El Mirador is the name of a lost Mayan city but in the context of Calexico’s 10th studio album it stands both as a lookout point and a beacon in the dark. Core members Joey Burns and John Convertino have been finessing their rhythmic and melodic interplay for 30 years now and though the recognisable essence of their sound is still firmly intact here, they’ve found some wonderfully subtle and indeed danceable ways to further their exploration of jazz, country, folk, cumbia and mariachi.
Convertino’s drums are the fuel and the fire being these songs, kicking up desert dust and rattling like a southwestern locomotive. The dance that the band engage in is often a dark and mysterious one, coming off like a desert noir with snaking, pulsing bass-lines on ‘Cumbia del Polvo’ and shadowy guitar lines of shimmery twang aplenty. At times they lean more heavily on their mariachi influences, adding to the more exotic flavour of the music, while on tracks such as ‘Then You Might See; they straighten up and veer as close to their indie Americana roots as they’ve ever got.
With Joey Burn’s whispered vocal there’s always a sense of intimacy and mystery to the songs of Calexico – a sonic romanticism of sorts – a beckoning finger drawing the listener into their always intricate and textured songs. El Mirador continues their fascinating musical journey.