Is it Tom Waits with honey in his throat or Elvis Costello with a cold? At times, Robbie Horlick, songwriter and voice of Cassavetes, resonates with both.
Roused by music that pulses with a melancholic urgency, Horlick’s lyrics and melodies are simultaneously spry and sinuous, described by some as “adrift between psychedelic and punk,” and “Constantines-meets-Wilco,” a comparison that draws on the band’s symbiotic use of taut craftsmanship and space. However you describe Horlick’s shadowy and bittersweet off-kilter pop musings, it is almost impossible not to be affected by the earnest, reflective spirit of his songs.
Cassavetes the band emerged out of the desire to translate Horlick’s sonic vision into a dynamic reality. In early 2005, Cassavetes came together to build upon the Horlick’s sonic skeletons, in the studio, and on the stage, and they have been building those skeletons ever since. Their debut full-length release, Funny Story, released on Atlanta imprint Headphone Treats, is a cohesive collection of heartfelt, impassioned rock songs that are as stormy as they are fresh and beautiful. Funny Story navigates a course of futures past, memories lost and dying love, with the candor of regret and the confidence of a last chance. It is the sound of honest ghosts, roaming the streets of an ancient city, and rummaging the past for a lost future.
With a new lineup recruited by Horlick in Summer 2007, consisting of Sean Sawyer (Murder Beach, Wizard Smoke) on drums, Matt Cherry (Maserati, Wizard Smoke) on bass and synths, and Dan Nadolny (Dustrabbit, Wizard Smoke) on guitar and keys, the band continued to build on their cultivated sound while evolving in new directions. With this lineup and a sound that simultaneously pays homage to Bruce Springsteen, Syd Barrett, and The Glands, In early 2009 Cassavetes recorded Faja Blues, the long-awaited follow-up to Funny Story, at Atlanta’s infamous analog recording studio, The Living Room, and clearly benefiting from the same historic surroundings that proved developmentally crucial to success for area favorites like The Black Lips, Mastodon, Anna Kramer and the Selmanaires.
Faja Blues continues on the continuum started on Funny Story, and captures Horlick and company at their most reflective yet, experimenting in their comfort, framing stories of love, life, and other nouns with a seamless array of psychedelic Americana (If I Had Eyes), Kiwi pop (Hugh, That’s Another Story), and slow-burning gems (I Dreamed I Had A Heart Attack). Add to that mixture some welcome experimental tweaks on “Smog with Yo La Tengo” tracks like You Know I’m Writing You A Letter, and you’ll be convinced the name Brian Eno came up more than a few times during “creative direction” discussions. More than just ambient though, Faja Blues is deliberate. Faja Blues displays a Wes Anderson-like craftsmanship, honesty, and highly regarded attention to detail – yet it remains casual. On Faja Blues, Cassavetes illustrate once again that being loose yet meticulous is indeed the epitome of cool. As Claude Debussey said, “Music is the space between the notes.”