Sea Level (Dan Capaldi)
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Sea Level (Dan Capaldi)

Portland, Maine, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Portland, Maine, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Alternative Electronic




"Sea Level"

Sea Level

Sea Level
self-relesed; 2014

4.1 out of 5

By J Simpson

It's a very rare fish that can describe the water to paraphrase media analyst Marshall McLuhan. When one is absorbed in pop music, there is a sensation of hearing the beating pulse of the times you are living in, and provides an invaluable clue about the world we are living in and some possibilities about where to go as artists and as a culture.

Sea Level released their self-titled EP Sea Level in May by producer/musician Dan Capaldi and it feels very timely, very of the moment. It's got falsetto, Prince-like soul vocals; it's got an amalgam of machine beats, electronic flourishes and live instrumentation. Rather than just being bandwagon-esque, it seems that Capaldi is honing and perfecting the tool kit available to electronic musicians and pushing it to a new level of masterful classicism.

Capaldi works as a film composer and producer as a day job, and brings this level of orchestral grandeur and ambition to his artful pop songs. Rather than succumbing to some format and painting by numbers, Capaldi uses his extensive arsenal of live instruments and layered vocals to conjure abstract themes, like dreams vs. reality. Rather than focusing on extreme fidelity, Capaldi's dense tapestry of live instruments and layered samples are run through a battalion of loop pedals and samplers, and mixed on the fly. This suggests an alliance between humans and the machine - between the past and the future.

This provides a clue for a way forward, for the discerning producer who is attempting to master and make the most of the tools at their disposal. Capaldi does not settle for presets, sample packs and ready-made song structures. Each song is a living organism, a jigsaw puzzle to be reverse engineered, to select the best song or word for each individual case.

The material on Sea Level runs a wide range, from psychedelic orchestral pop ("Close Enough"), to archaic 8-bit electronica ("Embryonic Feel"), to ragged hip-hop ("Fire Like This"). Sea Level leaves you guessing, and turns on a dime. You never know what's going to happen next and that is a good thing. It suggests an antidote to those who suggest we are doomed to repetition, ad infinitum. Perhaps we can make something new, after all, or at the very least, put the pieces together in new and surprising ways.

"Live in the past/things wash away/but still I find/things are okay," Capaldi sings, on "Embryonic Feel.” Here seems to be a man entirely at piece with honoring his roots, while being resolutely himself and making something individualist and personal.

This is Capaldi's third record as Sea Level, but the first to be released nationally. It is a very strong effort, which suggests a bright future and an ambitious young artist. Sea Level is in the process of putting together a bold new live show, preparing to take this material on the road. All in all, Capaldi has what it takes. People will be humming these machine mantras, mark my words. You heard it here first. - The Equal Ground

"Underwater and on fire"

Vocalist Kristina Kentigian has appeared on more local records than it’s worth tallying up at this point. Leave it to Dan Capaldi, himself a frequently hired gun, to make the best use of her yet on Nemo 2, the new record from his solo project, Sea Level.

“Tell Me Lies,” coming late in the record, is like Billie Holiday on a Deadmaus track. While Kentigian’s sultry and reserved, the backing track features a bass line that rings out with the menace of an old-time James Bond villain; Capaldi rides the high hat manically, and a dark beat juts in with five quick notes just when you’re getting settled.

“All this time, I’m one step ahead of you,” Kentigian sings, “No need to play nice/ Knew where this was headed when I set my sights on you.”

Truly, even on “Cover It Up,” which he wrote and recorded with producer Noah Cole with a strict time limit of four hours, Capaldi always seems like he’s executing a plan he’s had in place for quite some time. Sure, this seven-song record is pretty disjointed — mixing up genre, instrumentation, and emotional resonance — but each individual piece feels mapped out and calculated, like a chemist manipulating test tubes lined up in a lab.

Just as “Tell Me Lies” echoes the Fleetwood Mac song of the same name, “Cover It Up” pulls in just a bit of the Cure with a repeating lyrical riff on “Never Enough,” but the delivery and production call to mind Beck’s more aggressive work and the percussion break alone makes the song a must-listen. Whatever else Capaldi is, he’s a spectacular drummer, inventive and crazy smart.

For vocals, he’s settled mostly into a falsetto style, drawn out and often distorted and mixed to the middle. On “Close Enough,” though, he stays lower down, clean and right on the mic so that you can hear every bit of spittle moving about. Add in a “waging the wage” lyrical reference and it’s not hard to hear Dominic Lavoie’s influence, the result being a psychedelic take on Paul McCartney: “Why can’t you understand the concept of close enough?”

Capaldi dives deeper into the local scene with “Fire Like This,” featuring a Fogcutters sample — slowed down and grimy, “I’m never gonna do what you say” — and a second verse rap from Eyenine. At times, it sounds a little like someone assaulting the Fogcutters in their practice space, “but the truth is,” Eyenine delivers in his nasally crispness, “you want it that way.”

