Captain Fathom


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Captain Fathom's first effort is comprised of long, effervescent songs, the eight tracks adding up to 71 minutes. These don't quite drift into ethereal formlessness, but nevertheless have a go-with-the-flow vibe that switches from vocal to instrumental sections, and different rhythms and arrangements, like shifting tides. The lyrics, similarly, have a slightly spacy, nonchalantly ebullient air, like that of a swimmer bobbing up and down near the shore with no particular destination in mind. In their use of multiple liquid guitar lines and funky, bouncy rhythms and riffs, the four-piece recall the Grateful Dead. That's hardly a brilliant comparison, of course, considering that the Dead are the granddaddy of all jam bands, but that similarity is there. They manage to avoid purposeless or indulgent noodling, though, with a solid grasp of contrasting dynamics. There are alternating loud and soft passages, and some imaginative touches of world-beat-flavored horns, jazzy flute, drifting found-sound spoken voices, psychedelic guitar phasing, and riff-driven guitar raveups. The part where the guitar parts glide into lower keys as if the turntable's slowing down is a nice touch. This is more intelligent and good-humored than much of what flew under the jam band label in the late 1990s; fans of Phish and the like looking for something more offbeat would do well to check it out.