...we find their wide-screen grandeur and igneous spirit at its brightest...
Like all the finest sonic ranchers (Ry Cooder, Lambchop, etc), [a]Calexico[/a] know there are far greater emotional kicks to be scored from the hidden details - vague suggestions, knowing silences - than the broader, more obvious strokes. Correspondingly, their third album 'Hot Rail' is a vividly ocular, largely instrumental journey, taking in everything from blazing dustbowl showdowns ('El Picador') and fitful beatnik wig-outs ('Sonic Wind'), to ponderous, near-ambient country rambles ('Ritual Road Map'). So evocative are 'Hot Rail''s cinematic vistas, in fact, that when a 'proper' song (y'know - words, voices, that sort of thing) occasionally pops its bonce above the sonic parapet, it seems almost an intrusion - a cruel reminder that we're not sharp-shootin' desert drifters after all and that reality is, in fact, waiting outside to cosh us senseless.
Not that these 'proper' tunes are in any way inferior, mind. Indeed, the lost-highway lurch of 'Drenched' ("Roads never lead where they're supposed to go"), for one, sports enough woozy melodrama to rub ribs with Kurt Wagner. But [a]Calexico[/a] truly triumph when the clear-cut is jettisoned in favour of misted-up suggestion; when the expected is snubbed and the imagination roams free. It's then - when tussling with Morricone on the marvellous 'Tres Avisos' or stalking Ry Cooder's dust-blown farmstead on the title track - that we find their wide-screen grandeur and igneous spirit at its brightest. It is, as someone once said, one helluva journey.
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