While many bands have flirted with feedback‚ incorporated unconventional instruments and pre-recorded sounds‚ and used the studio to add texture to their music‚ few have been able to do so in a way that does not end up annoying listeners. Such experimentation has a tendency to come off as pretentious at its best or gimmicky and uncreative at its worst. Even Wilco‚ a band recognized for its successful sonic experimentation‚ has had moments when the intention/vision behind the sounds they produced failed to connect with the listener (i.e.‚ the screeching buzz concluding "I am Trying to Beak Your Heart") Perhaps a lot of experimentation fails because it is often meant to complement structured melodies. This however‚ is clearly not the approach of Califone. After the first listen to their new album Roots & Crowns‚ it is obvious that they construct their music in the opposite direction. Unique sounds are not incorporated as finishing touches‚ but rather they are the building blocks that are expected to fuse together into a cohesive collage of sound. For instance‚ "Spider House‚" the second song on the album developed from the sounds of piano keys hitting wires covered in duct tape and paper clips. This sound was built upon until a song formed. Of course‚ the risk with this approach to making music is that the sounds do not congeal into recognizable melodies‚ producing inaccessible clutter. This however‚ does not happen on this album; even at its most unstructured moments the music is captivating. For example‚ at the end of "The Eye You Lost at the Crusades‚" the acoustic guitar that structured the song devolves into random plucks and twangs which are later accompanied by splashes of pre-recorded sounds and feedback. Yet‚ the undoing of the song becomes atmospheric‚ which sets up an amazing segue into "A Chinese Actor." In fact‚ the three song sequence beginning with "The Eye You Lost…" to "Our Kitten Sees Ghosts" is arguably one of the most creative and artistic sequences recorded this year. It is not only this three song sequence that stands out on Roots & Crowns. In the middle of the album Califone's roots in folk music‚ most obvious in "Alice Crowley‚" become more prominent and mingle with the sound experimentation to provide a modern folk that is decidedly unique. The folky moment culminates in an excellent cover of Psychic TV's "The Orchids‚" which served as a theme of sorts for the creation of the album. Roots & Crowns does seem to fizzle out as it nears its end‚ but this does little to damage what on a whole is a remarkably artistic achievement. There is little that could be more entertaining than listening to this album and imagining what the production process must have been like.