Under Review

The Cyrillic Typewriter

Custodian (Jaz Records)

Review by Robert Catherall

Art-pop and spaced-out Moogs rarely cross paths, and, given the common fare of the Cyrillic Typewriter’s previous recordings, it would be humble to say Custodian is a conceptual leap for composer Jason Zumpano. On his third full-length under the Cyrillic Typewriter moniker, Zumpano entertains this crossover on the opening “Somewhere” before the layers of introspective chiming on “Lament 1” and “Doorway” culminate in nearly 10 minutes of obtuse, seemingly disconnected compositions. Based on last year’s The French Door, it will take about three songs for most (who haven’t read this spoiler) to get up and investigate whether the needle has truly been dropped on Custodian before the words “Original Soundtrack Recording” jump off the record sleeve.

By the fourth track, Zumpano has interposed piano chords with the omniscient tubas of a regal procession that strike with a surprisingly familiarity to his earlier works. Lyricless and abstract, Zumpano has cleverly set up art-pop and choose-your-own-adventure on a blind date, and by the end of Side A, they’re already at third base. Flip the record and songs like the ethereal “Steps” or feverish “Hands” illustrate how Zumpano seamlessly mixes instrumental conversation with subtle pop playfulness to encourage interpretation of the otherwise mysterious Custodian.

An unprecedented testament to the breadth of his composing, the record sculpts seemingly synthetic abstractions that could just as easily be the score to an existential thriller as a B-rate acid drenched sci-fi. More accurately, Zumpano has given listeners a score to a movie that in fact doesn’t exist. Being caught off-guard with this record is part of his plan, though, as Zumpano admittedly created a composition that forces itself into subjective caprice—a score with no film; an accompaniment to the immaterial. Recall the straightforward poeticism of last year’s release and it should come as no surprise that Custodian’s playful complexity is The French Door’s logical conclusion.