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Don Caballero



Picture this. A horde of nomadic aliens with numerous elongated limbs decides to migrate to earth with the intention of demonstrating its species' genetic supremacy over humans by forming an instrumental rock band. The power of the music they produce renders vocals irrelevant and obsolete. Silly humans, they say. We need not anthropomorphize in order to seduce your supple earthling ears. We need no verse-chorus-verse repetition to lull you into a hypnotically befuddled trance. These aliens journey here simply to embarrass us -- and amaze us.

The four members of this machine for Tazmanian sonic mayhem claim to hail from Pittsburgh, though of course we have our own ideas about their actual planetary origins. We do know, however, that they call themselves Don Caballero and that they now reside in Chicago. We know also that guitarists named Mike Banfield and Ian Williams craft intricate, warped melodies and twisted arpeggios that pulse alongside the grueling, ferocious bass lines of a creature called Pat Morris. And we know that all this is powered by, and would not be possible without, the extraterrestrial beat explosion of drummer/octopus Damon Che.

Chicago's Touch and Go Records has been a kind of home away from home for these peculiar beings, as they have released every one of their full-lengths and singles on that label. Their first effort was the full-length, For Respect (1993), which they recorded as a three-piece. Williams joined them on the next album, Don Caballero 2. The third record, What Burns Never Returns (1998) saw the group's heavy experimental math rock sound take on elements of jazz fusion, thanks in large part to Williams and his involvement in the very fusion-oriented Storm and Stress. The personnel changed again on Don Cab's fourth full-length, American Don, with Banfield and Morris leaving the band and Storm and Stress's Eric Emm assuming the bass duties. That album is constructed on Williams's layered guitar loops, which are bludgeoned by Che and held together by Emm's fragmented but sturdy and melodic bass lines.

Don Caballero is definitely not for the faint of heart. Listen to this if you've ever wanted to hear what an MC Escher tessellation might sound like if turned into music and performed by Sonic Youth.

"June Is Finally Here" is taken from the band's third full-length, the dreamily chaotic What Burns Never Returns. "The Peter Criss Jazz" comes from American Don. "Room Temperature Lounge" appears on Don Cab's Singles Breaking Up.