Can world beat and electronica fired guitar instrumentals co-exist with luscious soundscapes of Fripp & Eno vintage and intimate acoustic vocal ballads straight out of the Nick Drake playbook? They can and do in Spaghetti Eastern Music, the critically-acclaimed solo project of genre-leaping New York and Hudson Valley-based guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Sal Cataldi.
Cataldi’s cheekily debut album, the instrumental and vocal offering “Sketches of Spam,” and his 2020 instrumental singles, “Her Lemon Peel Raincoat (Because It’s Raining)” and “Peace Within,” have drawn notice from critics at outlets including The New York Times, Time Out NY, Jazz Times and The Huffington Post and airplay on 150 radio station and podcasts across the globe.
With his new maxi-single, “Blues for A Lost Cosmonaut,” Cataldi ventures again to the ambient sphere of his sonic lexicon, with an instrumental chapter of evolving minimalism with a deep space vibe.
The piece unfolds slowly in a series of waves, an aural mediation built upon a three-note motif which returns periodically throughout the nine-plus minute composition. Peaceful synth drones and echoed piano pads are complemented with a duo of sustained Ebow guitars and melodic acoustic guitars. The middle movement, at about 4 minutes in, evolves to more dissonant waves and tension before returning to a calm and cavernous ambience for the concluding three minutes of the piece.
“The inspiration came from watching some old videos of the early Soviet space program, especially the first space walk by Alexei Leonov,” says Cataldi. “It was about recreating the contrasting moods and feelings that the film of this moment imparts. There’s peace, wonder and weightless combined with the realization that this could spin out of control at any moment, as it did for some early Soviet space explorers.”
“It’s just a fun exercise in soundscapes, in impulsive sound painting recorded in the wee small hours during the lonely moments of the Covid quarantine,” adds Cataldi. The track is the final chapter of a three-piece venture into this arena started with Spaghetti Eastern’s 2020 releases, “Her Lemon Peel Raincoat” and “Peace Within.”
The single is available for download and streaming via Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Spotify and other services (Bad Egg Records 5155). It was recorded by Cataldi at the studios aboard his houseboat in Port Washington, Long Island, Houseboat Garlic Knot Studios, and at his Sonic Garden in West Saugerties, New York (1/4 mile from the legendary Big Pink house made famous by The Band) during the Covid-19 crisis.
Cataldi’s much-varied sound is the product of an insatiable musical soul and a record collection rivaling the Smithsonian’s. His debut album was an hour-plus journey through contrasting moods, with instrumentals inspired by 70’s Miles, Krautrock, Ennio Morricone, Bhangra, Fripp & Eno and ECM’s icy guitar great Terje Rypdal giving way to bare-bones acoustic vocal tunes – ones oft anchored on unusual tunings, with narratives that chart the course of difficult loves, in styles that range from Brit Folk to Bossa Nova.
The New York Times says “Cataldi’s funk-tinged original instrumentals and acoustic vocal tunes have a beat unmistakably his own” while Time Out New York writes: “Cataldi’s largely instrumental, Eastern-influenced jams are infused with some delicate guitar work and hauntingly moody atmosphere.” Newsday adds: “Mad scientist-guitarist-keyboardist Cataldi brings da funk and throws it in a mixer with electronica, bebop and blues.” Called “truly excellent” by The Village Voice, “a wild ride, a fun name for some very good music” by Radio Woodstock, “beautiful and unique” by WFUV’s Mixed Bag, “triumphantly funkified” by UPI and “a jazz virtuoso without the need to prove it” by Aquarian Weekly. Almanac Weekly’s John Burdick proclaims Cataldi: “a unique voice who conjures a surprising blend of exploratory fusion, electronica and indie song craft, from the Ennio Morricone overtones anticipated by his handle to currents of Krautrock, techno, modal folk and various world music styles.”: East Coast Rocker/Rolling Stone writer John Swenson, the man who penned the liner notes to Frank Zappa’s “Shut Up n Play Yer Guitar,” may have put it best, “he’s the hippie guitarist playing to another dimension” while Hudson Valley One recently called Cataldi’s music: “Part Sergio Leone fever dream, part Ravi Shankar raga, a whirling dervish of musical creation.”
The authority on all things Beatles, The Beatles Examiner praised his debut album’s “ sharp soaring guitar jams” and called the distinctive cover of “Ticket to Ride,” “incredible, a wonderfully moody re-imagining” of the Lennon classic. Huffington Post dubs his music “the perfect soundtrack for New York City life,” while WFMU’s Irene Trudel calls it “charming melodic and off-center.” Popular Zappa fan sites Idiot Bastard and United Mutations gave raves to his reinvention of “Sleep Dirt,” a Zappa acoustic instrumental rarity, which appears on his debut CD as “Nap Dust.” Spaghetti Eastern is now enjoying airplay on radio around the globe including WFUV’s “Mixed Bag,” SiriusXM, Sonic FM, WDST-Radio Woodstock, WFMU, Oakland’s KALX, NYC-area college station including WCWP, WDFU, WVRK and WHPC and many more.
In 2020, Cataldi was making news and more beautiful sounds with “One Act Sonix,” the critically-buzzed about debut album from his spoken word/music side project, The Vapor Vespers, with noted Alaskan playwright/slam poet Mark Muro. Cataldi is also one half of the improvisational and ambient Hudson Valley-based guitar and efx duo, Guitars A Go Go, with Rick Warren. Their first single, a 12-minute improv opus called “The Volcano Lovers,” was a preview of their bold experimentation featured in the June 2020 CD debut, “Travel Advisory.” A live album, taken from a series of livestream performances recorded at the Greenkill art gallery in Kingston, N.Y., will soon be released.