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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Capillary Action
Pangea Recordings

Rating: 6/10 ?

January 30, 2005
Instrumental music so often falls prey to its own devices. Without the dynamic range and content of vocals instrumental music relies solely on the melodies created by instruments to keep the listener engaged. Adding vocals to the mix adds more than just a voice, but a vast range of emotional content that just can't seem to be matched by instruments alone.

This isn't to say that instrumental music doesn't work, because it can, and when at its peak - unencumbered by vocals - the instruments can shine their best and create landscapes that are unmatched; i.e. Mogwai at their peak. In fact, bands such as Karma To Burn found they were better off as instrumental after attempts to add vocals failed.

Capillary Action is Philadelphia native, Jonathan Pheffer's creative outlet. His debut, Fragments, on his own label Pangaea Recordings is an instrumental affair. Pheffer plays the majority of instruments on Fragments and is very proficient as a musician and as a songwriter. Fragments constitutes 43 minutes of Pheffer crossing back and forth from soaring guitar lines and down tempo pieces to aggressive chugging guitars. Pheffer deftly will use both dynamic ranges within the same song even. Through Capillary Action, Pheffer has created a full sound all around. Pheffer's creative process found him writing individual pieces to songs and piecing them together in the studio. In some cases this works, when the individual pieces are focused and cohesive. In too many other areas of the album, piecing songs together from separate works makes Capillary Action sound lost and unfocused and in a good number of Pheffer's guitar riffs are repetitive with transitions sound rudimentary. "Ticking Ghosts Pt. 1 and 2" dance between distorted guitar riffs that seem to go nowhere; they tangle up guitars and keys with one another. The transitions between the two at some points are almost none existent, only a mere pause for laying into heavy guitars after having created a light atmosphere. Pheffer finds more focus on "Constant Steady Collapse" and "Driving Through Twilight," as he stays to light and air textures with his guitar and keyboards, yet these tracks don't seem to have any destination, they simply exist. Pheffer bounces from melody to melody for three minutes and then moves on. "Scattered Remnants" shows promise as he builds on a repetitive guitar line and crescendos with pulsing drums. And Pheffer finally finds his stride with "A Hundred Pages Of Cannon Be Named," which switches gears, featuring acoustic guitar and hand percussion with something of a Latin feel. The heavy synths and breaks in "Mid-Coital Seizure" pick up the pace as Fragments moves into the home stretch and Pheffer pulls out the big guns for "Architecture Would Fail" as his axe wails before he brings down the volume and tempo to an urgent hum before picking things back up. "Architecture Would Fail" is the center Pheffer's most ambitious effort on Fragments: beginning with a Judas Priest influenced massive guitar riff which Pheffer breaks down into a short metalcore riff and then again into an experimental fragmented riff. From there Pheffer takes "Architecture Would Fail" to a drifting ambient end. Fragments closes quietly with the more ambient "Pillars Disintegrate" that plays nicely, flowing from "Architecture Would Fail." Jonathan Pheffer clearly is an excellent guitar and bass player and has the ability to write very strong instrumental pieces, but throughout Capillary Action's debut, Fragments Pheffer suffers from a lack of cohesiveness. While some of his work comes off as flawless, other tracks are as fragmented as the title suggests. The promise Pheffer shows on Fragments will hopefully develop into a dynamic creative force in instrumental music.

Reviewed by Craig Mertes
Craig lives, works and listens to music in the general vicinity of Orlando, Florida, where he absorbs everything from hip-hop to indie, pop, rock, punk and metal. His all time favs include Hum, Clutch, Dismemberment Plan, and the Reverend Horton Heat. The last we heard, Craig was spinning Vast Aire, Soul Position, Blues Explosion, Motörhead, the Blood Brothers and Dead Meadow. Craig is also a life-long, die-hard Cubs fan, so lay off.

See other reviews by Craig Mertes



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