The Cambiata
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The Cambiata

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"Listener, Heal Thyself"

The Cambiata’s new EP is a cure for many ills

January 31, 2008 10:19:48 AM

When one of the most buzz-inducing tracks making the rounds of the indie-nerd set is called “Oxford Comma,” it’s possible things are getting a touch too literary for your average music consumer. But if NYC-based Vampire Weekend are maybe too targeted toward the beard-and-sweater crowd, our own local hyper-intellectual troupe manage to appeal to everyone from your hardcore punks to readers of the (don’t) Go section.
The Cambiata are a band just about every true music lover should freak over, be they classically inclined or math rockers or old school be-boppers. The band project so much intensity, as though every note was an agonizing decision and yet was the only one that could have ever existed in that moment, you can’t help but be caught up in their crashing wave, pounded onto the sand, and then ripped back out to a sea of great ideas.

To Heal, a five-song EP that serves as a follow-up to 2006’s alternately thrilling and frustrating full-length Into the Night (which also won the 2007 Best New Album award from Portland Phoenix readers) is 27 minutes of vindication, proof that all of their promise is just a taste of what’s to come. From the Clockwork Orange chaos of the opening “All in All (Julie)” to the far-from-alien nine-minute epic “Roswell” that closes the disc, the Cambiata are dragged along by the indubitable force that is lead singer Chris Moulton, who continues to find ways to harness his incredible pipes, forgoing some of his screamo roots for more textured and mature tones that can seem to be all things to all listeners.

If there is any fault here, it is that the Cambiata can fall too often into the familiar indie trope of a quiet beginning, with just vocals and organ, maybe, that eventually builds into a larger rock song and, here, even a taste of grunge or thrash. But with Moulton, that opening is just so enthralling. On “Purple,” you might be reminded of the Modern Lovers’ “Hospital” (one of my favorite all-time tunes), but Moulton gasps his opening vocals like the life is rushing out of him from a gut wound: “All that we see/Thirsts all that I love/Shell glow, glow-oow/Re-mem-ber my name/When all this tide is cursive.”

What does that mean? God, nothing and everything. If you’re looking for a discussion of post-structural or deconstructionist theory, this is your band. And yet, it can sometimes seem so simple, unrequited love songs like so many that have come before. Who can’t relate to “all of this fool’s gold/Twirling up into your curls,” with horns calling to mind a horrible carnival of mistaken advances?

Frequently, the mood is set through guest horns from Halo engineer Micah Davis (Jon Wyman’s protégé), Adam Jackson, and Gaelen Bayley, if not from the viola and cello of Kallie Ciechomski and Emily Dix-Thomas, respectively. “Sidestepping Versus Splitting Heirs” couldn’t quite attain its Violent Femmes swagger, its Weezer ironic pop, without the late strings underscoring the mocking “blah, blah, blah”s. “They all wish they sang opera like you do in the shower,” Moulton offers, without necessarily indicating who “they” are.

And “Cut Your Losses, Kiddo” gains its childlike base from drummer Dan Capaldi’s work on the bells, paired initially with Sean Morin’s organ, before Moulton confesses, “I want to find another love, out there/I want to find another love.” That this band, so grounded in roots of heavy music, aggressive as the fires of teen angst could stoke, could create a tune as soulful and lilting as this is truly a wonder, something that could easily have you belting your guts out in the dark of whatever room houses your stereo (please tell me you still have a stereo, with components and stuff?).

By the time you’ve lived through the swirling repetitions of “push all the livid out” that close that anthemic “Roswell,” you may find yourself completely drained, with not an ounce of livid left in you. You may wonder when livid became a commodity. You may not. - The Portland Phoenix

"Editor's Pick at CD BABY"

