Tim Rutili is the founder and principal songwriter for Califone and Red Red Meat. Craig Ross is a producer, songwriter and collaborator who has worked with Shearwater, Lisa Germano, Spoon, Patty Griffin, Robert Plant, Daniel Johnston. On their previous effort, 2016's Guitars Tuned to Air Conditioners, these songwriters built a long-form drone, a study in electricity and tension. Their followup album, 10 Seconds To Collapse, takes a different tact: its 7 songs employ deconstructed pop melodies, blown-out folk rock, and woozy psychedelia.
A true collaboration – Ross and Rutili split songwriting, lyrical, and instrumentation duties – it rings with a melodic complexity befitting its skewed, sidewise narrative, black comedy rumination about the end of the world, prisons, desert cities, and errant Gods. The two began working together on Stitches, the 2013 album by Rutili's long-running collective Califone. Applying the equal division of labor that defined their last effort now to mutated sing-song melodies, this LP was assembled over a long stretch, with Rutili visiting Ross's Austin, TX studio over the course of two years. The two tore into the compositions, rearranging and breaking them down, navigating the spaces between familiarity and experimentation.
While the duo shared a vocabulary of pop references – one can hear evocative strains of AM gold in songs like "Choke" and "The Day Before the Peaches Rot," and gorgeous balladry on "Back to the Plow" and album closer "Little Carnivores" – it was in the untangling of familiar themes that they found the resonant strangeness that defines the record, that makes it as rollicking as it is apocalyptic. Like the cover art, which features pop art cut-ups by Shane Swank, it recontextualizes fantastical images in surprising, daring ways.