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Don Caballero

American Don

(Touch & Go; US: 3 Oct 2000)

Don Caballero, a Pittsburgh quartet with a history of interesting avant-rock records, is an instrumental band—no vocals. In that, they have plenty of company these days, and that is all for the better. That is, it’s good to know there are musicians out there who are ambitious and art-driven, taking their cues from John Cage, for example, and his followers like (most famously) Sonic Youth.


Yet Don Caballero is more easy to admire than to love.


Cacophony, jazz-like improvisations, odd mixtures of sounds, uneven flows of music and noise: well, you get the sonic picture. It’s a colorful one and when the band hits a groove it’s a seductive one for minutes at a time. But over the course of a full CD, it’s hard and sometimes painful to hang in there unless you have time to “study” the music, to listen with your full body and mind. Unfortunately, most of us don’t.


American Don is quirky, intentionally repetitive, and more open to a few quiet moments than Caballero’s previous CDs—for readers who know this band’s work. Yet for the most part, their musical universe is hard-driving, even relentless ...and, alas, it’s finally almost impossible to sustain an intensity of listening to match the intensity of the playing.

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This live set is on one level great and on another a lackluster kind of vicarious listening, in which you don't feel like you were there so much as you wished you had been.
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