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Califone – Heron King Blues
Thrill Jockey Records Release: Winter 2004

For his entire life, Califone's Tim Rutili has had a recurring dream featuring a giant half-man half-bird character. Imagine his surprise when he recently stumbled upon a historical anecdote featuring the very bird character that he had imagined. During the floundering stages of Rome's laying siege against England, a battalion of Romans learned of a Druid god in whom the British lived in fear: the heron king. On the verge of defeat, the Romans put a soldier on stilts and outfitted him with a heron mask and sent him out to the British camp, causing such fear that the British soldiers fled in a panic.

Rutili was sufficiently haunted to learn that his dreams overlapped so thoroughly with historical reality, he used the experience as a motivation, a roadmap, and a theme for Califone's new release, Heron King Blues. By now the story of Califone's birth (rising from the ashes of Red Red Meat, Rutili and Ben Massarella formed a new band featuring new friends and new tones on a new label) is old news. Their early releases on Roadcone and Perishable (also founded by Rutili and Massarella) found Califone experimenting with an entirely unique blend of free-form acoustics and blues-tinged pop. Last year's Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, Califone's Thrill Jockey debut, featured some of the most intricate, elaborate, and finely-crafted songs of their career.

Their latest recording, Heron King Blues picks up where Quicksand/Cradlesnakes left off, and trails towards the more spaced out ethereal thoughts of Califone's Deceleration releases, retaining many of the more pop-oriented qualities found on Quicksand/ Cradlesnakes and 2001's Roomsound. Recorded at Chicago's Clava Studios with Michael Krassner, Califone (Rutili, Massarella, guitarist Jim Becker, drummer Joe Adamik) set out to make a record like Captain Beefheart's Mirror Man, entering the studio with a blank canvas and recording relatively quickly. (Beefheart needed only one night; Califone took a bit longer.) Most songs were improvised or written immediately before recording, and before long a series of raw, live recordings had been completed. The initial recordings were chopped up, mixed around, and reassembled into the final product: a beautifully lush and patient masterpiece.

Heron king and aviary themes are omnipresent on Heron King Blues, as Rutili makes frequent mention and reference to the heron king's legend, culling mood and tone from his own personal experience with the "bird man." As well, the album's cover features what Rutili describes as "an entirely accurate portrayal" of the heron king of his dreams (the photographing of which involved "sleep deprivation, a man on stilts wearing a beak and a crown, a homeless armed ex-state trooper, his sobbing wife and all their belongings in the trunk of my car and our Bridgeport neighbors shouting obscenities and pelting us with eggs"). Heron King Blues brings together "numerology, bird references, wartime tension, filthy rock and tender mercy" to form what is perhaps Califone's most mysterious recording to date; an album of which Rutili concludes his description by explaining: "it's pretty dark and very natural; it's us."

For further information contact Jessica or Sam at Thrill Jockey Records., 312-492-9634