"Chris Cohen has been quite a mercurial musician over the last three years. In the spring of 2006, he left rock deconstructionists Deerhoof to focus full-time on his other band, the Curtains. That fall, the Curtains released their fourth album, Calamity. Although Calamity forsook Deerhoof’s distortion fetish in favor of a kinder, gentler sound, it retained that band’s knack for indelible melodies --- and its refusal to let any of them linger long.
Last year, Cohen’s musical wanderlust compelled him to form yet another band. Cryptacize was born when he and Curtains cohort Nedelle Torrisi met drummer Michael Carreira. Since Cryptacize is basically the Curtains with a different drummer, it shouldn’t shock anyone that their debut album Dig That Treasure sounds like a slightly tweaked version of that band. The sudden tempo changes and labyrinthine chord progressions that characterize Cohen’s work still remain, but Cryptacize distinguishes itself through a subtle theatricality that is fueled by pathos.
Cryptacize’s music is disarmingly spare. Although both Cohen and Torrisi sing, they tend to stay out of each other’s way, harmonizing only when necessary. Drummer Michael Carreira provides faint hints of backbeat with an array of nonstandard percussion, employing a restraint and creativity that would make Maureen Tucker nod in approval. Bass is nowhere to be found, and negative space frequently acts like a fourth member of the band. This band knows how to do a lot with a little, though, taking great pains to construct musical backdrops that perfectly match the emotions expressed in their lyrics.
On opening track “Stop Watch”, Torrisi laments her inability to catch up with time: “If I could only know/All the hours I owe/Like a panoramic photograph/Still I know I’m only seeing half.” Meanwhile, the tintinnabulation produced by her autoharp and Carreira’s bells make me feel like I’m stranded in a clock factory. “Water Witching Wishes” uses dowsing --- the process of searching for underground supplies of water by the use of a divining rod --- as a metaphor for unrequited love. As Cohen sings to his absent lover, the heavy reverb applied to his guitar conjures up the arid nothingness of the desert. On closing track “Say You Will”, Cohen’s staccato strumming and Carreira’s washboard playing evoke the last dance of a late-night sock hop. When Torrisi belts out the title, she sounds as if her very happiness depends on her lover’s embrace. “Don’t be shy,” she sings. “Look to the sky, ‘cause all the stars are on your side.”
Unlike Deerhoof’s music, or even the Curtains’ during their weirder moments, Cryptacize’s music never gets loud enough to forcibly draw attention to itself. If you don’t give it your full attention, it’ll be little more than pleasant background music. If you do, though, the absence of abrasion will allow the songs to take a more direct path to your heart. Between the sweet singing, the deceptively simple lyrics, and the creative musicianship, almost every song on Cryptacize’s debut truly becomes a treasure worth digging for." popmatters.com
"Nedelle Torrisi, one of the lead singers of Cryptacize, has been singing, playing music, and writing songs for as long as she can remember. In the process, she developed her own winning blend of folk, pop, R&B; and rock, and put out a bunch of albums both solo (Republic of Two on Kimchee) and with various collaborators. She cut Summerland (Kill Rock Stars) with Thom Moore of the Moore Brothers, and Calamity with the Curtains (Asthmatic Kitty), a project helmed by guitarist/songwriter Chris Cohen. Cohen, the other singer and songwriter of Cryptacize, also has a long history of making what many critics call idiosyncratic music, most notably with Deerhoof, a band known for an unpredictable style that features asymmetrical songwriting and a hyperactive performing style. When the Curtains started winding down, Torrisi and Cohen began collaborating, and Cryptacize was born. The final member of the trio, drummer/percussionist Michael Carreira, heard Cohen was looking for a drummer and sent him a link to a YouTube video of a solo cowbell performance. Cohen was impressed and amazed when he found out Carreira lived in Berkeley, not far from the Oakland house he shared with Torrisi.
Cryptacize is a pop band, maybe even a rock band, but Torrisi, Cohen, and Carreira don’t hew to any easily identifiable formulas. There’s no indie rock shoegazing, no sprightly pop tempos, no long guitar solos. What there is is terrific songwriting and inventive arrangements that will have you wondering what’s going to happen next. Cohen’s electric guitars, Torrisi’s autoharp—not an instrument one associates with pop music—and Carreira’s unexpected percussion flourishes make music that’s both inviting and experimental, while the band lives up to its name with their oblique lyrics.
Dissonant guitar and delicate autoharp strums set the tone for “Stopwatch”, the portrait of a dissolving relationship. Carreira mimics the ticking of a clock while Torrisi’s luminous vocals sadly sing of lost love and unfinished business. Cohen’s guitar slowly builds a discordant climax to end the song, and presumably the relationship. “Heaven is Human” is almost a straightforward pop tune with a chorus that’s instantly memorable. Cohen’s asymmetrical guitar and irregular percussion accents add mystery to the song. “Water Witching Wishes” is another mysterious tune, musically reminiscent of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack with its dramatic use of space and time. Twangy guitar notes hang in the air, autoharp strums resonate and fade, and Cohen sings lead in a voice that sounds like it’s on the verge of a breakdown. It’s a spooky, cinematic tune. Cohen also sings lead on the title track, a folk song full of longing and romance, supported by celestial autoharp and sparse harmonica accents. What the lyrics mean is anybody’s guess. “Cosmic Sing Along” is a duet, and isn’t the least bit psychedelic, at least not musically. It sounds more like a tune from a 1940s Republic cowboy film; Carreira taps out a trotting beat, Cohen plays sparse twangy fills, and the harmony vocals are deliriously happy.
