. They even tack on video performances of themselves in some industrial-area bathroom, heightening the tension between old-style performing values and high-tech presentation. Roomsound, recorded at the band's hometown Clava Studios, finds the band in a more straightforward mood than usual. Instead of layering endless sonic experimentation over singer/guitarist Tim Rutili's rootsy basics, the group integrates their trademark synths and drum machines into a more organic whole. The result is Califone's best work yet. "Bottles and Bones (Shade and Sympathy)" plays brilliantly with the tension between wordless, beatific choirs and laid-back strumming, while "St. Augustine (A Belly Full of Swans)" may be the finest blues number the band has written yet. Despite the disparate influences found on Roomsound, Califone manage to make a convincing whole out of wildly different parts.
by Sam Eccleston