The rate at which this Portland, ME, five-piece can shuffle through sounds is certainly impressive, but it's the tenacity and precision with which they approach the varied endeavors that makes this a modern rock record really worth listening to. "Changing Everything," the opening track, starts with vocals and acoustic guitar, eventually building to incorporate orchestral arrangements and large, choral-style vocals that expand the track even further. And that's just the first three minutes. "Hell's Kitchen" works in sparse strings over a stark drum beat, mirroring the jaded lyrics in the chorus perfectly. "Chameleon Spit" gets blippy, melding together synths and effected guitars that smooth over into warm waves by the end. Tracks like "For Zelda Fitzgerald" and "Ladybug" betray their delicate-ish titles, tossing in some sweetly jagged guitar work over the ground-shaking drums. The remaining tracks follow suit, never repeating tones and never falling into a lull. By the time you reach the acoustic/piano closer "I-V-I," you'll realize it all came full circle, and you'll be glad you made the trip. - CD BABY

"The End of Everything"

The end of everything

The more the Cambiata change, the more they improve


The Cambiata are never satisfied. They are so self-critical that they decided to record their new record almost completely independently of one another, each of them working with producer Noah Cole. And after a well received full-length and EP that have made the band one of the biggest in Portland, they decided to self-title this newest release because it’s the first one they’re actually happy with.

This is a good thing. Some bands are all buddy-buddy and live together and spend a lot of time telling each other how great everything sounds. That can be a great way to have a lot of fun, but it’s a lousy way to produce music to which anyone else actually wants to listen. For the Cambiata, “we’re all very critical of each other,” says guitarist Miguel Barajas. “So much so that it’s hard not to get into arguments.”

When guitarist and keyboardist Sean Morin says, “We don’t even like each other very much,” it’s hard to tell if he’s kidding.

This ability for introspection and self-improvement has allowed the band to grow substantially in just more than two years. Their first album, 2006’s Into the Night, was impressive, but fractured; it was a study in what they were capable of, but not fully realized. Last year’s EP, To Heal, the first recorded work with drummer Dan Capaldi (Daniel McKellick’s replacement), was luscious and artful, but slightly self-indulgent with too much chaff amid the wheat. With this new work, they’ve taken the important step of stepping outside themselves and considering the listener.

They’ve produced a record full of tight songs that only once go past five minutes, accomplishing the difficult task of creating epics in three minutes, songs made to sound simple in their complexity. “We don’t want listeners to get bored,” says Barajas. “We don’t want people mid-song skipping to the next one because it’s not really interesting … We would talk about and destroy the songs, and I mean violently and passionately.”

The result is a total lack of chaff. Each entry and exit is exquisitely scripted, while Cole, outside the walls of a traditional studio, has worked with each band member (and a whole string section) to create something of a minimalist sound. This record’s theme is change — the first track is “Changing Everything,” an exercise in painstaking restraint — and those who’ve come to think of the Cambiata as a heavy or loud band will very much have to change their opinion. While there is still something of a heavy aesthetic, an affinity for distortion and a fiendish aggressiveness, their sound has morphed in much the way Radiohead’s has, incorporating a new quiet subtlety that better allows the sharp edges to poke you.

This also allows Chris Moulton’s superb vocals to shine all the brighter, as they’re often paired with just the keyboards or guitars in the openings and verses. He may not be quite as acrobatic here as on their past releases, but he is laser precise and produces some truly sublime pieces of beauty, as with the crisp melody of the chorus in “The Gold She Gives,” blending tremendously with the strings and horns to erect a haughty pity when “some bankrupt fool is accepting it.” In the last verse, he manages a perfectly cheery melancholy for “all is well that ends/So let us clap our hands/To another empty bottle.”

Moulton has been accused of being a bit dramatic (okay, really dramatic), but it’s his ability to inflect emotion and meaning into each syllable that makes him a wildly appealing combination of Freddy Mercury and Jose Gonzalez.

There’s still a bit of the band’s old schizophrenia here, of course. How could there not be, with five songwriters producing 33 initial demo tracks from which to cull the best and most intriguing? “Ladybug” is dark and mysterious, launching with a menacing downward bass line from Stan Dzengelewski and Moulton despairing that “I can not keep things alive” and “the Ladybug in my palm surely won’t survive.” Distorted guitars slash in like swinging scythes before soaring into a melody mixed behind the bass and drums, then falling away to give way to a piano that invites an almost dance beat from Capaldi. Finally there are woodblocks, cymbals smacking you in the face from the left and right, and Moulton meandering like he’s punch drunk.

