A Tex-Mex-Indi-rock-alt-country hybrid out of Arizona, Calixico is named for a Californian-Mexican border town. But their style is most apt when applied to the name, a perfect blend of the two distinct musical and cultural flavours. Knowing the Arizona influence and there’s little you can do to separate their sound from the atmospheric and background noise of Breaking Bad.
Edge of the Sun, as an album, is a slow burn: an ever-rising groundswell of meaty musical samplings and rhythms which goes from a contemplative alt-country rock sound to a grandiose south-of-the-border cinematic anthem in the space of a few tracks. Anchoring the album’s overall sound is the heavy influence of Latin America, while alternating between Ryan Adams-Ryan Bingahm (the Ryans) nouveau country and the kind of grandiose movie score instrumentals (‘Coyoacán Theme’) you’d be more likely to hear in a Robert Rodriguez film, or Kill Bill-era Tarantino. At the same time, there is zero pretense to the act at all.
A very welcome contribution comes from sonic stablemate Ben Bridwell (from Band of Horses), who slots in perfectly to the album opener, ‘Falling from the Sky’, which is – granted – straightforward, but melodious and accomplished. It’s a very alluring opener, as it is the flavour most attuned to Your Correspondent’s indi-rock sensibilities. The Band of Horses link is most effective in this way.
The production throws much of the album’s lyrical themes into the background – so it’s through a presumably osmotic process the recurring ideas of identity and belonging can get through. At the same time, Edge of the Sun doesn’t have a single vocal ‘identity’ itself, as it were, which reads as a tribute Calexico’s ensemble qualities. ‘Dreams About Swimming’, for example, would not feel out of place being sung by Tom Waits.
‘Bullets and Rockets’ underplays the vocal, which is low and simple – evoking audient memories of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and even Fools Gold-era Stone Roses. The slide guitars and front-and-centre percussion of ‘When the Angels Played’ places Clexico’s sound squarely in alt-country terrain, and renders it the third genre meld in as many tracks. Things take a heated turn in the Latin-themed ‘Cumbia De Donde’, which is a mariachi dance tune for the digital age. ‘World Undone’ is haunting. Its moody, atmospheric tones move the album in small increments towards the overtly gloomy, all the while (somehow) maintaining a solid, all the while ethereal and haunted quality. Album closer ‘Follow the River’ is a beautiful dirge salvaged from the New Orleans bayou, festooned with delicious vocals and soft, evocative contributions from the horn section. It’s a poignant coda for a frequently beautiful album.
Edge of the Sun’s, and Calexico’s strength lies in its diversity, its cacophony of sounds and influences; it is an album of measured pace, atmosphere, grace and consistency.