Cabbaggage - Microscripts (Album Review)

While the name of Vancouverite Levi Kempster's musical project, Cabbaggage, is a befuddling assemblage of letters, his music is anything but. Kempster's simplistic musical phrases utilise the emotionally stirring capabilities of music to craft alluringly escapist, reverb-laden soundscapes that are easily identifiable and dissectible. Cabbaggage's recent album Microscripts is dedicated to Robert Walser, a Swiss writer considered one of the most mysterious writers of his time. The piano pieces on the album are meditations on corresponding "microscripts" that Walser wrote. The pieces attempt to convey a variety of things, including specific subject matters of the microscripts, overarching impressions, and Walser's own life, walks, poverty, and mental breakdown.


Walser's "microscripts" refer to his practice of writing in a tiny, almost illegible script, which further emphasises the concept of miniaturisation in his work. Kempster relates these themes of minimalism with a sparsity of notes, such as on the soft-as-sand "M. 72: Autumn (II)" or the stretched out sustains of the darkly curious "M. 23 and 407: A Drive". Kempster's most notable technique is morphing clean, high-frequency piano lines into vague sounds shrouded in a veil of botched EQ. This application is effective in the tombic, slowed-to-oblivion atmosphere of "Pencil Sketch," or the buzzy static of "New Year's Page," which sounds like it was recorded with a 4-track cassette machine and an old dusty microphone; sensuously earthy and present, hanging in the air like perfume.


Despite the obscurity of experimental audio production and the hefty source material, Kempster's music is sincere and unpretentious; nestled between the dolefully sedated elegance of "So here was a book again" and the sprawling minor key terror sound of the 11-plus-minute centrepiece, "A will to shake that refined individual", lies the playfully repetitive "M. 419: The failure to prize the chance" and the dashing minimalism of "M. 47: As I was instructed by a book”.

Though not as brief as one may expect when considering the inspiration behind the album, Microscripts by Cabbaggage is a pleasantly easy album to listen to, its minimalistic spirit, make it so. However not all is as it may seem, and the subtle moments of spice and intrigue, mainly via minor keys and static manipulations, are the true nod to Walser’s work.