Skyscraper Magazine » Capillary Action
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Natural Selection
Format: CD / LP / MP3
Release Date: April 5, 2011
By Eric Garcia April 20, 2011

Over the past decade, Jonathan Pfeffer’s band has evolved through a variety of different sounds and line-ups. For Capsized, the Capillary Action front-man traded in his electric guitar for one with nylon strings, synths for accordions, and added a brass section and just about every Brazilian percussion instrument imaginable – even vibraslap.  Joined by Dan Sutherland (drums), Doug Stuart (bass), John De Haven (trumpet), and Julian Chin (accordion), Capsized was recorded in a makeshift studio the band built from scratch on a friend’s private resort in Squirrel Lake, Wisconsin. Once ensconced in nature, Pfeffer challenged himself to out-do his previous effort, last year’s So Embarrassing (Natural Selection/Discorporate). This time ‘round, the songwriter created an album by purposely avoiding habitual means.

“I noticed when I first started writing the record, my hands were going to the same places whenever I picked up the guitar or sat down at the piano,” Pfeffer says. “To rectify this issue, I decided to write the record using an instrument I considered extremely counter-intuitive: the computer. I ended up writing a sizable chunk of the record on my laptop’s keyboard using GarageBand’s musical typing setting. I found by composing on the laptop and applying those ideas to real life acoustic instruments, I was able to circumvent my annoying habits and conjure up ideas I would never in a million years dreamed of on the guitar.”

Though Capsized is the band’s first acoustic album, they’ve harnessed the same absurd energy, keeping the atonal edge and dissonance while remaining poppy. Like So Embarrassing, some songs have blast beats and screaming; only this time they’re accompanied by whistles, classical guitar, service bells, and a long list of whimsical instruments rarely found on a track with the aforementioned trappings. “My initial goal was to write for a purely acoustic ensemble similar to a traditional samba or choro group. I wanted to expand the aesthetic I established with So Embarrassing, but zero in on elements that were still interesting to me,” Pfeffer recalls. “The Brazilian influence has been a part of Capillary Action’s sound since day one and while I can’t deny it’s not a conscious aesthetic choice, I have to clarify that it’s not one I ever make arbitrarily,” he concludes.

Vocal-centric opener “Meth Heads and Mormons” rehashes bossa nova standards blended with contemporary classical atonality. It’s a fucked up pop song with Ruins-esque stop/start punctuation, sections of accapella and crooning lead vocals mapping out the unpredictable formula for this genre-collage of an album. “Brackish Love” is laced with wonderful string arrangements, the verse jumpy with a trip-hop kick-drum ‘n clap beat, plucked strings, and Pfeffer’s aggressive voice building into a tsunami of controlled discord. It’s an album perfectly demonstrating the chaos, pleasure, confusion, and amazement inherent in life.

Visit: Capillary Action | Natural Selection
Purchase: Insound | eMusic