25 September 2008

Capillary Action - So Embarassing

This one has been sitting here for far too long, so it almost deserves a "Backlog Post #2" label, but I'm going to skip that in the title. Jonathan Pfeffer, mastermind/singer/guitarist for Capillary Action dropped me a line a while back and wondered if I'd be interested in checking his band out, mentioning that they had worked with semi-local faves Skeletonbreath in the past. Intrigued by that working relationship, I encouraged him to send me the CD to review.

The album is titled So Embarrassing, and it features the core trio (Pfeffer, Sam Krulewitch - Keyboards and Dan Sutherland - Drums) along with Spencer Russell on bass, 4 horn players, 3 string players and an extra percussionist. As one might assume from the extensive musician list, the music is occasionally dense and quite often chaotic. I can see how these guys could share a stage with a band like Skeletonbreath, as they seem to ply some of the same musical waters, albeit in quite different directions (Capillary action features vocals, something Skeletonbreath eschews in their klezmer/punk/cabaret mix). Their material tends to be a bit more diverse, with wildly divergent bursts of direction...one moment is quiet and jazzy, almost lounge music in style, and the next is thrash jazz out of the John Zorn/Naked City oeuvre. The shifts can be startling...this is NOT easy listening music at all, and if your tastes lean toward the traditional/symphonic end of things, I think you'd find yourself running and screaming into the night.

It'd be easy for someone to say that music like Capillary Action's material on this album takes no skill to play...it often veers wildly toward noise, and anyone can make noise. That misses the point. This is pretty carefully organised and structured sound here, and that takes immense skill to pull off convincingly. I can't think of many bands that have or had the musical skill to make chaos work well...Zappa could do it, and Naked City as mentioned above made a career out of making the unlistenable enjoyable. The fact that Pfeffer tempers the noise outbursts with moments of melody and structure ties things together nicely...it's the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, so to speak.

HIGHLIGHTS: Gambit, Bloody Nose, Father of Mine

RECOMMENDED IF YOU DIG: Cheer-Accident, Naked City, Skeletonbreath, Kayo Dot, King Crimson (at their more improvisational)


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