Local Record Review: Open House Collective from Santa Ana
The Open House Collective
Santa Ana's Open House Collective have been playing out lately with a few shows in their hometown so it's long past time to talk a bit about their album Calaveras, originally released a few months back. It's a short release of seven songs that shows the trio is quite happy to engage in its own brand of mix and match from different eras of rock with a contemplative bent -- perhaps not for nothing does the opening sound at once like Buffalo Springfield and OK Computer-era Radiohead, and that doesn't even touch on the slightly jaunty piano parts that still seem a bit low-key.
One thing that's particularly nice about Calaveras as a whole lies in how the group manages the neat trick of sounding like a easygoing band of three decades back while not sounding like they belong there -- it's as if yacht rock was always an underground, sometimes rough edged force instead of a supersmooth dalliance of studio musicians with money to burn. Songs are led by bass and vocals more often than not, plus there's an actual stretching of the groove here and there -- it's hardly a free-form funk fest by any means, but its embrace of a calm but never sleepy mellowness lends a gentle power to the songs, even at points where they strip the instrumentation down to just their voices and acoustic guitar.
If Calaveras is engaging more than a must-hear collection, the measure of the band's worth can be thought of this way: more than once their blend suggests -- instrumentally more than vocally -- late sixties Beach Boys, when the group was trying to find its way after Brian Wilson's breakdown by settling on a series of understated explorations and attempt to find a certain peace. If the Open House Collective can't claim to be at that level of excellence or experience, or to be as exploratory as acts like the High Llamas or Polar Bear, they know that there's a space there for a group to see what can be done at a time when a little peace like that would be a fine thing for all of us to have.
Tracks from Calaveras can be heard at the group's Myspace.