“House Fire” is Sade smooth, with inhales and exhales used as instruments and methodical guitars mixing with gripping cello lines and a spare xylophone. There is subtle drum programming and a digital hiccoughing like the ghost of vocals now forgotten. “You’ll just have to carry me,” Moulton repeats, moving his vocals between the channels and doubling: “It’s an important distinction.”

It is important. Distinguishing between the music you want to make and the music people want to hear and finding that music that is both. In doing so, the Cambiata have distinguished themselves mightily.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at

THE CAMBIATA with KID:NAP:KIN + the Urgency + Better Than | The Station | January 9 | - The Portland Phoenix

"The Cambiata's Melodramatic Masterpiece"

The Cambiata is an enormously talented five-piece band from the Portland area. Their new, self-titled album is masterful — a passionate, gorgeous, intelligent and challenging collection of 11 exceptionally well-crafted compositions.

So why does it leave me cold?

Well, mostly because singer/guitarist Chris Moulton keeps overshooting the emotional mark. Moulton has a powerful, gymnastic voice, but he delivers almost every lyric in a breathy, dramatic fashion that borders on Broadway. It’s too much.

Granted, I’m almost two decades out of high school, and this group’s fan base gets carded. Teens and twenty-somethings eat this emo stuff up. It’s cathartic. And The Cambiata clearly moves them — fans have been known to drive through several states to see them live. The band has close to 12,000 MySpace friends as of this writing. They are destined to land a major-label contract.

The easiest way to describe The Cambiata’s music is to ask you to imagine what it would sound like if Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of Radiohead.

Musically, The Cambiata is amazing. Every track is a major production number. There are strings, horns, choruses of background vocals, tape loops, atmospheres… All this is artfully added to the tight musical core created by keyboardist/guitarist Sean Morin, guitarist Miguel Barajas, bassist Stan Dzengelewski and drummer Dan Capaldi.

These songs brood and swoon and unexpectedly erupt with an elegance that’s striking to behold. The opener, “Changing Everything,” is half-stirring, half-suicidal. A lovely acoustic arrangement augmented with strings is repeatedly overshadowed by a Greek Chorus declaring, “This town will kill us all.”

“Hell’s Kitchen” is radio-ready modern rock that’ll never make the airwaves, thanks to several strategically placed “fucks,” as in: “So if it’s me you aim to change / You can fuck right off.” (Like I said, the kids go wild for that sort of sentiment. I’ve just outgrown it.)

The next track, “Chameleon Spit,” is admirably restrained by comparison. Given an opportunity after the first verse to overact, Moulton demurs, barely singing the last line and then coasting into some beautiful ooh-ing before the song regains its sleek, danceable groove. But then we get the overblown ballad “The Gold She Gives,” and we’re back on the Great White Way.

And on it goes, through seven more songs of brilliant, over-emoted, orchestral pop-rock, like the genuinely show-tuney “Alaska” and the elegiac closer, “I-V-I.”

The Cambiata began four years ago as an “experimental screamo” band, and through a couple lineup changes has evolved into a remarkably sophisticated group. There is real nuance and subtlety in their music, and the band deserves heaps of respect for all the compositional chances they take here. Should they eventually decide to dial back the melodrama, they’ll even have old fucks like me on board. - The Bollard

"The Cambiata on"

On January 13th, 2009 – my seventeenth birthday, and exactly a year since my love for Portland, Maine's The Cambiata began to blossom – The Cambiata released their highly-anticipated, self-titled second album, the second disc in less than year since the prior February's To Heal. The five songs on the EP were unthinkably good, but how would a full-length fare?

Most people who listened to To Heal will say that a few of the songs were far too long and wrapped up in what they had created ("Purple," "Roswell"), whereas I personally disagree. Those songs were meant to be as they stand. Taking note of this, the band, therefore, have presented eleven tracks, all of which run under the five minute mark with the exception of one. The disc takes on the difficult task of taking a song meant to linger and condensing it into the three-four minute zone, and it works – most of the time.

