Buy and stream the album here
Few local bands have received more accolades more quickly than El Valiente. Since forming in 2008 the trio’s previous albums – 2008’s El Topo and 2009’s Daceton – received widespread acclaim, the latter winning Alternative Album of the Year at the MAMAs as well as being picked as a “best of” in the Isthmus and Onion. They’ve been voted Best Experimental Band two years running in the Isthmus poll. The newest album, White Comanche, was chosen as one of 2012’s best in that newspaper that hardly ever reviews a local CD, 77 Square.
El Valiente’s sound might be described as Sonic Youth providing the soundtrack for a Tarantino western. Eric Caldera soaks his guitar in reverb and turns up the attack on the compressor, evoking the wide-open spaces that characterize the band’s all-instrumental compositions. Drummer Joe Bernstein doubles on glockenspiel, building tension, adding the Dali touch of surrealism to the landscapes and giving El Valiente its unique identity. As a trio they can make quite a racket, especially when bassist Kris Hansen cranks up the fuzztone as he does midway through the intriguing ten-minute title track. Guitars do get doubled here and there and there is some editing but El Valiente achieve a low-fi, explorative, live-in-the-studio ethos that approaches jazz in its use of complex chords and dissonance.
White Comanche comes in at just under thirty minutes and only three tracks which don’t vary much in their approach. Shades of light and dark abound with more delicate arpeggio guitar figures giving way to rolling bass lines which explode into furious bits of post-rock intensity. All three tracks are equally listenable and engaging. The two-part, twelve-minute “Donnybrook in El Barrio / Brookhill Donnybrook” takes several twists and turns, sounding downright jaunty midway through with some major chords seeing the light of day while the glockenspiel does a space dance. It builds from a slow burn into a wild crescendo of staccato guitar and marching snare then fuzzes out in an uproarious and glorious barrage that you just don’t want to end. “The Death of J. Mendez” sports a catchy, melodic riff before veering off into spaced-out surf rock and manic guitar solos. Quintessential Madison music.
You can catch El Valiente in a free show at Mickey’s on March 23 with Omaha’s Blue Bird.