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Music Consumption: Don Caballero
04/05/2002 Don Caballero: What Burns Never Returns

Lately I've been listening to this one a lot. It wasn't their last one, but it was the last studio recording with Mike Banfield still in the band, and for me it's their creative peak. "Don Caballero 3" picks up literally where the previous disc left off (same drumbeat--neat idea) and builds from there. The nearly three-minute introduction builds tension appropriately until the piece shifts into another introductory riff, which shifts again at 3:30, leading up to the open dramatic figures that follow it at the four minute mark, and it keeps changing from there. What a band--this piece just keeps building. It's a real pocket symphony.

"In The Abscence Of Strong Evidence To The Contrary, One May Step Out Of The Way Of The Charging Bull" is another fine highlight, with the interlocking finger-tapping, and a fine moment for Pat Morris's bass. I think I've been listening to this album again as a result of working with a fine drummer who kind of reminds me of Damon Che here. (I actually don't think he's familiar with the Don; I'm going to have to introduce him to the music.) The whole-band interplay on this one is thrilling and moving, and not without its humor. It's not just about counting.

"Delivering The Groceries At 138 Beats Per Minute" is, in comparison with most Don stuff by this point, a pop number. You can see why Southern put it up as the .mp3 single. Rocky, grooving, infectious. "Slice Where You Live Like Pie" in a way combines the previous three tracks with Che's salsa-esque cowbell, the guitarists' tapping and clustered riffs...but again the piece expands and contracts, ebbs and flows, grooves and slows...with some distorted peaks.

The pinnacle of this disc, however, is "Room Temperature Suite," a concise (for the Don) piece that nonetheless could be called "sweeping." Many little sections that lead into each other, with actual emotional content. (Or at least what I perceive as actual emotional content.) It's another symphonic structure, and one of those glorious occasions on which a very promising band even exceeds that promise.

"From the Desk of Elsewhere Go" is another epic with a light touch in places, alternating consonance with dissonance, grooves with complex stumbling, and intensity with reflection, a real microcosm of their music. This one and the next one, "June Is Finally Here," with its clean, cyclical playing, do put one in a springtime frame of mind. A great listen for this time of year.

09/30/2000 Don Caballero: Supersphere

I've been listening to a lot of stuff lately, but no time to review it yet. But for all the Don Caballero fans hitting this page lately, check this out: Supersphere.com has two streaming Don shows, and one Storm&Stress show. And it's free!

11/03/1998 Don Caballero: live

Saw the first show of the current Don Caballero tour. While the rotating bass chair has rotated again (this time ably filled by Storm&Stress bassist Eric M. Topolsky), they were in excellent form, seemingly loose in attitude while tight in timing and performance. Damon Che's drumming sounds as though he has more than the usual number of limbs--he's Pittsburgh's answer to Elvin Jones--but I was paying as much attention as I could to guitarists Mike Banfield and Ian Williams (who's always worn his guitar much higher than anyone else I've seen, except maybe Duquesne University music school graduates). They've incorporated a kind of Stanley Jordan (method, not style) two-handed tapping into the guitar lines, which adds an additional level of grace and complexity to the music. When I was able to get a clear line of sight, I was able to watch how the parts were separated from each other (it's with more room for flexibility than you'd think).

Their live sound is never quite as defined as it could be, probably a function of having good engineers on their studio stuff. Still, check them out. (It may or may not be your last chance; the show was billed as "possibly the last ever" local show, but guitarist/spokesmodel Ian Williams observed that "Pittsburgh's always trying to kill us off with these 'it's over' rumors.")

11/03/1998 Don Caballero: What Burns Never Returns

It was interesting to pick up the "Trey's Dog's Acid"/"Room Temperature Lounge" 7-inch single, and note the changes made in the two pieces as they were combined into the astoundingly beautiful "Room Temperature Suite" from What Burns Never Returns.

09/30/1998 Don Caballero: What Burns Never Returns

A week or so ago, I picked up Don Caballero's new one, What Burns Never Returns, again excellent. "Room Temperature Suite", "Delivering the Groceries at 138 Beats per Minute", and "In the Absence of Strong Evidence to the Contrary, One May Step Out of the Way of the Charging Bull" are standouts on a CD that towers over puny mass-marketed "alternative" music like a double-its-normal-size Chrysler Building. No, Don Caballero is not a member of the band.

08/14/1998 Don Caballero: What Burns Never Returns

Also worth mentioning is the new Don Caballero CD, What Burns Never Returns. Hard, beautiful, and complex. Once again, an MPEG is available at Southern, so you have no excuse not to give them a listen.

05/27/1998 Don Caballero: For Respect

One pleasure I haven't had in a while is listening to the mighty Don Caballero, an instrumental band from this very city. I loaned out my copy of their first full-length release, For Respect, and just got it back.

The pieces on this recording still have a verse-chorus-verse structure, which they've moved from. "Well Built Road," for one example, is alternately hard-hitting and expansive and delicate. Can a rock band do that?

Drummer Damon Che is, for my entertainment dollar, one of the best drummers around. I'd describe him as a post-punk Elvin Jones, if you can imagine such a thing. (If you've heard Coltrane's quartet's live recordings, you can.)

Word from their Web site is they're releasing another full-length CD (and vinyl? we can only hope) in June. Their music lives in the terra incognita between math rock and avant jazz. If you haven't heard them, now's your chance.