Ex-Deerhoof and Curtains guitarist Chris Cohen and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Nadelle Torrisi (joined by drummer Michael Carriera and bassist Aaron Olson) reunite for a second go-round as Crypatcize on Mythomania, a poppy and polished follow-up to last year’s Dig That Treasure. The combination of Cohen’s guitar wizardry (loops, sped-up passages, and dense multi-tracking) and Torrisi’s serpentine, minor-key melodies creates a sound that evokes fifties space-age instrumentals, flowery psychedelia, and on occasion (the title track) girl-group pop
While Cohen’s guitar is foregrounded throughout, it’s always deployed at the service of the songs, which in spite of their often-baroque arrangements, are relatively straightforward. Cohen and Torrisi (the former sings lead on two tracks) favor rather classical melodies, whether of the almost bubble-gum sing-song variety one is inclined to describe as “innocent” (“The Cage,” “Mythomania”) or of a somewhat more menacing ilk (“The Long Way Home”). These solid pop foundations, however, are buttressed by a steady stream of instrumental interjections whose tendency towards the shrill and shimmery (witness the mandolin-like sped-up guitar on “Tail and Mane,” or autoharp on “What You Can’t See”) suggests, like much of the melodies and lyrics, a childlike fascination with a gaudy, almost kitschy kind of beauty. At their best, Mythomania‘s tracks are impeccably-constructed mini-epics, thrill-a-second musical roller coaster rides that wrap up well below the three minute mark: “Blue Tears” starts off with an intro that sounds as though it could have been lifted from a Deerhoof track, only to resolve into a psychedelic mini-opera built on reverb-soaked harpsichord, while “One Block Wonders” lays a rhythmic guitar-loop foundation for a funky guitar and bass lead and Torrisi’s nursery rhyme melody.
Despite the wealth of ideas and obvious talent Cryptacize display here, there’s something slightly stale about Mythomania. Torrisi melodies and vocals (especially when subject to echo chamber processing as on “Blue Tears) are strongly reminiscent of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, while the album’s general tone suggests the mid-nineties fascination with fifties kitsch à la Stereolab. The impeccable execution here is, ultimately, actually superior to the ideas that underlie it; given the components at play one would hope for something a bit more novel from Cohen and Torrisi. As on “Blue Tears” and “One Block Wonders,” they’re at their best when they deal in unexpected juxtaposition. When their sound tends towards the more coherent and homogeneous (even on the excellent title track) they risk falling victim to an imitativeness, or perhaps simply a lack of aesthetic ambitiousness, that threatens to overwhelm the originality that they bring to the table.