Just as with his short works Anjuli and Waking Life, Capaldi’s Sea Level remains on Nemo 2 experimental and progressive, but somehow familiar and not all that far outside the mainstream.

NEMO 2 | released by Sea Level | with Derek Ramos and Kevin Oates + Micromasse | at Empire, in Portland | June 6 | - Portland Phoenix

"Water always finds its own level — especially for Portland musician Dan Capaldi"

Dan Capaldi can’t say no.

For the past few years, living and working in Portland, he’s played with what seems like half the musicians in town — and that doesn’t include traveling to the U.K. once or twice a year, to play in his other band, Welsh indie rockers the Soft Bullets.

This is a testament to his skill, of course; his drumming and guitar playing abilities are much in demand, whether it’s as a member of ShaShaSha, with songwriter Joe Gallant, as a guitarist with Spencer Albee, or in any number of other studio sessions. It’s meant, however, that’s he’s had little time for his solo project, Sea Level.

“I’ve been working with seven to ten different bands at any given time for the past five years,” said Capaldi, who first came to be known in Maine as a member of the Cambiata. “Sea Level has just been churning and churning underneath it all this whole time. It finally came to a head this year. I had to reprioritize.”

While all that work has been rewarding for its own sake, it’s just not satisfying that ever-present creative itch that Capaldi always has. Over the winter and early spring of this year, he downsized his commitments to other musicians, and he focused on one thing only: recording and completing a new Sea Level album.

On May 30, Capaldi will release “Sea Level,” seven tracks of complex, impassioned electronic-flavored indie rock; a record release party is set for Friday, June 6 at Empire in Portland.

Sea Level has morphed and changed over the years, and is an entirely different beast from what it started out as back in 2008. Back then, it was more strictly indie rock. Now, it’s truly a one-man band, with Capaldi using an enormous array of pedals, samplers and programs to create a multi-layered, at times somewhat orchestral sound.

“In the past, what I was making never sounded quite right,” said Capaldi. “I decided to scrap everything I’d done before and just start from scratch, using the huge amount of samples I’ve collected over the years, from string quartets to various Portland players. The sounds you hear on this album could be from last fall, or they could be from ten years ago.”

With that massive library of collected sounds at hand, Capaldi began weaving them in with the songs he’d written on guitar. There’s something that feels a bit like a throwback on “Sea Level,” whether it’s his dramatic, multi-octave Jeff Buckley-esque vocals on songs like “Embryonic Feel,” or his kitchen-sink approach to sampling, as on “Close Enough” or “Fire Like This,” bringing to mind that mid-to-late-90s heydey of electronic-infused indie rock, such as Cornershop or Cornelius. There’s lots of guest stars from the Portland scene, including vocalist Kristina Kentigian, rapper Eyenine and members of the Fogcutters Big Band. Capaldi’s collaborator Noah Cole is featured on a number of tracks as well.

Live, Capaldi deftly manipulates all those pedals and triggers, creating that soundscape on his own before picking up his guitar. It’s a complicated setup — but Capaldi is a complicated guy. Musically speaking, anyway.

“I wear a lot of different hats, all the time,” said Capaldi. “Yes, it’s really complicated. I can’t help myself. I definitely have sacrificed a lot to be able to make music for a living. I’ll probably be broke my whole life. I’ll die in the gutter with a loop pedal. That’s OK.” - Bangor Daily News

"A good case of Sea Level rising."

A local fella named Dan Capaldi reached out to me the other day with the news of a CD release from his Sea Level project. It’s his first solo album, but that doesn’t mean Capaldi’s been twiddling his thumbs. He has been quite busy playing with ShaShaSha, Joe Gallant, Spencer Albee, Cambiata, Kenya Hall, Holy Boys Danger Club and the British band Soft Bullets.

I took a listen to the “Sea Level” album, beginning with the dreamy “Embryonic Feel.” Next up was “Close Enough,” with just enough desperation in Capaldi’s voice to make you worry about him, but then some funky beats and a cacophony of sounds jump, easing the pain and making the song stirring and memorable. “Cover It Up” is fuzzy and hypnotic. I can almost hear it being played in a club.

If I may pile on more praise, “Tell me Lies,” with Kristina Kentigian singing on the second verse is my current favorite jam on the record. With a slow groove, the song makes me wanna slowly strut around the newsroom wearing sunglasses and snapping my way from desk to desk. Celebrate Sea Level’s release with Capaldi and his pals Lady Zen, Black Castro, Eyenine, Derek Ramos, Kevin Oates, Micromasse and the aforementioned Kentigian. - Portland Press Herald


Anjuli - January 2011
Waking Life - December 2012
Sea Level - May 2014



The solo project of producer/multi-instrumentalist Dan Capaldi is based out of Portland, Maine. Sea Level combines elements of hip-hop, jazz, indie rock and orchestral film music into a unique electronically manipulated sound. Through the use of an elaborate series of loopers, samplers and live instruments, Dan performs over an assortment of sounds all of which have been created himself and mixed on the fly.

Band Members