Compared to their neighbors along the coast, Central California's cities don't see a whole ton of action. Merced is known as the gateway to somewhere else and Fresno is renowned for building the first modern landfill. Nestled in the belly of the San Joaquin Valley, this little agri-politan wonder has little reputation as a musical hotbed, but it's this exact creative dryness that gave birth to El Olio Wolof.

A linguistic combo of Spanish, English, and Swahili, El Olio Wolof stands for "the shapeless messenger," which is sort of the vibe the wonky quintet give with their brooding indie lo-fi. Originally a reading group, this clique of word nerds called themselves "J,K,L,M,N,Okapi" (the okapi is the only relative of the giraffe) and hung out at a Merced coffeehouse sharing poems and fiction. Naturally, they took up playing instruments. What makes this all so cozy is that the songs they wound up playing on their debut EP, El Subconscious Celestine Olio Wolof, are basically fairy tales.

Taking cues from Tom Waits's storage-shed tinkering, Miles Davis's meanderings, Shel Silverstein's gargantuan wit, and the Muppets' playfulness, El Olio Wolof make music that is as moody as it is childlike. Fronted by a bear of a man called Radioactive Cauliflower (his thin warble a tad Oldham-ish), El Olio Wolof sound like bohemians singing their kids to sleep following a late shift at the co-op. "The Tale of Herbert Giant" is a swinging number about a giant who will eat anything: skateboards, car tires, etc. On the fatalistic "The Very Humble Honey Bee," a group of bees comes to the realization that they all "work just to die" before staging a coup, ultimately slaying the queen they live to serve and climaxing in the chilling chorus "We won't work/just to die."

El Olio Wolof's fairy tales are minor-key affairs, but they're not all gloom 'n' doom. "Tree Shakers and Tree Climbers" is rollicking enough to sound like a gypsy caravan sing-along and every song, no matter how dark, is as welcoming as a campfire sing-along.