Last Thursday, we had the pleasure of checking out Craft Spells fresh off the release of the new album Nausea. With Nausea, an odd name for an eccentric album, Craft Spells has definitely matured technically since 2011’s praised album Idle Labor. The often surf-like guitar is bolder, drums replace drum machines, and the synth and keyboard melodies are stronger, especially in songs like “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide,” and “Komorebi.” The vocals are discounted and are often delivered monotone in a style some might called “bummer rock.” The overall experience is a musical journey that keeps you guessing at what’s next.
Craft Spells is the brainchild of Justin Paul Vallesteros, a songwriter and guitarist at the core, and Nausea was a chance for him to really branch out into more piano driven sound. This exploration is especially evident in “Komorebi” where piano chords seem to gallop along to the beat, creating an incredible richness of sound. Hearing it live was one of the highlights of the night.
Justin is no stranger to San Francisco, having lived here, but became disillusioned because the music scene was dominated by “DJs and Garage Rock.” (I am not sure I agree here, but I would say Craft Spells is not a typical headliner). Part of what inspired the new album was his move home to the Stockton area and then to Seattle and finding the motivation to explore new formulas musically.
Although it was probably a painful transition at the time, the finished product contains great tracks like “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide.” Easily the most pop-friendly song in the set, this song really had the crowd captured with creative synth string melodies and twangy, surf-like guitar riffs.
Check out pictures from the show below.