Heron King Blues is the most chaotic of Califone’s studio releases, and though they share the same cavern in Rutili’s memory, this album maps something entirely new for the band and for rock music. It has been likened to the band’s two live releases Deceleration I and Deceleration II: soundtracks composed and performed live with a feature film, or improvised alongside film loops. These live recordings prove how daring the band is, but they are not for the weak of heart—and certainly not for the weak of heart who, on a whim, decides to play the CD (especially Deceleration II) while driving alone at 3AM—or for listeners unwilling to be a little scared.
While some of the album is a result of in-studio experimentation, improvisation, and jigsaw-like puzzle-piecing, the songs on Heron King Blues are complete—not just half the presentation. Rutili’s lyrics provide the wholeness that the Deceleration releases leave for the imagination. His voice and images easily substitute for what’s lost when listening to the movie soundtracks without a projector in the back, flaring.
In “Lion and Bee,” Rutili sings in quiet, enigmatic intricacy: “Beggars breathe / all one lung / all one engine choir / looking lost / and left undone by the riverbed / sending off winter.” The song ends with Wil Hendricks’ fading organ. “Two Sisters Drunk on Each Other” is vastly different. It begins with a drumbeat like Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” that sends the speaker reeling, a funky piece of the nightmare.
Only Califone’s previous listeners will admit they’ve heard anything like this before, but these same fans will no doubt admit that Heron King Blues is altogether new and unheard-of. New listeners are in for the greater surprise, but should beware: it’s the kind that leaps from behind a corner squawking like the a heron and laughing as the victim collapses to the floor, curled in the fetal position.