Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Help Capillary Action! (read to the end)

Sit on my virtual lap while I tell you a story.

There are overachievers roaming about. They're few and far between given the general population size, but they're around. Occasionally there'll be one or two at work, putting in overtime even when unnecessary and uncalled for. More often than not, you meet them during your school years, the kids whose grades are far more impressive than yours, that kid whose hand is always raised, or – in some cases – the guy who heads back to the empty classroom to record an album during available windows of free space.

See, Jon Pfeffer and I are nearly the same age, but there's an important difference between us. While he was away at college, he was piecing together a mathalicious, (mostly) instrumental rock album in the classrooms of Oberlin. What was I doing in college? Struggling to get a “B+” in Beginning Classical Guitar, freezing my ass off in a basement radio station and playing Pfeffer's goddamned record. Yeah, Jon, I like them apples just fine.

That first effort was Fragments, and yes, it was rather all over the place, with mixed reviews to boot, but it was a promising start from the musician who would now serve as the core of a project called Capillary Action. The record was fairly easy to dissect in parts – a soothing flow of guitar here or there, a heavier bossa nova rhythm leading into “Mid-Coital Seizure,” which, though more spastic and noisy than other tracks on the record, was actually quite structured. And that's the thing about Capillary Action; there actually is a strangely coherent structure to these oddly placed combinations. Which, hell, when you're barely of age – not a bad accomplishment!

Three years and a few lineup additions later, Capillary Action came out with a sophomore album on its own Pangaea Recordings, and this time around, Pfeffer not only got over his fear of singing (turns out he's a crooner!), but manned up a bit and showed off his affinity for free jazz. There's tighter musicianship here, on So Embarrassing, and though the pacing of each song is still quite frantic and chock full of timing changes, there's also more assertiveness, more confidence, and in whole a greater experimental vibe that seems more intentional this time around. It's experimental rock because of the genres it combines at once, not because of the way it was edited from a greater set of recorded music.

That said, I originally wrote this yesterday evening so that I could promote the massive tour that Capillary Action is/was currently on with Pwrfl Power. However, this is a band with incredible bad luck; after having their van broken into and equipment stolen while on tour with Joe Lally last fall, they've run into another setback mere months later. Last night, they wrote on the band's blog that their van rolled over during a snowy drive on what appears to be the trip from Toronto to Detroit. According to the post, the van's been lost, Pfeffer wound up in the hospital with a concussion and possibly serious head injuries, and the rest of the band got stuck in a hotel, unsure of how to transport its equipment, let alone proceed with the bulk of this tour.

So. Rather than promote those tour dates, for now I'll suggest throwing these guys a bone and buying their newest record. It's probably safe to say that they could use the assistance at this point, and it would offer you, music fan, a more permanent trade than a concert ticket would have offered. Though, admittedly, they sound great live when they've not been driving across snowy roads. Real shame. Much luck to them.
Capillary Action - Elevator Fuck
Capillary Action - Pocket Protection is Essential
Purchase So Embarrassing (or any Capillary Action record) via MySpace.

Update (Mar 1): Got a response from Jon; the band is healthy and gear is safe, but the van is totaled and the band has no insurance. If you would like to support them, please, please buy their records.
New update - Tour is on from the Mar 5 (Portland) date forward. Support their west coast dates if you can.


FiL said...

Yoiks! What drama...

Regarding freezing cold college radio stations in basements: g'wan, you enjoyed every second, admit it. I sat in one of my own many years back and would love to relive those days...

China said...

Isn't it a terrible thing to happen? I tried writing to Pitchfork to see if they could write up a news bit and attempt to help raise money, but Pitchfork apparently doesn't give a shit about much more than bashing Jeffrey Lewis.

And absolutely, in a sick way I really miss having a radio show. It gave me a reason to go record shopping - now I have to buy things I actually want to play at home. Where'd you go to school?

FiL said...

I went to Georgetown and spent four happy years at the mighty WGTB. Except it wasn't so mighty when I was there - we were banished to a basement. But I miss it fiercely, and my record/CD collection still has a few items that were, um, borrowed for review and never made it back to the shelves. Just don't tell the music director...