El Valiente
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El Valiente

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Band Rock Avant-garde

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8. El Valiente: Daceton

Madison has a history of brainy graduate students who make smart and innovative musical recordings while they research and dissertate.

El Valiente's Eric Caldera is the latest example. He's earning credits toward a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at UW-Madison. He performs as the singer-songwriter Oedipus Tex and as the impressive lead of El Valiente's instrumental guitar-rock sound.

Daceton follows up the trio's 2007 debut. Caldera continues to be supported by Dave Sperka on bass and Joe Bernstein on glockenspiel and drums.

The title track lets the guitar-pick riffs meander across eight minutes of music that features splashes of electrified guitar. The tense western-noir ambience is as well organized and complex as the ant colonies Caldera researches by day.
- The Isthmus


El Valiente, Daceton (self-released)
El Valiente had all of this year and last to become pretty popular for a local instrumental-rock band. The three new tracks on Daceton, though, accomplish a lot more than El Valiente's first batch of songs, El Topo. Eric Caldera's reverb-sprung Telecaster, Joe Bernstein's drums and glockenspiel, and David Sperka's bass really find each other in the mix this time, indulging lots of creepy-crawly in-between passages but also displaying a lot more confidence in their mysteriously catchy melodies.
Key track: "Jewish-Mexican Phantom" lets Bernstein's tasteful drumming walk the line between jazz and prog. It also tackles a whole range of emotions in its 10-minute sprawl, from an intro that's as lighthearted as a rapidly skipping stone to a final feedback-laden sludge-out. - The Onion A.V. Club


Our main list of the year’s best albums doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s tallied from ballots by a group of writers, each of whom is given 100 points to distribute over their favorites. The maximum number of points a writer can award an album is 15; the minimum is one. Below you’ll find those individual ballots, including commentary on discs that didn’t make the big list, as well as other thoughts on the year’s best music. Your ballots are welcomed/encouraged in the comments.

SCOTT GORDON

11. El Valiente, Daceton

I can't really offer a logical argument about why two Madison acts—one a hip-hop band, the other instrumental-rock—made my ranking. I usually keep my national and local best-of lists separate, because they technically run on different sites. All other considerations aside, these albums simply popped into my head when I asked myself: If my apartment was on fire, which music from this year would I grab? (Yes, I literally do have to ask myself that, because it's the only alternative to the bullshit neuroses I'd otherwise put myself through at year-end-time.) I don't have a good older parallel for either of these, but I've come to realize that your relatively unheard-of local bands (if they offer enough diversity and don't just meekly follow cues from better-known artists) can add just as much to your musical base as anything else. I also feel lucky in that I don't have to think of the local bands I like as just "pretty good for just local bands." Instead, a lot of them have actually kept me curious about certain genres, changed my mind about some things, and informed my standards. - The Onion


El Valiente are supplicants of a very different muse on their expansive instrumental album El Topo. (In fact, it would work well as an alternate soundtrack for portions of Alejandro Jodorowsky's supernally strange film of the same name.) With only guitar, bass, drums and glockenspiel in their arsenal, the Madison foursome present a clinic on the importance of dynamics and textures in contemporary rock music. Forget the breathless, wall-of-sound approach favored by today's pop-punkers or the self-consciously brainy stylings of most indie-rock kids. With El Valiente, you get airy, countrified evocations of forbidding desert vistas followed up by refulgent mood pieces and frantic guitar fulminations worthy of the angriest '80s post-punk outfits. Indeed, at times all three pop up within the same tune.

The sophisticated threesome certainly have plenty of musical antecedents (Calexico and Don Caballero both come to mind), but somehow that doesn't matter. Without a doubt, this is the most creative guitar-centric rock act working in Madison today.
- The Isthmus


El Valiente lurk and charge through spaces as broad and bleak as the Grand Canyon. The group's guitar, glockenspiel, bass, and drums prove boldest when drifting off into a skeletal void between slowcore, spaghetti western, and free jazz. - The Onion


It was the first time I had listened to El Valiente, but I assure you it won’t be the last. The band really exceeded my expectations, with one part math rock, one part post-rock, one experimental and the rest just melodic guitar playing. There were a couple times during their set when the songs would build up until the drummer would be standing up hitting all the cymbals as hard as he could. - muzzleofbees.com


