King Capisce loves saxophone. That’s the clear message I received after listening to their self titled debut album recently. It’s not that I’ve never heard a saxophone, or that I dislike saxophone, or that I suffered a saxophone related trauma when I was a child which soured me on all saxophone-related activity for the rest of my life. Some of my favorite people play saxophone, like Charlie Parker, Bill Clinton and Ernie from Sesame Street. However I clearly do not come anywhere remotely close to the level of passion King Capisce has for the instrument.
To be fair, any band that features not one but two saxophone players is going to have their sound somewhat characterized by the inclusion of those instruments. What strikes me however is the complete omnipresence of saxophone in both the instrumentation and the final mix of each track. 90% of the time if there’s a melody it’s being played on saxophone, while the other 10% of the time the saxophones are bleeding uncontrollably into the sonic spaces left by the lead instruments, preventing you from focusing your attention on the rest of the group.
I do think that the inclusion of both saxophone players is a unique and interesting texture and a credit to the band’s overall sound, but most of the time I find myself wondering what potential lies beyond the thick forest of woodwind. King Capisce’s song writing is extremely varied, and the group is very adept at changes faces track to track, shifting from sleepy post-rock to frantic Mars Volta-style prog, to a jazz style that inspires a delightfully deviant type of energy for me as a listener. The drum work is also particularly tasteful and smooth. Hell, it’s not even that the saxophone players are bad! It is just that the saxophone presence is so ubiquitous that it washes away all of these very interesting and diverse elements and leaves behind a wall of sound entirely uniform and unfortunately lacking in contrast.
As a British group, I’m guessing that my chances to see King Capisce live will be few and far between. I would still like to see a live show however, because have a feeling that, in a live setting, my opinions could very well change. There’s definitely a strong current of momentum and a spark of liveliness in the band’s music that I think would be translated extremely well on stage.
For their second album I would hope that King Capisce explores the roles of the other instruments in more depth, while taking their foot off the gas pedal on the saxophone side of the equation. I honestly wouldn’t change a single other thing about the band, and I think there’s significant potential for growth in the future. You can make your own judgments yourself by going to the band’s myspace page, or by downloading two tracks off the album which the band has generously made available to the public: