"I think the first Boston album is a beautiful thing,
and I have no qualms about loving that record, and fully embracing its
influence." Words from the wise, version Generation Z.
Ezra Feinberg is talking about
the odd jumble of fond musical memories he drew upon while creating the
triumphant rock & roll project he calls Citay, which just released an
eponymous album on Important. A rapturously '70s-reverential new music,
Citay takes inspiration from an era when rock's ambition toward the
large-scale and epic was regarded as a good and righteous thing, and not to
be summarily pooh-poohed. Feinberg also loved those foggy acoustic
intervals on Led Zep's records, and the even moldier moments on early
Sabbath's discs, when someone's poking 'round the belladonna in the woods
outside the church.
Lured toward the artful power of these early
hard-rock bands, ex-Piano Magic man Feinberg set about exploring the
creation of entirely new genres from them 行 or, better, a sound beyond
genre. This San Francisco-based post-minimalist loads the wandering mazes
of his Citay with heaping helpings of mandolin, glockenspiel, sitar,
numerous odd percussive thingies, organ, choral effects and, of course,
legions of 12-string, all the better with which to dig deep damp rabbit
holes among the ferns.
But watch out as Feinberg lashes the murky morn
with sunshiny West Coast rock vocal harmonies and super-stereo twin-lead
guitar whirlwinds you haven't heard the likes of since Queen, Thin Lizzy or
the late, great Wishbone Ash. That's because Feinberg grew up with and
played all this stuff, punk rock and jazz included, and never felt any
qualms about violating sacred genre boundaries 行 much like the critically
unfettered bands of his youth, with their suites and symphonies and
rock-as-epic-journey attitude. "I like the element of myth," he says, and,
crucially, he recognized that the music that sojourned there had to carry
the myth, and not vice versa.
Thus the emphasis on Citay is in a kind of sonic
storytelling. "It's not just imagery. I think with Heart and Led Zeppelin
and Mike Oldfield and other things, it's really composed 行 there is a rigor
and attempt at epicness in the composition. I love dramatic music; I like
music that feels like it's really moving somewhere and you want to follow
it and see where it takes you."
Sometimes less is more, but quite often more is
even more. Feinberg operates on that assumption as he toys with his copious
combos of polarized styles and instrumental flavors, and in birthing an
all-star jam between John Fahey, Black Sabbath and Boston, he's also done
the ultimate: made this incredibly interesting thing that sounds like none
of the above, but is as darkly weighty as it is gleefully in love with pure
classic pop. The question isn't "What in hell was he thinking?," it's "Why
didn't anyone think of this before?"
"Hard rock 行 heavy rock 行 doesn't require huge crumbling
power chords and pounding drums," he says. "I mean, I have nothing against
that, but I felt like the first couple Heart albums 行 and especially Mike
Oldfield and early Robert Wyatt
行 it has a gravitas to it that didn't require, like, actual
And the connections Feinberg makes between
these apparently disparate artists aren't as thin as they might seem.
"I've always related to [avant-folk acoustic-guitar
player] John Fahey, via acoustic Jimmy Page 行 he was really into John
Fahey, too. I've always been into composition that was really ambitious,
with several instruments layered or double-tracked. [Producer] Tim Green
and I just thought, wow, let's do that, but in a good way, by layering
strings and voices on top of acoustic guitars and mandolin and organs and
electric piano and all that kind of stuff."
While Fahey was pretty much the opposite on
his recordings 行 deriving a massive sound from a single instrument -
Feinberg admires his aspirations to formal grandeur. "John Fahey's sound is
really complete, with one guitar. I try to play like him, and I come up
with something basic, then start to imagine a thousand other instruments on
top of it."
Citay's way of manipulating musical memories
goes a bit beyond the mere "guilty pleasure" aspects it might confer,
suggesting untrodden new paths for trend-restricted rock players to come.
"Prog and '70s
proto-metal and late-'60s acid rock were deemed out of bounds for a long
time because of punk," says Feinberg, "and the idea that there should be
these divisions and genres and categories and subdivisions of history has
been toppled over. I think that's really positive."