Local rock trio El Valiente's instrumentals were fairly complex to begin with, stretching through parts that felt more like distinct scenes than they did verses, bridges, or choruses. The transitions between those scenes on the band's 2007 CD, El Topo, were chaotic and powerful, as guitar hooks melted into disorienting free-rhythm spaces, or quiet, atmospheric passages heaved into outbursts of spastically attacked guitar. A lot of that chaos is gone on the band's new CD, Daceton (which they'll celebrate with a show Friday at The Frequency). The band's increasingly popular local gigs have made them tighter, more confident, and perhaps even better songwriters. Well, whatever the reason, Daceton's songs are as tight and to-the-point as eight- or 10-minute instrumentals get.

The moments where Eric Caldera's guitar, drummer Joe Bernstein's glockenspiel, and David Sperka's bass all focus in on the same hook are among the most memorable, especially in the creepily quiet middle of "Jewish-Mexican Phantom." It's a fine example of how Caldera mixes lyrical Latin music and spooky Western scores into the band's distinctly non-bloated take on epic post-rock. The tunes on El Topo were catchy, but the melodies weren't quite so patiently fleshed out or boldly played. Here, they lead the songs.

Then again, so does Bernstein. It's impressive that he can play drums and glockenspiel at once, but more importantly, the guy can play drums. Again, it's hard to say why, but on Daceton, it's easier to hear how much he branches out beyond the already difficult task of carrying these multi-phase songs through changes in time and tempo. "Chico Chism & Chico Hamilton" is pretty much Bernstein's place to rule, as he quietly rumbles and rattles around Caldera's sparse guitar intro, kicks it up into a more rocking section, and then switches one hand over to the glockenspiel—basically holding down interplay with the guitar on two fronts. This is really cool to watch live, and most of the album was recorded live in studio. The production is simple, but it doesn't cramp the band's spacious sound. Daceton also includes live versions of the title track (named for a genus of ants, which Caldera studies as a grad student) and El Topo's "Emergency Caller/Utah Desert" recorded at Café Montmartre, complete with that venue's infernal crowd chatter.

On this album, Caldera says, "We pushed ourselves technically. It seems like there were many instances along the way where we would stumble upon an idea that we wanted to pursue, but it seemed beyond our reach. However, in many of those cases, perhaps stubbornly, we would hang on to those ideas until they came together, sometimes to our own surprise." Agreed. Even for a band Decider liked a lot in the first place, El Valiente keeps up the excitement here because it has grown over the past couple of years. Isn't that what second albums should be about?
- The Onion


Not only the best album to come out of Madison this year but by far one of the best live performers. El Valiente were kind enough to play the Dane101, "Save Us from the Russian Spambots‚ show back in August and tore the house down, so much so that the above mentioned Pale Young Gentlemen were so floored by El Valiente performance that even they were calling for an encore. The music is simple to its core but emotive in its delivery, and the noise, the sound, it doesn't matter the venue El Valiente come to impress. - dane101.com


Then El Valiente took the stage, marked its territory and owned it. That's how I feel every time I see them. They're always "the band of the night." Three become one in El Valiente. - dane101.com


Discography

LP: White Comanche (2012)
LP: Daceton (2009)
LP: El Topo (2007)

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Bio

El Valiente is an instrumental band where Tejano guitarist Eric Caldera conjures images of the southwest and the rain forest ants he studies as a PhD student, Joe Bernstein holds down mathy drum beats and pretty glockenspiel melodies as if he's forging iron, and Kris Hansen's exploding bass rumbles like a bus through the barrio Chino.

El Valiente has quickly established themself as a top draw in their hometown of Madison, WI. Despite an increasingly bloated intrumental music scene, their newest release, Daceton, was named one of the BEST ALBUMS OF 2009 by THE ONION. Daceton is listed in not only the Madison A.V. Club, but the nationally distributed Ballots list as well.

El Valiente's 2009 album Daceton has been named BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF 2009 by Madison Area Music Association (MAMAs).

El Valiente has shared the stage with Tortoise, Bombino, Dub Trio, Cougar, The Appleseed Cast, members of Don Caballero and The Mars Volta, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Phox, Bottomless Pit, The New Year, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, and Lymbyc System.