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Don Caballero - American Don CD (album) cover


Don Caballero

Post Rock/Math rock

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The trio of Damon Che (drums), Ian Williams (guitars) and Eric Emm (basses) out of Pittsburgh, PA is the second incarnation of this outfit which was originally formed in 1991 by Che and Williams. On this, their fourth album proper, the powerful ensemble create a most accessible effort with a collection containing less arithmetic and more expansion. The music is focused on textured minimalism and rising tides of rhythmic lines, and 'American Don' is less heavy and increasingly inward than their previous records. If Steve Reich and Robert Fripp got together for an album, it might sound like this. Fascinating stuff.
Report this review (#93933)
Posted Monday, October 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Don Caballero American Don is (to me) the essential math rock album. If you do not have this album do yourself a favor and buy it! If you want to hear each musician at his best, this album pretty much has that. Damon Che (possibly one of the most underrated drummers?) plays in a style that most drummers since have tried to duplicate but have fallen short. The same can be said about Ian Williams playing. And these bass parts by Eric Emm blow my mind. He sounds like a jackhammer!

Look at most math rock bands today. Whenever I hear them I think, Wow, are they trying to be Don Caballero?

Anyways, back to this album. The album is much more dense than previous ones. There are really no heavy guitar riffs or any hooks you can lock onto. The music flows and soon 10 minutes goes by and you think you are on song 5 when you are still on 2, but you never get bored and it never gets too repetitive. This is one of the only albums that I have sat for hours on end staring off and listening while finding something new with each listen. If I pop this album in, I will probably listen to the whole thing non stop...but I won't say it is an album you have to listen to fully to get all you can out of it...oh no, you can get plenty by just listening to one song.

This is definitely music at its finest caliber.

Report this review (#163788)
Posted Thursday, March 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Don Caballero has come to be known as one the most interesting, unique, and wildly complex bands out there. With American Don, the group has been reduced to a trio. This trio provides us with Don's least aggressive output, focusing more on textures than arithmetic. There is hardly any distorted guitar to be found. The music is still extremely intricate, and it clocks in at about 55 minutes long. Frankly, it is difficult to make an album of instrumental music this complex and seemingly a-melodic intersting for such a length of time. It takes a lot of time and focus for the listener to fully realize all the qualities here, but the growth rate of this disc is exponential once you get through it a couple of times. For new listeners, the key here is to get through the 10-minute second track, "The Peter Criss Jazz." After such an exhilerating and enjoyable opener ("Fire Back About Your New Baby's Sex"), this one really kills the momentum and drags for a bit. This track is really the only slouch on American Don, as "Haven't Lived Afro Pop" delivers a peppy, even catchy medium-paced return to form and then sends us off into musical euphoria for the remainder of the disc. Those who are already familiar with the other Don Caballero albums are more likely to appreciate this one, but I'm sure any open-minded music fan can get into this. For me, this is Don Cab's finest output and I can't call it anything other than a masterpiece.
Report this review (#168452)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Don Cab has attracted the label of math rock very often, and that isn't too surprising- though it's more prevalent on their earlier stuff, American Don is a good helping of dizzying and unconventional time signatures. Despite the fact that it's certainly one of the main points of Don Cab's style, it is not the structure that impresses me so much about this album, but the way they play their instruments. Like always, Damon Che's drumming is idiosyncratic and jittery, always moving from one direction to another. However, the most impressive aspect of the music is the layered guitars that hop aroundover the drums, which actually earn Don Cab a label that I haven't heard applied to them often- beautiful. I must say that the guitar parts around the end of Iceman and all of the Peter Criss Jazz are nothing short of outstanding. My personal favorite from this album is, in fact, the aforementioned ten-minute song, because it's really something I have not heard before- Don Cab combines their so-called math rock style with serious jazz leanings. Three layers of guitar- quick, eccentric, and rapidly strummed; almost random, detached notes; and a quiet underlying guitar line- combine with the superb drumming to make a truly epic song that alone makes this record worth buying. American Don is a unique and engaging record from a talented band, and deserves four stars.
Report this review (#275131)
Posted Sunday, March 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmm, Don Caballero's American Don. One of the most known math rock albums, influencing many bands to come in this genre and even some bands out of it, this should be even considered a classic, no? Well, in my opinion, no. As much as this album is influential, it barely sparks an interest in my mind.

The first song is one of the only interesting songs on this album. The ever-changing feel of it which can sound like a cross between Yes and Explosions in the Sky is very interesting and can grab the listeners ear in one second. This song is indeed great and never ceases to amaze. However, the next song, is less like it.

The Peter Crizz Jazz starts off with a childlike, reverbed melody, vaguely reminiscent of Battles' new album Gloss Drop (it IS Ian Williams in both projects after all), before being joined by pumping drums played by drum master Damon Che. This whole thing goes on for around 2 minutes before fading out and then a mathy guitar line played by Ian fades in. Ian starts looping his parts on top of it yet none of them are vaguely catchy. He adds more and more parts for 3 minutes until everything just stops and onto the next part. Ian records newer parts, in a faster tempo, a bit creepy. Damon just improvises over it for around 3 minutes and Ian builds more and more parts. After that, the song breaks down again into another creepy childlike melody played by Ian. Another sudden change after a minute, and a new Battles-ish part joins in. This one is catchier yet still dissappointing. Damon plays a bossanova like drum part. This whole thing goes for 2 minutes more until the song fades out. This may be interesting to some but to me it sounds like a very long and dull jam.

