Califone, Stitches

Hilary Saunders

By Hilary Saunders

on 09.02.13 in Reviews

Over the course of its 15-year career, Califone has existed in many forms. Fronted by multi-instrumentalist Tim Rutili, members of the experimental Chicago group fluctuate album by album and Stitches is no different. However, this is the first album that the group recorded outside of Chicago; Rutili traveled to Southern California, Arizona and Texas for its creation and production.

An effectively simple concept album

On its first album since 2009′s LP and subsequent film All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, Califone tries to stay close to its successful concept-album format of late. A number of religious themes pervade Stitches, marked by titles like, “Magdalene,” “moonbath.brainsalt.a.holy.fool” and “Moses.” Even liturgical characters like Esau and Jacob get shoutouts in “Bells Break Arms,” as Rutili explained to the blog Owl and Bear that he read the Old Testament and a book about Moses while writing the album.

Stitches alternates between acoustic and electronic — sometimes within songs — and Rutili moves past nontraditional instrumentation (like the recurring use of tablas), toward almost an anthropological soundtrack. He incorporates field recordings from his car in transit and a rainstorm in his backyard. And on “turtle eggs/an optimist,” it even sounds like someone is blowing bubbles into a drink. In the press release, Rutili expressed an interest in “stitching together conflicting textures and feels” on the record, but simplicity actually works most effectively on Stitches.