There is a certain calculated mysteriousness surrounding Cryptacize. Little is written on the album inlay or on their website about the inception and development of the band. Their focal point, if there is one, is the involvement of Sufjan Stevens, in so much as he owns the label they release on. Often, a certain amount of shrouded secrecy can make an album that much sweeter, as if we are indeed digging for buried treasure. As each grain of sand falls aside, unveiling the box containing the loot, anticipation tightens, invigorating those clawing with their hands to see what’s inside. But with Cryptacize, the secrecy never engenders excitement.
Here’s what’s worth knowing: Cryptacize is the vehicle for Oakland-based songwriters Chris Cohen and Nedelle Torrisi. Both have jangly, uninhibited vocal ranges, but rarely sing together. Their drummer, Michael Carreira, was recruited from a YouTube video, and their interests, as I can make out, involve deconstructing music more than constructing it, picking songs and milieus apart to focus on chunks of songs rather than any cohesive whole. As a result, each song is disjointed and confusing. Anytime they sound as though they are up to something interesting – take the few melodic sections of ‘Heaven Is Human’ or the brood underneath ‘Cosmic Sing-a-long’, for instance – everything shifts suddenly, creating discomfort. The effect is disenfranchising, as if the trio is uncomfortable within their own songs, content to wallow within the structures like children playing in a vacant building.
Yet, some of the ideas are memorable. The mangled guitar line in ‘The Shape Above’ or the crescendos in ‘Say You Will’, the disorientating circus-like finale, are two such examples. But under scrutiny, at their core, the bridges hanging these songs together by a thread rip apart, revealing three musicians content in messing about without ever having very much to say. The riddles remain unsolved, partly because the answers are absent or because the treasure is buried so deeply that the effort of excavation finds us hitting rock bottom.
There are many redeeming qualities about Dig That Treasure but they are shrouded in a frustrating sheen, one content to ply the listener with a striking chord here or involving lyric there without ever inviting us in to view the mess and examine the skeleton for its strengths, not its emptiness. Ultimately, when you leave too much unsaid, everyone may simply give up the hunt.
[Asthmatic Kitty; August 4, 2008]