After incorporating the usual suspects--guitar, bass, drums, with synthesizers, and the occasional saxophone and vibraphone--Tristeza's geographic metaphor would be more generally urban than a reflection of Southern California, northern Mexico or Michigan.
The music is mostly a serious of mediums: midranges, midtempos, no series shifts in dynamics or melodies, both within the songs and from song to song. A Colores could, essentially, be one long composition with movements, except they'd all be expressing only slightly different sensibilities. The execution and production of the songs, though, is key; like Tortoise, Tristeza adds a jazz element to their rock song structures, which is what gives it that urban tone. The connection to LaValle's own musical sensibilities expressed in The Album Leaf can also be heard here, except that Alison Ables' and Christopher Sprague's guitars drive the songs--they never play chords; Sean Ogilvie's keyboards echo their melody, and James Lehner's drums follow their rhythm. Luis Hermosillo's bass does the most interesting stuff musically, A Colores, then, is urban, warm and even slightly hypnotic in its consistency.