Capillary Action Fragments

[Pangaea; 2004]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: open-ended instrumental rock
Others: Don Caballero, Heroic Doses, By the End of Tonight

Jonathan Pfeffer (a.k.a. Capillary Action) sounds like what your favorite dynamic instrumental rock outfit might sound like if you were lucky enough to hang out while they jammed. He's at his best when he's doing some rabid punk (the aptly named "Mid-Coital Seizure") or tackling some exciting, Fucking Champs-style heavy metal heroics ("Architecture Would Fail"); he's tightest when he's full-on attacking a groove. But I have a hard time picking out individual track favorites, since each number can be swirled with both incendiary detours alongside some purely academic, decidedly unaffecting, exercises with math rock rhythms. However, the jaunty, bossanova-infused "A Hundred Pages of Cannot be Named" is a definite highlight (preview it on his website).

In the more restrained moments, Pfeffer begins to lack poise and shows some amateurish imperfections, such as on the undercooked throwaway, "Driving Through Twilight," which really just feels pointless (though the fascinating, spooky interlude "It Was A Typewriter" is a notable exception). A lot of reviewers complain that there are too many bands doing this sort of thing, but few do it with the restless, pursuant drive of Capillary Action. He is to be commended for his refusal to rest on feckless Slint-refiltering. But it seems to me that Fragments could've greatly benefited from some ruthless editing. This is a flailing, impossible to pin down album, but that's as much of a problem as it is an asset (making the album's title flexibly appropriate). The sequencing lacks cohesion (the weakest, most prototypically instrumental rock track ends the album), and there is a jammy, nuts-to-restraint feel that would be fun live, but fails to work well for an album.

Pfeffer could benefit from more compact tunes like "It Was A Typewriter." In fact, he might have a couple pretty solid albums on his hands if he went through all of these 'fragments' and stretched them out to their logical ends. As it stands, though, this release is an admittedly tough one to recommend. But it's impossible to dismiss. There are just too many ear-perkingly, back-flip inspiringly fun moments for me to steer you away. It's the sound of a musician plowing through prog, metal, post-rock and jazz influences with a reckless, unnervingly swerving abandon. So in essence: great music, heavily flawed album. Hopefully he'll tighten the reigns up considerably for his next foray into instrumental rock adventure.

1. Ticking Ghosts, Pt. 1
2. Ticking Ghosts, Pt. 2
3. Constant Steady Collapse
4. Driving Through Twilight
5. Scattered Remnants
6. A Hundred Pages Of Cannot Be Named
7. Mid-Coital Seizure
8. It Was A Typewriter
9. Architecture Would Fail
10. Pillars Disintegrate