Calexico / The Kingsbury Manx : Seattle Crocodile Cafe

Mariachi madness from Calexico, haunting Velvets-isms from The Kingsbury Manx...

One step through the doors of the Crocodile tonight and it feels like you’ve entered the Time Tunnel. On one hand there is the Kingsbury Manx – all plaintive guitars and sub-Velvet Underground melodies. And then Calexico. With blasts of trumpet and tremolo-heavy guitar, they veer into classic Spaghetti Western territory. But tonight is not about revisionism, but rather, reinterpretation.

Listening to The Kingsbury Manx, it’s funny to think that they hail from Chapel Hill, a town better remembered for the proto-punk of Superchunk and the angular shards of the Archers Of Loaf. Shrugging off the indie rock baggage, The Kingsbury Manx have heavily based their sound on the Velvet Underground. Well, to be exact, the third self-titled Velvets album, with its subtle swells of feedback and gently strummed guitars. At times you feel like a rendition of ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ is mere moments away.

After having played live for a while as a stripped-back three piece, tonight The Kingbury Manx are back again with the full contingent of five – the keyboards and extra guitarist swelling out the layers of sound, enhancing their majesty. So, despite having to wrestle with the Croc’s murky sound, what was once simply magical, is now beyond imagination.

And while Seattle may be damp and grey outside, as soon as Calexico walk on stage, it’s seems like it’s 110 degrees in the shade. With their epic soundscapes and mariachi trumpets, the band steal a page out of the Morricone songbook. The only thing missing is the cactus and the tumbleweed!

However, in a major change of direction, tonight the dusty instrumentals seem to be in the minority, and it just makes everything more sublime. Maybe the occasional faux jazz touches could be shown the door, but when guitarist Joey Burns steps up to the microphone, a roomful of jaws drop. With a voice that echoes Tim Hardin, or even Nick Cave (without the southern gothic touches), Burns weaves an enchanting web. While ‘Frontera’ reflects the sub-Lee Hazlewoodisms of theTindersticks, ‘The Ride Pt 2’ is Calexico at their supreme best. What better description, than Cosmic American Music…

Jason Reynolds