[13 May 2009]
Quirk-pop outfit Cryptacize has actually been present on the scene for a bit longer than any one of their audience members may have realized. Slowly climbing the indie-fame corporate ladder, Cryptacize are a fascinating combination of former Deerhoof member Chris Cohen, drummer Michael Carrera, vocalist Nedelle Torrisi, and the recently added fourth member, bassist Aaron Olson. Their opening act “resume” is extensive: So far Cryptacize has played before bands such as Why?, Shearwater, Ponytail, Marnie Stern, the Blow, and Mirah. Upon watching them open for post-punk garage rockers Vivian Girls and the always experimentally vivid Ariel Pink, I had to wonder if Cryptacize suffers the musical version of the classic bridesmaid syndrome: Always the opener, never the headliner.
Celebrating the release of their second album Mythomania, the group appeared surprisingly unenergetic onstage (or perhaps that’s just their token apathetic shtick?). The band’s sound on record exhibited vast possibilities with an original take on experimental pop music, complete with halting drums, catchy guitar hooks, and Torrisi’s erratic yet willowy vocals. Live, however, the stage of the Music Hall of Williamsburg seemed too big for Cryptacize, who like to let Nadelle Torrisi take center stage. While Torrisi’s voice certainly came across as breathy, melodic, and following in the halting footsteps of Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki, her stage presence on the other hand felt severely lacking. Stuffed into a waist-high black skirt and “carelessly” thrown on white tee, Torrisi certainly was dressed to kill, if not dressed to rock out. Perhaps it was her size (miniscule), or her unwillingness to test out the traction of her flowery vintage heels, but during much of the first half of Cryptacize’s set, all I wanted was for Torrisi to dance and flounce to the pretty music, but alas, she did not. As their set wore on however, Torrisi did appear to grow less stiff, and even hopped up and down a few times to the beat of “Mini-Mythomania” while pressing synths on a keyboard just as teeny as she was.
The band’s instrumentals were perhaps the most satisfying thing about their performance in general. As the show went on, their audience expanded, nodding their heads nonchalantly, as Torrisi bounced equally nonchalantly onstage, her voice changing octaves as each song took an unpredictable turn in a new direction. I should, however, give her more credit: There aren’t many indie front women who are adept as changing key as quickly and as prettily as Torrisi is. That’s why I wasn’t going to blame this leading lady’s lack of energy on nerves. A nervous singer could never hit those notes and change them as effortlessly as Torrisi did that evening. That’s why I couldn’t, and still can’t, come to a solid conclusion on Cryptocize as a band. Where they lack in some areas, they make up for in others.
As more audience members filed in, Cryptacize grew more energetic, performing bouncy love songs with just the right amount of quirk and jerk. Moving through songs like “Blue Tears” and “Cosmic Sing-a-Long”, the likeness to Deerhoof was astoundingly similar, but understandable considering their origin. Chris Cohen’s history was undoubtedly apparent onstage. His instrumental arrangements didn’t so much recall his past with Deerhoof as it did emphasize it. Even when Torrisi’s vocals were at their best, her voice sounded like a feathery, more melodic version of Matsuzaki’s. But the question tonight shouldn’t have been “who does Cryptacize sound like?” but “what more have Cryptacize brought to this sound that already existed?” The answer, unfortunately, is not as much as they should. Perhaps with a bit more time and onstage energy, Cryptacize can truly be the second coming of Deerhoof, with an equally large fan base to boot. What the band really needs is a new direction and/or spirit that will let them turn the corner from being a consistently solid opener, to a surprising and attention-grabbing headliner. They have it in them, and let’s hope they realize that by the time their third album drops.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/92790-cryptacize/