Callers (NYC), Dillon Warnek (CD Release)
*Just added! Dillon Warnek (local 19yo who opened for The Frames at the Showbox recently!)
Callers move in mysterious ways. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-New Orleans trio mixes a sort of jazzy folk with snatches of wildly disparate stuff like prog and slowcore, Eastern-flecked drone, gauzy 50s pop, turn-on-a-dime post-punk. It's stark in execution, dazzling in effect.
Their songs jut out, double-back, criss-cross themselves, just about anything but what you'd expect them to do. Despite the warmth of guitarist Ryan Seaton's fingerwork and the awesome power of Sara Lucas' vocals, their elliptical unpredictability can make Life of Love, their latest, a bit like a problem to be worked out. But time spent untangling its knots proves unusually well-spent; you might not know it at first, but their sophomore set, Life of Love, proves another rich, rewarding listen from a quietly spectacular ensemble.
Lucas' voice, for good reason the centerpiece of every Callers song, is something to behold. She manages the seemingly impossible feat of sounding entirely different on every track, yet very much herself; smoky notes of Patti Smith and Sandy Denny linger, but she's deft and adaptable, never sounding enough like anybody to invite easy comparisons. Despite the gale force in her throat, Lucas evinces an incredible reserve, saving her big moment for when it really counts, offering subtler shades elsewhere. Ditto Ryan Seaton and newest member Don Godwin's accompaniment; Seaton's playing is smartly unflashy, allowing Lucas ample negative space, occasionally swelling in brilliant bursts of color. Godwin's presence does fill out Callers' sound some, but he hangs back, offering these divergent songs a steady underpinning that keeps even their fanciest flights grounded. They move confidently, nimbly through style after style, weaving in sounds without letting them stand in the way of their serpentine tunes. Recorded on borrowed equipment in fits and spurts over the last several years, Life of Love feels very much of a piece, and that's owed to the band's deeply felt chemistry. That the three have known each other for some time, have relocated several times to keep the band intact, seems especially germane here; more than most, these people truly sound banded together.
Hard pressed to pick a highlight, I'll start where Callers did: The album's built around a cover of Wire's "Heartbeat" that also served as the band's first recording after their 2008 effort, Fortune. Though they maintain the song's thrusting rhythm and slightly queasy melody, Lucas' interpretation of the lyric-- more literal, less paranoid than Colin Newman's terse Chairs Missing take-- is argument enough for its inclusion in the jazz standards songbook. Yep, a Wire song. The title track does kind of a Dusty in Memphis meets Veckatimest thing, its chunkily precise arrangement underpinning Lucas' increasingly unconvincing-- if completely arresting-- assertion that she's "gonna live a life of love." Thematically, the album's nearly as slippery as its sonics, but Lucas is a seeker, and the yearn in her voice often says more than her words. This would seem to be Callers' stock and trade, making small gestures seem grand, letting a few notes feel like plenty, leaving you to fill in the rest.
Paul Thompson, January 4, 2011
Fremont Abbey Arts Center
4272 Fremont Ave North
Seattle, WA 98103
|Minimum Age: 2|
|Kid Friendly: Yes!|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|