You've gotta hand it to El Valiente: They have a way with musical textures. To be honest, their skills are such that it's easy to imagine this accomplished instrumental trio putting their guitar, bass and drums (and glockenspiel) lineup in the service of obvious evocations of desert landscapes that owe much to Ennio Morricone and Ry Cooder or post-punk-flavored prog that samples the legacy of Don Caballaro.
To their credit, they're more ambitious than that. On the ever-evolving "Emergency Caller/Utah Desert" from their new album El Topo, they begin in a pensive dream world, with Eric Caldera barely stroking lonesome, electronically echoed figures from his electric guitar. Then, just when you begin to wonder whether the Madison-based trio is only about sun-dappled ambiance, the rest of the band jumps in, pulling and prodding the beat as Caldera dips into some big sky country-inspired riffs only to abandon them for some eerily skeletal scratching and then complete silence. After that perfectly timed pause, the original cyclical guitar part comes back into view and the threesome reawakens.
And all that happens in just the first fourth or so of the tune!
As both vigorous and quieter passages rise and fall, "Emergency" gathers strength, exploding with noisy guitar and chaotic splashes of cymbals only to deliquesce and then explode again before gracefully decaying in the ether. By then, the listener is spent, and so, one imagines, is the band.
It's cliche, of course, to describe a pop or rock song as a journey, but that's exactly what El Valiente have fashioned here. And what an inspiring journey it is.
An MP3 of the track are available in the related downloads at right. El Valiente is playing at the Annex on Friday, February 15 with The Moment, The Projection People, and The Revolving Doors. The trio will be returning to the stage in Madison a month later, meanwhile, with a show on Wednesday, March 26 at the High Noon Saloon.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.