Songs such as "Changing Everything," the beautiful opener, and the harsh "For Zelda Fitzgerald" were given the right amount of what made tracks such as "Sidestepping" and "Cut You Losses" from the last disc so good for being so "short," so to speak. However, the key thing to remember is that lingering phrase "most of the time." There are times ("The Gold She Gives," "Machine Of God," "Alaska") where The Cambiata become a bit too self-conscious of their goal and desert some good tracks that just needed a little more development. This is not to say that they’re not on the right track – they are so close to capturing perfection, it’s not even funny.

In terms of sound, however, there are no complaints. The band remains solid, and the most notable improvement is in Chris Moulton’s vocals. While they were brutally beautiful, the vocals could get out of hand. Moulton does a great job not to get carried away and to back off when need be. Lyrically, they’ve improved as well – Moulton delivers one-liners with his own sense of subtlety, as heard in "Hell's Kitchen": "So if it’s me you aim to change/ You can fuck right off." He mumbles, as if reluctant, and laments, "This town will kill us all" on "Changing Everything." In "For Zelda Fitzgerald," the track most reminiscent of To Heal on the self-titled record, we hear such lyrics as, "Lord! I saw a pagan at the market/all proud and sorted out/Lord! I saw religion at the market/All brass and mouth-to-mouth!." Moulton screeches, hisses, and struggles to keep control. While it is a strong track, the vocals can be a bit too much.

While the orchestral appeal remains – violins, brass, and percussion – the band keep a sense of minimalism about them, merely coinciding with the added instruments rather than basking in them. The band is humbled by their presence, a warm and chilling backup.

Despite all this, it’s certainly not the "worst," so to speak, but it’s not their "greatest." The band needs to continue making ground towards finding a center in the technical aspect, and they will prosper. This is the best band in Maine, hands down. Show some love, AP. They deserve nothing less. -

"The Cambiata Releases Their Third Album"

If you haven't been stricken curious enough to check out your local Alternative Rock heroes, The Cambiata, your loses are stacking up. With their third self-titled album, The Cambiata renews an unspoken vow to keep metamorphosing and developing an unmatched sound.

The Cambiata on MySpace
Rich with the vast musicality familiar to the five-some, the self-titled album is a more thematically meditative work than the volcanic thrust of its predecessor. Equally emotional and waxing more melodic, 'The Cambiata' is like the cigarette after the sex of 'To Heal'.

Appealing to a wide range of ages and musical tastes, The Cambiata have been making themselves available to the all-ages crowd since they started this thing. What they have to offer may be a striking contrast to the mainstream contemporary rock that much of the all- ages crowd is accustomed to. Bringing a dose of intelligence and grace to the 'hard rock alternative' scene, it's no wonder the kids "keep falling for it" (as one local disc jockey put it at the release show the other night).

Stacking up numerous accolades including Portland Phoenix Awards for Best Live Act in 2007 and 2008 and Best Album in 2008, the group could sweep up a couple in 2009 with the album released just last week. Having made The Portland Press Herald's 'Top Ten Maine Bands to Watch' in January of 2008, the ensemble has been picking up relentless static since their formation in 2006.

With that said, I'm disappointed that I forgot to get my copy of 'The Cambiata' signed at the show the other night (I was spending a little too much time in the 21+ area). Good thing they will be at Bull Moose Music to provide and sign copies of the album in three locations this weekend.

Chris Moulton (vocals), Miguel Barajas (lead guitar, loops), Sean Morin (guitar, rhodes, keys, loops), Stan Dzengelewski (bass, keys) and Dan Capaldi (drums, percussion, xylophone) co-write songs for The Cambiata. They will all write on your copy of the album if you bring it along or buy one at Bull Moose in Scarborough on January 16th, in Lewiston on the 17th, and in Bangor on the 18th. Experience the 'Best Live Show' in Portland on January 24th at The Big Easy when The Cambiata share a stage with Dominic and The Lucid and The School Spirit Mafia. -


