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Thrill Jockey
thrill 122 - 2003

Recorded largely by Graeme Gibson at Clava Studios in Chicago, Quicksand / Cradlesnakes is the second full length from Califone. Clava is the band’s own studio which they built in the offices of the label they run, Perishable. Additional recording engineers were Joe Ferguson and Mike Jorgensen. The album was put together over the summer of 2002. The band alternated writing and arranging time with recording sessions. Ben Massarella and Tim Rutili remain the core of Califone. While some songs are built out of improvisations, the bulk are brought in by Rutilli as bare lyrics and chord progressions and then built up as a group. Key to Califone’s singular sound is the percussion of Ben Massarella. Ben and Tim have been playing music together on and off since they were kids. "He understands the space inside a song and knows how to use it better than anybody that I’ve ever played with. He can build a rhythm track out of a squeaky straw and a cup of ice," says Rutilli.

A significant change in the group, since the release of their debut, Roomsound, was the addition of Jim Becker and Joe Adamik. "Jim knows hundreds of 200 year old songs. He can play claw hammer banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin like a pro and he can also make an ungodly noise on any of these. In other words he can do things as wrong as they need to be for this band without forgetting the roots of American music." Joe Adamik is well known on Chicago’s jazz circuit playing gigs nearly every night. "Joe can pull music out of anything, guitar, piano, horns, chicken bones, sheet metal or the worst Casio keyboard. He approaches the drums like a melodic instrument. Jim and Joe had a lot of input into Quicksand…"

Perhaps it was a year of touring, most recently with Wilco, or perhaps it is this combination of players, but the album brims with confidence. Songs such as “Mean Little Seed”, “Horoscopic Amputation Honey”, “Michigan Girls”, “Slower Twin” (from which the album title is drawn), “Golden Ass” and “Stepdaughter” are classic. These songs are remindful of those written in the 70’s, when blues and country blues were more prevalent influences on groups like Fleetwood Mac or the Stones. The creative percussive touches, guitar treatments, and technical glitchery give the album it’s distinct sound. The highly imaginative lyrical imagery is multi-leveled, open to more than one interpretation. Califone finds absurdity and liberation in the dark side of life. Quicksand / Cradlesnakes is rugged and elegant, dark and optimistic, familiar and entirely new. In a word it is beautiful.


  • 1 One
  • 2 Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey
  • 3 Michigan Girls
  • 4 Cat Eats Coyote
  • 5 Your Golden Ass
  • 6 (Red)
  • 7 Million Dollar Funeral
  • 8 When Leon Spinx Moved Into Town
  • 9 Mean Little Seed
  • 10 Vampiring Again
  • 11 Slower Twin
  • 12 Stepdaughter