Haven't Lived Afro Pop is reminscent of the last song in terms of dull parts, however in style it sounds a bit more like Tera Melos and Hella, only slowed down. Very jammy parts and overall it just seems like they're banging on their instruments for seven minutes and waiting for inspiration to come.

This next song is one of the highlights of the album. At only a bit less than 3 minutes this feels endless, only in a good and fun way. The energy of the band and pumping blasting riffs sound like feel good music in the vein of Fang Island, only a bit mathier. Also, this song is much clearer than the other tracks and makes the listening much more fun.

Ones All Over the Place can be described by its name. Sounding like Battles in their earlier days (sorry for the multiple Battles references but its one of the band member's later bands so they have to be counted), but much more complex, this song can only be described by one word. Odd. I cannot tell you why this song is weirder than the others, but it just feels this way. Weird polyrhythms and parts played on top of each other in such odd ways and random tempo and mood changes just make this stranger and stranger. This song is okay. Some of the parts are really great but it just changes so much that it's hard to connect to one segment and understand it before moving onto the next.

I Never Liked You is also on the border between good and downright odd. The playing is great but the composition just makes it so difficult to adjust to. There is one part where the song breaks down to just the guitar for a minute or two and then the drums enter for a grand finale and it is amazing.

The next song is also very awesome. The combination of pulsing bass drum beats and insane bass action by Damon and Eric combined with Ian's surf rock styled riffs make an insane trio that should not be missed. After a few minutes of intense bashing Ian segues into an eloquent triplet-themed guitar line, but it doesn't take too long for Damon to burst his way into the song with insane drum parts which sound like Zach Hill on retalin!

The next song is weaker, in my opinion, yet still good. It feels too massive though, and not in a good way. Like there are too many parts to focus on and that it's just too hard to focus on something, however after a few minutes it passes onto a better part, that's easier to focus on. Ian's slidish guitars fill the sultry air as Damon and Eric hold a mean rhythm. They speed up and Ian changes parts and chords giving the song a much more beautiful and harmonic feel.

The last song, Let's Face it Pal, is the most average one of all. It does have any bad features to it but it also fails to interest me, as it has no new and exciting riffs or drum parts, or fills, or whatever.

Overall, this album is pretty average. It has some really great songs, it has some average songs, and it has some bad songs, and that is why I will give it 3 stars. Not a masterpiece but not a poor piece of work.

Another thing I have to say about this album is that the song titles are amazing, very funny and original!

Report this review (#492350)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although I wouldn't consider this album as a definitive highlight or milestone in progressive music history, the reason for which I consider it a masterpiece is just because Don Caballero reaches musical precision, finesse and superb mastery in a way that can almost be thought as easy. It's like a football (soccer for all of you "americans") star that, throughout time, achieves strength, speed, technique and vision in a PROGRESSIVE ascendant way that gives him notoriety worldwide. It's a shame people tend to classify this as "math rock", because that can never be the precise name for it. If this is math rock, then almost all progressive rock/metal is math, even jazz, and don't get me into concrete, electroacustic or contemporary ensemble music. It is also not the proper name because the way these guys unfold LIKE STAIRCASE their musical language is kind of a very novel way of expressing musical ideas inside the prog "genre". And that's exactly what prog music is about: novelty. And, finally, this is the exact reason why American Don is a masterpiece.
Report this review (#640291)
Posted Friday, February 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A very interesting, well-performed though not particularly well-produced album that helped establish the more up-tempo nature of the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre. Unfortunately for these ears, the sounds, melodies and recording techniques are a bit too raw, are not as engaging or pleasing as, say, those of Ulver, God Is An Astronaut, Red Sparowes, or sleepmakeswaves. American Don has some of the sound that reminds me of THE MARS VOLTA's monster debut, De-Loused in The Comatorium (listen to "You Drink A Lot of Coffee for A Teenager"), but American Don's music becomes a bit too repetitive over time. Damon Che is a very good drummer despite my not liking the recording sound used for his drums. I have to admit to being a bit surprised at my reaction to this album because so many of its riffs and sounds feel founded in the KING CRIMSON "Discipline" sound and structure that I love so well. I guess it comes down to whether or not I'd like to hear 55 minutes of the song "Discipline" or not. Or whether or not I'd like Brufurd's drums recorded as Don Caballero has chosen to record Damon Che's.

Favorite songs: "Details on How to Get Iceman on Your License Plate" (5:36) (9/10); "Ones All Over The Place" (9:01) (8/10); "Fire Back About Your New Baby's Sex" (4:43) (8/10); "The Peter Criss Jazz" (10:36) (8/10).

Great titles.

3.5 stars: Not really an "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection," but it really is better than "good, but non-essential."

Report this review (#1009591)
Posted Thursday, August 1, 2013 | Review Permalink

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