There are many kind of stitches: seams to secure sleeves into armholes... sutures closing wounds and deep incisions... loops or crosses of embroidery floss... a sudden pain in the side. Stitches, the new album from Califone, touches on all these definitions, its episodes of discomfort and healing rendered with exquisite beauty and craftsmanship.
Intimate timbres—garage sale drum machines, slack guitar strings, hushed vocals—offset the album's cinematic inclinations. The listener moves through a landscape of Old Testament blood and guts, spaghetti Western deserts and Southwestern horizons, zeroing in on emotions and images that cannot be glanced over. Motes of dust dance briefly in afternoon sunlight.
"This is the only record I've made in my life where none of the work was done in Chicago," says Califone's Tim Rutili. The writing and recording began in Southern California, then continued in Arizona and Texas. "Those dry landscapes and beaches and hills and shopping malls all made it into the music," he acknowledges. Uniquely homespun elements are interwoven into the songs, too, including sounds Rutili recorded in his backyard during rainfall and while driving in his car.
Brass, pedal steel, and strings color in the edges and outlines songs like "Frosted Tips," "We Are A Payphone," "Moonbath.brainsalt.a.holy.fool" and "Moses," yet Stitches is no Ennio Morricone-meets-Cecil B. DeMille pastiche. Gritty electronics, the mesmerizing thrumming of tablas, and eerie keyboards also pepper these ten new selections. A cartographer could spend lifetimes mapping the terrain of Stitches.