Review Summary: Think of Kayo Dot playing salsa music and ten times more chaotic; Jonathan Pfeffer pulls of a great fusion album.
Swing, or groove, depending on your particular syntax preference, is musical element that’s rarely appreciated as such, but in the same proportion considered delighting about the piece that’s being listened. If there’s one thing that makes jazz music enjoyable to the masses is precisely the groove attached to it, more than musical proficiency or theoretically “well-behaved” note arrangement it might have (for the music theory savvy youngsters).
It’s necessary to bring up two names right here, right now, in order for most of what is being expressed here to make sense: John Zorn’s Naked City
and Le Scrawl
. For those who’ve had the chance of listening to either of these projects, I only have to tell you that Capillary Action’s So embarrassing
will be a nice addition to the formerly mentioned albums you will enjoy. If you are in the much, much larger percentile of the population which hasn’t listened or knows about the aforementioned projects, then you are reading this for the right reason.
The term Fusion
, despite of being used more frequently for jazz projects, is the best noun to describe Capillary Action’s most recent release. Think of them as a genre blender, and add salsa, math rock, jazz, 50s movie themes, neoclassical string sections, avant garde and Kayo Dot (just a reference, anyway). Well, that’s the best description of their they sound. Most of the songs are under 4 minutes in length, leaving out the droning sequences found in more disperse forms of music out of question, which may pester some listeners who are not too fond of such frenzied music.
There’s a vast selection of ideas and trains of thought in this album: From the hectic, unrelenting technical sections in Gambit
and the intro toPocket Protection is Essential
, which bursts to a jazz-influenced, ambient-driven breakdown and then into coda to wrap up the piece, to the chill but fast-paced Elevator Fuck
and Placebo or Panacea
, which features an interesting build up implementing a lot of wind sections, and the latter ends with an interesting vocal/musical section with increasingly high notes, resembling to the music in old 50s movies with a hot chick singing at cabarets (well, sort of); Bloody nose
with an impending, borderline chaotic performance which is only stopped by vocal breakdowns and light music behind.
It’s awkward to find songs like Badlands
in the middle of everything depicting a more moody ambient approach, while keeping the oddity to the piece and at the same time experimenting with acoustic finger-picked guitar (in the latter song). Father of mine
transverses through ambient and madness; probably a less defining but equally entertaining moment is found in Sexy Koala
with its amusing interaction of math rock and jazz feel.
The vocal concept managed in the album is, in spite of its accuracy, well developed for what it’s meant to engage. Its variety is both refreshing and fun to listen to, regardless of how some may not think of it as “beautiful singing”: it serves its purpose and it’s the first album by Capillary Action featuring singing, so it deserves credit on its own just for that.
The lyrical content of the album is surprisingly good. Even though thematically it can go to places like relationships, betrayal, jealousy, fear, the music business… all in what may appear at first glance simplistic, but in most cases it dances in the thin line of delusional and surreal:
Pummel that ***ing noise into my head.
Make it burn;
make it throb.
I need a fix-- where is it? Panda
While not poetic in itself (since it’s not written in a particular pattern whatsoever) the piece contains off-puzzling images that may seem out of context, and for some with lacking intent.
Bleeding on the asphalt.
So close it’s deafening.
While being abstract and picturesque at the same time, it remains an interesting companion and a matching partner to the music they present; an ode to Jackson Pollock’s most disturbing pieces.
Altogether the album shows a more technically oriented, less grind-ish approach to fusion music, or if you are more of a comparative melomaniacs out there, if you really like what The Dillinger Escape Plan do, but are not to keen of growl vocals, if you like Kayo Dot but don’t really love the lack of focus of their observations, or just like you read in the beginning of the review, if you enjoyed Le Scrawl or Naked City, you’ll really, really love this observation. While at some points frantic and relentless, it maintains its sanity with top-notch instrumentation and smart songwriting.