When Nedelle Torrisi was a girl, she wanted to write and perform musicals, envisioning productions halfway between Rodgers and Hammerstein and Bertolt Brecht.
“I have tapes of me singing heartfelt ballads about unrequited love when I was 8,” she confesses.
She’s finally making her dreams come true with Cryptacize, a trio she founded with songwriting partner Chris Cohen and drummer Michael Carreira.
The songs on the band’s debut, “Dig That Treasure,” which will be released in February on Asthmatic Kitty, are moody and theatrical vignettes that give us dramatic musical snapshots marked by unexpected chord changes and eccentric rhythms. Electric guitars, autoharps and minimal percussion give the songs a wide-open, experimental feeling that’s complemented by the oblique lyrics.
On “How Did the Actor Laugh?” Cohen’s cracked vocals and dissonant guitar clash with Carreira’s kick drum to portray an alienated guy staring at his image ina cracked mirror.
“Say You Will” is an enigmatic waltz, with Torrisi’s lilting vocals and autoharp inviting a lover to shed his inhibitions and join the cosmic dance.
A stately gong opens “Willpower,” a regretful melody that likens difficult memories to ghosts drifting through a sleepless night. Torrisi’s languid vocals make it one of the set’s most haunting tracks.
“We didn’t set out to write songs about our personal feelings,” Torrisi explains. “They’re more portraits of a character, or of a dramatic mood. Chris has an experimental musical approach that’s really challenging. I write in a more straightforward pop style and Michael comes from a New Music background, and has a stark, bare-bones approach to percussion. On most songs, he usually plays a single instrument, but he’s really musical as well as rhythmic.”
Torrisi and Cohen collaborate on the songs, with Carreira adding his percussive magic as the arrangements progress.
Cryptacize evolved out of The Curtains, a Cohen band that hired Torrisi to play guitar. Torrisi already had a solo songwriting career, but when the two merged their styles, the songs started veering off in odd directions. They hired Carreira after seeing a video of him playing percussion on YouTube.
Coincidently enough, he also lived in Oakland, and the trio clicked on first meeting. “We’ve only been a band for six months,” Torrisi says.
“We’re left of center for sure, but we’re not post rock. Chris may be from a different planet musically, but the fusion of our styles is fluid, if a bit skewed.”
IF YOU GO Cryptacize
Where: Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk St. San Francisco
When: 9:30 p.m.
Contact: (415) 923-0923; www.hemlocktavern.com