Capillary Action’s Fragments is one of the most unique albums I’ve heard in a while. Unique is not necessarily a complimentary adjective. But I get ahead of myself, first, a little background. Capillary Action is Jonathan Pfeffer, and that’s about it. There were musicians who provided guest appearances, as well as recording and mastering technicians who were important to the process, but Mr. Pfeffer was almost solely responsible. He recorded the album in various locations on the Oberlin College campus in Ohio.
It must be said that Jonathan is a very talented musician who is capable of playing several instruments with deftness and skill. Having made the previous statement, I intensely disliked Fragments. I dislike it much the same way I hated the Plastic Ono Band. It is a perfect example of creative and talented people being too clever for their own good. Jonathan doesn’t smash vases and scream unintelligibly into the microphone (except for perhaps on “Mid-Coital Seizure”), but his album is so disjointed as to make it almost equally un-listenable. The title is apt, in that the album sounds as if several different pieces of music were spliced together into some retarded collage. The good parts of Fragments make the rest of it that much worse. While listening to it, you think “Hey, this is a good song,” then it turns a corner into an ear-splitting racket.
The record starts off on the wrong foot with “Ticking Ghosts Pts. 1 and 2.” These two songs at points sound like weak acid jazz, while other riffs sound as if they could have come from Master of Puppets. I’m thinking he could pick one and stick with it. Hell, Metallica’s last album sucked; maybe they would want to buy the metal portion of the songs. Other songs on the album sound as if they could be played on the smooth jazz station, or like some bullshit I’d hear on the speakers at my dentist’s office.
Perhaps I am one of the pedants that the press release from Pangaea Recordings (Jonathan’s own record label) states, “instrumental music must be saved from.” I like instrumental music, and I like a little free-wheelin’ action, but this thing has just jumped the rails entirely. Instrumental music must work harder to engage the listener if it is to be more than just background music, but not like this, not like this. This is a cheap attempt to be different, rather than truly good. However, if anything I have said peaks your interest, check out Capillary Action live in concert at the 15th Street Tavern on Tuesday, May 31.