Heron King Blues

Thrill Jockey

Califone’s Heron King Blues is the American answer to UK rural post-rock masterpieces like Movietone’s The Sand and the Stars and Appendix Out’s The Night is Advancing. What makes these albums so interesting is the integration of archaic, eastern and unknown instruments (fretless banjo? shinai reed? matrix organ? anyone?) into a traditional folk setting while still keeping a very current soundscape rife with cascading electronics. As far as this album is concerned, the lazy, meandering and improvisational feel of a psychedelic jam band is created throughout, but without the bloated self-aggrandizement. The stock twenty-minute guitar jams are swapped for songs like the fourteen-minute title track, which transforms from tribal funk into ambient twang and murky beatnik jazz before peaking with a free form freak out. There’s hardly a rehashed sound to be found on this song.

Lyrically, Califone takes a much less linear path than their British peers. Take, for example, the opener, “Wingbone.” Its references to “orange sound” and dropping constellations give the album an air of peyote-induced campfire visions. Images like these careen seemingly theme-less throughout the album on the first couple of listens before the Heron King’s story begins loosely taking shape. The lyrics complement the instrumentation perfectly, creating a joyously gonzo album perfect for any late summer Hunter S. Thompson-style escapades yet to be wrought.

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