Researching soundtrack to our lives
ALTCOUNTRY CALEXICO Carling Academy, Glasgow, Sun 18 Apr
Last time I talked to Joey Burns who, with John Convertino and a shifting line-up of session musicians, forms the alt.country/Mexicana outfit, Calexico, the band was about to play Glasvegas and Burns and Convertino were turning their attention to scoring film soundtracks. Well, the gig was cancelled and Calexico’s moody sound (imagine a distant freight train passing by late at night) has yet to appear on film. Almost a year later and I’m talking to Burns again, down the phone line from Florida,
where Calexico are currently gigging as part of a US tour. 80 I ask the Arizona native what happened. ‘We just couldn’t fit the gig in, schedule-wise,’ Burns says, sounding a little weary. Too many gigs? Too many interviews? Not enough morning coffee? ‘80, now we’re coming back. That’s why this EP is
The Black Heart EP is a six-track remixes disc, fronted by a stand-out song from Calexico’s last album, Feast of Wire, and also includes GoTan Project’s mix of the superbly titled ‘Attack El Robot Attack!’ The EP might be a burnt offering for fans disappointed with Calexico’s no-show in the UK last November, but it’s also a good example of Burns and Convertino’s collaborative approach to music- making, which has also involved them swapping remixes with Andrew Weatherall under his Two Lone Swordsmen moniker. Similarly, on stage Calexico can be anything from a two to a six-piece band, usually with special guests, the most notable of which is a Mexican marriachi troupe.
If you want to see more of that onstage collaboration, check out the forthcoming DVD, Calexico Live at the Barbican: World Drifts In, which features the alt.country bonanza gig, Further Beyond Nashville. Better still, go see Calexico at the Academy this month.
Burns and Convertino have also been making inroads into scoring a film. One of the tunes of the new EP, ‘Pepita’, was used in the Adidas ad featuring Muhammad Ali, while the band itself appears in Collateral, the new Michael Mann film starring Tom Cruise. OK, so that’s not actually scoring a film, but, as Burns says: ‘The offers have been coming in. One is called Happy Ending, one is called Three Bad Men. We’re waiting for the scripts to show up, then we’ll check our schedules.’
Busy boys. Nice for Burns, then, that Calexico’s current tour ends in Lisbon. He says: ‘For me it’s a dream. I’m a big fan of Portuguese fado music. I’m probably going to hang out with some friends, check out the music, go out to the coast and catch fish. It’s one of the things I love about touring: you’re plopped down somewhere and you take a vacation. It’s all research you see.’ (Miles Fielder)
JAZZ FUTURE SOUNDS OF JAZZ
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 20 Apr
Future SOunds if Ja/x brings together a disi;a"2‘:'.-:: cast of cutting edge 'i‘..s clans. including Soweto Kincl‘. Jason Yét'tlfi. Beinbe Segue. Matthew Bourne. DaVid Okuniu and Jade Fax. DJ Biznizz. Zena t*"(l'.'.'ar::s a":: ﬁt: VJS of Yeast I'- 'ns.
John Cu'r'i‘ 'g of Serious was the man nor 'id it. and explained that 'the (tea s 1:: create a collaborative protest that :;a'1 celebrate the falei‘ts emerging from the currei‘t yax/ scei e in its broadest sense. The group have already started workshopping new music. which has the potential to run from the devastating funk grooves that underpin Jade Fox's output to the outer reaches of free
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|'ll[)l(}‘. and electronics — as well as great songs and Jazz solos out at the tradition.'
How that WI“ translate onstage remains to be seen. The preparations for the tour are still at an early stage. although the musicians have been working out ideas and exploring ways and
means As pianist Matthew Bourne admitted, it is a challenging remit.
'The title that John came up With is (IUIIG a challenge for anyone. Every body involved is so completely different. and all do very different things. so the way we have decided to take it forward is that most of us will be bringing in new pieces. and we'll all contribute what we are into at this point in time.
‘l'm looking forward to haying a chance to work with the Video artists on triggering Visual samples. for example. which I've not done before. We are trying to aim towards including everyone as much as possible. but we want to av0id the showcase kind of approach. I guess it WI” be quite varied and include as many different combinations of people as possible.‘ (Kenny Mathiesoni
1 They’re the new Beach Boys OK, they're not the new Beach Boys. But they are pop as fuck. New album. Chutes too Narrow. is a sparkly. spaneg slice of summertime sweetness and a definite step on from their acclaimed debut Oh. Inverted World. Based on the idiOSyncratic songs of James Mercer. the Shins“ sound is a real breath of fresh air — think of the melodies of Crowded House with the nippiness of the Smiths. or a wonky new version of the Kinks.
2 They‘re daft as a box of frogs The opening line of Chutes too Narrow is ‘Called to see if your back was still aligned'. The band's oftiCial biography begins thus: ‘Our stOry's beginnings are immersed in the clouded and impenetrable waters of time. Gaia. the Earth Mother. awoke from a century‘s sleep to find herself in peril of overpopulation and the conswnption of her precious resources.’ It doesn't go on to make much more sense after that. Which is. naturally. a good thing.
3 They're a real word of mouth success Oh. Inverted World was recorded on a shoestring and punted out with very little expectation by Sub Pop in 2001. Word of its inimitable pop genius quickly spread and has resulted in sales in the hundreds of thousands. Chutes too Narrow is already easily eclipsmg that success.
4 They’re multi-national corporate whores The band licensed the track 'New Slang“ to be used On a McDonalds ad in the States. The money they made from it allegedly enabled singer James Mercer to buy a house and build a studio in the basement. They've since done music for a Gap ad. Indie fans were predictably outraged. But if the money gained helps produce music like this. who cares?
5 They make reference to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The album title. Chutes too Narrow, obliquely refers to the moment when the German kid. Augustus Gloop. gets stuck in the tube and forced out by the pressure of the liquid chocolate. (Doug Johnstone) I The Shins play King Tut’s, Glasgow. Tue 20 Apr.