Music in Bristol: Don't miss Calexico and The Dodos performing at the O2 Academy Bristol on February 15
Calexico have long been known for their blend of Americana and Latin music. Their namesake, after all, is a tiny US city of 40,000 on the Mexican border (the city's name is a portmanteau of California and Mexico), known for its annual Mariachi festival and Latino art exhibition.
With imagery of dusty deserts combined with Latin rhythms, mariachi metres and Nineties post-rock, Fifties jazz and contemporary indie, "Calexico" has become a style in itself since the band started almost 20 years ago.
They've long spoken of recording in Europe, though when it came to making their seventh studio album (released September 2012), the band instead found themselves in the melting pot of Algiers, New Orleans.
It's where the album takes its title from, so inspired were the group by the city's history. Their senses were awakened, in the kitchen by shrimp creole, jambalaya and fried frogs' legs, and then further by a musical diet of Jackie Mittoo, Duke Ellington, The Band and The Boswell Sisters.
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After failed attempts at recording Algiers in their own studio in Tucson, New Orleans felt bold and heavy and "soulful to the core" and, inspired by the Mississippi that surrounded them, they found "new light and depth" in their acoustic instruments.
The result is a record with a powerful connection to the sounds of New Orleans; sounds that core member Joey Burns summarises best as "Portugese fado, Fifties jazz, gypsy or Romani music and its offshoots, Sixties surf and twang from Link Wray to country's Duane Eddy, the spaghetti western epics of Ennio Morricone and dark indie rock singer songwriters".
As Pitchfork so rightly put it: "Their music has proved that the borders between styles can be as blurrable, as mutable, as porous as those separating countries and cultures."
Six albums and collaborations with Victoria Williams, Iron & Wine, Willie Nelson, Roger McGuinn and Nancy Sinatra haven't stopped Calexico from striving for a new sound, and on Algiers, they've achieved it.
Joining Calexico for the length of their European tour are The Dodos, the San Franciscan duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber.
They're known for their unique instrumental set-up; drummer Kroeber plays without a bass, instead wearing a tambourine attached to his shoe, and uses the rims of his kit to create different musical textures. Meanwhile, guitarist Long uses mainly acoustic and semi-acoustic guitars picked with his fingernails. They released their fourth album, No Color, in 2011, featuring backing vocals from Neko Case (alt country singer-songwriter and member of the Canadian indie rock super group The New Pornographers).
The Dodos were chosen by Les Savy Fav to play at the much coveted ATP Festival in December 2011 alongside Wild Flag, Marnie Stern and No Age.
Though on paper perhaps their influences seem drastically different, the two bands are bound by a common indie rock aesthetic. While Calexico augment their sound with South American influences, The Dodos do so with baroque pop chords and psychedelic structures.
Both take pride in the textures and technical proficiency of their songs, and create a fantastic live spectacle when they showcase this. For any fans of underground rock of the past 20 years, this is an unmissable gig.