LP: "The Cambiata" 2009

1. Changing Everything* (currently recieving radio airplay on Portland's WCYY 94.3, Bangor's WHSN 89.3)
2. Hell's Kitchen* (currently recieving radio airplay on Portland's WCYY 94.3, Bangor's WHSN 89.3)
3. Chameleon Spit
4. The Gold She Gives*
5. For Zelda Fitzgerald*
6. House Fire
7. Machine of God
8. Surgery*
9. Ladybug
10. Alaska
11. I-V-I

EP: "To Heal" 2008

1. All in All Julie*
2. Sidestepping Versus Splitting Heirs
3. Purple*
4. Cut Your Losses
5. Roswell

LP: "Into The Night" 2006

1. Reign of Apples
2. I Know
3. Shards of Pornography*
4. Frankenstein
5. The First Positivism*
6. The Colour of Women
7. Damagged Luggage
8. Frantic Like Fiction
9. Once, In A Minor Manor

* Suggested Tracks



The Cambiata are an American indie alternative rock band from outside Portland, Maine. The band is composed of Chris Moulton (vocals), Sean Morin (rhodes, piano, guitar, loops), Miguel Barajas (ambient lead guitar, loops), Stan Dzengelewski (bass guitar), and Dan Capaldi (drums, percussion, xylophone). Their music and lyrics are moody, dynamic and filled with tension. They sometimes incorporate strings, horns, and other orchestral instruments into their songs.

Formed in 2004, they originally started out as an experimental heavy band. They incorporated elements of jazz, post-hardcore, metal, and pop into their music sometimes all in one song. In 2006 they released their debut album Into The Night. It was very popular locally especially the song Shards of Pornography. The band went through line-up and style changes and released the Ep To Heal in 2008. To Heal left behind the breakdowns and screams in favor of interesting chord changes, melodies and new and expansive instrumental textures such as strings, horns, and other orchestral instruments.

On January 9th 2009, The Cambiata released their third album. It's been the top selling local cd at Bullmoose Music since it's release.

Portland Phoenix Awards:
Best Live Act (2008)
Best Live Act (2007)
Best Album (2007)
Nominated for Best Local Act (2008), Best Rock Act (2008)

"The rate at which this Portland, ME, five-piece can shuffle through sounds is certainly impressive, but it's the tenacity and precision with which they approach the varied endeavors that makes them a modern rock band really worth listening to." - CD BABY

“Their new, self-titled album is masterful — a passionate, gorgeous, intelligent and challenging collection of 11 exceptionally well-crafted compositions. These songs brood and swoon and unexpectedly erupt with an elegance that’s striking to behold.” - Chris Busby of The Bollard

“The Cambiata are a band just about every true music lover should freak over, be they classically inclined or math rockers or old school be-boppers. The band projects so much intensity as though every note was an agonizing decision and yet was the only one that could have ever existed in that moment.” - Sam Pfeifle of The Portland Phoenix

“Their music embodies eeriness, melodrama, and fine tuned flair. Their live performance sounds as crisp as their record tracks. Just when I think I can compare their somber sound to someone else’s, they tweak it and I am left believing they are original.” - Jill Harrigan of The Noise

“…young guys with a surprising array of eclectic influences from a wide palate of genres…vocalist Chris Moulton, just incredible” - Mark Curdo of WCYY

“…performance is less of a rock show and more of a hypnotism…players all sway and sweat, singing along and getting caught up in the current of the music.” - MaineToday

“…their songwriting technique showed, pulling as much from academics as from the rock sphere.” - Chad Chamberlain of The Portland Phoenix

“The band has been playing gigs since 2004, toured around the country a couple of times…interest from record labels.” - Portland Press Herald

“…the most technically accomplished group in town.” - Christopher Gray + Deirdre Fulton of The Portland Phoenix

“…crooning vocals (think somewhere between Daniel Johns and a young Daryl Palumbo)…with influences like The Beatles, Radiohead, Silverchair, and Jeff Buckley.” –

“Local favorites The Cambiata always win big with their intelligent, evolved brand of modern rock.” – SPACE Gallery

“…smart rock ruffians, The Cambiata.” - Arts Guide Portland