In her youth, Torrisi wanted to perform on Broadway, and the songs on Dig That Treasure have a definite theatrical air about them—tuneful narratives of unrequited love that paint musical pictures full of wide-open emotional spaces. Torrisi’s evocative singing, the cinematic feel of Cohen’s guitar, and Carreira’s drumming open up the songs, sending them into a magical realm where space and time cease to exist and music is all there is." Crawdaddy!
"Yes, of course I revel in the busy ambition of songwriters who seek to challenge themselves to endless boundaries, to jump fences, to scale large mountains. But what is the effort all about? Cryptacize yield to no such ambitions. They make music that is refreshingly coherent, stewed with deliberate melodies, a refinement of instrumentation, no excess, nothing wasted, nothing lost. Their new record “Dig That Treasure” offends many of my own musical impulses, the over-achieving bigger-is-better-shock-and-awe approach. Obviously I’m not offended, but rather in complete admiration of the band’s minimalist gorgeousness. These songs are not trifles, but rather cryptic haiku poems that expand toward a vast cosmic significance. But one doesn’t have to be a cartographer to appreciate these songs. Their surfaces shimmer to the ear, like magic crystals hanging in the windowsill.
Chris Cohen’s guitar shakes off all the fashionable amplifiers and effects pedals of his previous band Deerhoof. Nedelle Torrisi’s voice carries the uncomplicated clarity of a 1950s movie musical, shimmering to a soft vibrato, triggering a beauty that is as bold as it is matter-of-fact. No shock and awe needed here. Texturally, the songs present comic tragedies of everyday life. The Cosmic Sing Along. Playing the Evil Role in a Movie. False Pretenses. Dig That Treasure, i.e. mine for your greatest pleasures, or keep looking, or don’t give up! One never quite knows if the setting is a living room or a space station. And then there’s the loving 1960s pop sensuality, high school infatuation, boy crazy, dreams of true love, or other operatic propulsions escalading into open exclamations of “oh no!” The sweetness of each melody is never quite safe. It is like some chirpy Broadway musical prophesying the end of civilization. Somehow these sentiments entrench easily around other abstract, philosophical topics about heaven on earth, pocket change, or human fear. Lyrics here can be excerpted for an obtuse self-help calendar. “Every note is an unfinished song.” “No one really knows me.” “No amount of power could ever replace the way he said my name.” To listen to Cryptacize is to embark on the act of digging great treasures. Patience and fortitude pays off in great golden swathes of fortune.
Sometimes I worry that the ever-increasing trend toward excessive innovation has pushed the art and music world into a slapstick exhibition of dog breeding, generating increasingly newer, more contemporary fashions: gothic folk, for one. Or Afro-beat Ivy League pop. Maybe this only reflects the inevitable merging of all cultures, in which art slowly becomes a least common denominator for the interchange of multiple civilizations coming together in one song. I don’t mind the intermarrying of ideas. This is the natural sequence of events. We are all better for it; it is fundamentally American. But sometimes the effort of innovation itself is just empty exertion, unspirited and unreal, bearing bad fruit. Cryptacize, of course, shirks all such ambition and seeks instead to “know thyself.” The record speaks of something much more present, in a careful tone, with the considerate enumeration of an enlightened monk who, after spending countless hours in isolation, in prayer, in thought, in meditation, decides instead to leave the monastery to play jazz guitar at Bibbi’s Bar and Grill on Main Street. Yes, of course, I'd go to that show." Sufjan Stevens,
"If one were to only encounter the title of one song here, it could be a deal breaker for many. However, it’s a testament to the integrity of this trio that the two-minute “Cosmic Sing-a-long” has not a whiff of cloying sentimentality or glassy-eyed hippie drooling. Cryptacize is a rare amalgam of irony-free lyrical matters and gentle musical inventiveness. Nedelle Torrisi and Chris Cohen both sing with clear tones, the former in particular a key element of the sound. She adds only a bit of vibrato towards the end of long-held notes, and can convey passion while maintaining her composure. The tunes are theatrical without being mannered, with chordal approaches that draw very little from the rock world. There are shades of folk, chamber, Tin Pan Alley, cabaret and art songs. There’s a fragility to this irresistible music that belies carefully considered and structurally sound arrangements." harpmagazine.com
The band's press release becomes impressive the moment I see Curtains and ex-Deerhoof member Chris Cohen among the names of the band. Autoharp and ethereal guitar pulsate alternately in opener Stop Watch and it's already clear how good a record this will be. Nedelle Torrisi's vocals are suitably pretty, having previously contributed her voice to Curtains. The aforementioned autoharp contributes a unique element to the band's sound and isn't used just as a gimmicky afterthought, but sustains regular use throughout the record. Cohen lends apathy through flat vocals on Water Witching Wishes, before joining harmonic forces with Torrisi for Cosmic Sing-A-Long. Essentially Cohen has brought everything that's excellent about Deerhoof to this band – simple but amazingly effective guitar, great drumming and some imaginative rhythms. The influence is apparent often, as if working from the same deranged muse, like Deerhoof this record dangles dangerously over the rails of convention but is still entrenched so deeply in being excellent pop music.
" MICHAEL PINCOTT, Rave Magazine