CD Review: Vapor Vespers “One Act Sonix”

Vapor VespersArtist: Vapor Vespers
Titele: One Act Sonix
Label:  Bad Egg Records
Genre:  “Triptastic Slam of Storytelling and Genre-Skipping Sounds” – Sal Cataldi

CD Review by Dawoud Kringle

What happens when Sal Cataldi (a New York City / Woodstock / Hudson Valley based multi-instrumentalist who’s known as Spaghetti Eastern Music; and member of MFM) joins forces with Mark Muro (Alaskan actor, poet & playwright)? The result is Vapor Vespers.

Cataldi and Muro have been running together for years, drawn together in mutual friendship by their eclectic tastes in music. At 62, Cataldi has quite a history. He began his interest in music at age 12, through listening to the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. After a stint at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, he worked with groups such as Hari Karaoke Trio of Doom, Frank’s Museum, and Collector (which he describes as “heavy metal bebop”). His work has been played on radio stations around the US, and has been featured on eight albums. His latest project, Spaghetti Eastern Music, has enjoyed no small success.

Muro was born in the Bronx, and relocated to Anchorage, Alaska in the mid-1980s. His short stories and poetry appeared in anthologies including North of Eden and The Anchorage Daily News. He produced and performed in a series of one-man shows (The Bipolar Express, Indistinct Chatter and Not Marketable) at theaters and festivals. Muro acted in several independent films, performed standup comedy, represented the state of Alaska in The National Poetry Slam, and served as host of the PBS radio show, Stage Talk. His newest one-man show, Bug Boy: Curse of the Ant Queen, premiered in November 2019 at Anchorage’s Cyrano’s Theater.

By now, you’re doubtless asking yourself what the music on One Act Sonix could sound like.

The opening Track, “Timbuktu,” starts with a dissonant guitar riff. A beat comes up and fleshes out the rhythm, while a guitar dances over some ghostly synth parts lurking suspiciously in the periphery. Muro’s weather beaten poet’s voice steps to the foreground. Here, Muro’s acting skills take the spoken word and translate it into the visceral experience of walking in an African desert. The song ends with a change in the beat with backwards guitars flying about like moths and mosquitoes around a light bulb outside some improbable building in a godforsaken rural wasteland.

This is followed by “In the Lap of the Drooling Buddha.” A telephone voice whispers mysteriously behind a lively break beat. Poetry about the totalitarianism and alienation of the digital online world preached to the masses, while wah-pedal guitars gossiped and cursed out the tourists that annoyed the natives.

A jazz groove arises that could have been conjured by Charles Mingus had he been born a millennial, or if Ralph Towner had taken a different musical direction early in life. This provides the backdrop for a story of a dead bird, a cake, and sexual tension in “The Bells.”

“Bottomless Seafood Surprise” is the story of a young woman whose dull life explodes with unrequited sexuality manifested in a culinary expression of fried fish. It’s the kind of story you never knew was going on all around you. Or perhaps you are the one in the story?

Cataldi’s instrumental and production work on this collection is a perfection of onomatopoeic expression. His colorful and inventive music does nothing that doesn’t bring Muro’s spoken word poetry to life; yet the instrumental work easily stands on its own, and would doubtless tell the same stories. “Her Lemon Peel Raincoat,” the CD’s only instrumental, does so; and makes many similar instrumental works pale in comparison (although I’m not sure how the music and lyrics of “The Meat Cleaver and the Butterfly” would fare without each other). Muro is a master of his art; his “been-around-the-block-more-than-a-few-times” Bronx white man voice is perfect for his vivid imagery and storytelling skills. He makes a world of very human virtues and shortcomings come alive within your mind’s eye.

There’s no way, really, to describe the music and words on One Act Sonix. You must experience it for yourself.

Recommended Read

CD Review: Spaghetti Eastern Music…using any musical device, any genre, any instrument, any abstract and ambient sound to make his statement