Capillary Action is an all-acoustic avant-pop quintet led by Oberlin graduate Jonathan Pfeffer. The band is presently on an 11-week international tour, which includes a stop at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona on May 24. They played a show in Dresden, Germany on May 15 and PopMatters was there.
According to Pfeffer, Capillary Action strives to use music to interpret specific, often extremely personal experiences:
“The challenge is always how to convey this particular feeling using the most creative means possible. The songs aren’t willfully obtuse because I want to throw people for a loop, but because the feelings tend to be complex and it’s important that whatever musical decisions I make stay true to the song’s original intent,” explains Pfeffer.
Capillary Action’s show in Dresden followed this message. The band’s set showcased numerous unpredictable rhythmic and mood changes within each song, as well as Pfeffer’s expansive vocal range – and the band never omits any of the notes and noises from the original recordings of the songs, resulting in an array of aural treats from a variety of instruments.
The first song, “Methheads & Mormons”, carried the audience through a plot from the band’s 2007 US tour in which they were “ripped off by a promoter in Salt Lake City, Utah”. Pfeffer sang about the experience with shorter phrases—“no one has come equipped”, and “all of us expecting to hit paydirt”—forcing audience members to pay attention if they wanted to obtain the full meaning of the song.