15 June 2002

Caural Newsletter #2

Paint EP’s “Clear Vinyl” backing old-school skater Rodney Mullen!

I am excited to say that the closing track of my Paint EP, “Clear
 Vinyl,” was used in On Video’s Winter 2002 skate video. The video
 features many new and old skaters including Rodney Mullen, whose 
influence more or less created freestyle street skating as we know it 
today… I was more comfortable providing a soundtrack for footage of
him than I was skinning knees and elbows like I used to do back in the
 day. For you skate fans, this video can be picked up in skate shops
 everywhere… I’d recommend Push Skateboards (40 E Chicago Ave, right 
near the red line: 312-573-9996).

Stars On My Ceiling LP out now!

My second full-length album- and first for Chicago’s Chocolate
 Industries- was released domestically June 11th. It contains songs
 written over the course of last summer, and definitely fits the
 season! You can find it most anywhere; online purchasers should visit 
amazon.com, cdnow.com, etc. The Japanese version released on Tokyo’s
 P-Vine label back in March contains an extra song for all you die-hard
 collectors. Anyway, here’s what XLR8R had to say:

“In a genre where accessibility is often regarded as suspect, I almost 
hesitate to tell you that there’s absolutely no one who won’t love 
this; electronix heads and b-boys, four-year-olds and grandmothers.
 OK, maybe I’m overstating by a smidgen, but Caural’s gossamer guitars
 and shirred hip-hop beats are quite simply undeniable, carrying the
 feel good appeal of the Avalanches, the melancholy of Four Tet, and a 
happy-sad nostalgia for a time and a place you can’t put your finger 
on. Over cracked mudflat breaks, technicolor tumbleweeds kick up
whimsical jigs and dust devils morph into fantastic, ecstatic
 whipporwhils. It’s a beautiful place in the country, and I’m buying 
property there now.” – Philip Sherburne

Chocolate Industries’ Urban Renewal Program on the way…

After almost two years in the making, Chocolate Industries is releasing 
the first installment of its Urban Renewal Program this coming August-
a compilation including myself, Prefuse 73, Mos Def, Miho Hatori of
 Cibo Matto, Souls of Mischief, Tortoise, El-P, Aesop Rock, DJ Food, 
Mr. Lif, RJD2, Diverse, While, and Themselves (Dose one and Jel). The
 first single (Aesop Rock & El-P) is out now, with the second (Mos Def
 and Chicago’s Diverse) to follow this July. I have contributed a remix 
for the next single- Miho Hatori’s song “Night Light”- originally
 produced by Prefuse 73.

Caural featured on Apartment B’s New York artist compilation

Another compilation coming soon is on a New York label called
 Apartment B. Its title “Various Artists: New York” explains it all;
 ironically, many of the featured artists (including yours truly) have 
since left NYC! Regardless, snippets of songs by Blitter (Hrvatski),
 I-Sound & Daniel Raffel, So Takahashi, Zammuto, and others are on the 
website for your listening pleasure:

Songs from Stars On My Ceiling in an independent film, “Firecracker”

Songs from Stars On My Ceiling have been chosen for an independent
 film entitled “Firecracker,” built around the Los Angeles nightclub.
 Other artists on the soundtrack include Moodyman, Klute, Calibre, A 
Tribe Called Quest, and Bernard Wright. Stay tuned to PBS for its 

Who is that singing on Longshot’s album?

Longshot, a new emcee coming out of Chicago, is dropping his debut 
album later this month, featuring guest artists such as Diverse,
 Juice, myself, Freebasic, Claudia of Family Tide, and Vicious da 
Canibal; production by DJ Lok, k.kruz, DJ Anomaly, & Ted Sirota. I am
 truly excited about this album, and you should absolutely keep your
 eyes open for it!

I am busy working on new material for release later this year,
 collaborating with some folks and getting excited for some summer
 changes! Thanks for reading, and happy listening!

13 June 2002

[DISCOGRAPHY] Souls of Mischeif - Spark (Caural Remix)

Souls Of Mischief: Spark (Caural Remix) (Chocolate Industries- Unreleased 2002)
aka "Summer On Cassette"

"Summer On Cassette" was a song I had been passing around for a couple of years. Seven at Chocolate Industries asked me to remix Souls of Mischeif's song "Spark" from the Urban Renewal Program- originally produced by RJD2- and of course I flipped it completely differently. Well, I suppose - fearing that it wasn't Hip-Hop enough (thank God!) - it was scrapped and he got Edan to remix it for the 12". Meanwhile, I had been rocking it in my live sets -vocals and all- and passing it around to friends. I had kind of forgotten about the track otherwise, but then Carlos Nino got in touch with me and asked for the instrumental. Well, he played it in a mix he did for the Gilles Peterson show in the UK where it was called "Spark Remix," and it found its way onto United Airlines radio programming. Plans for its release as a 7" on Chocolate Industries were made and then abandoned, so the instrumental finally saw the light of day on my LP Remembering Today.

10 June 2002

[DISCOGRAPHY] Caural - Stars On My Ceiling

Stars On My Ceiling (Chocolate Industries, 2002)
(P-Vine, 2002)
PCD-23233 (Japan)
Format: 2LP & CD

1. All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows
2. Stick To Modeling
3. Camphor
4. Retrospect
5. Sipping Snake Blood Wine
6. Mint & A Hospital Watercolor
7. For Earsnot (NYC)
8. Lilac
9. Red Sunshine
10. 99 Cent Garden
11. Crush
12. Ultra Vivid
13. Untitled
14. The Shadow Of Someone I Never Knew
*15. Basement Still-Life (Japan only)

Artwork by Kid Acne


Caural's musical journey began in the summer of 1984 with a Fisher-Price cassette recorder bumping the sounds of Thomas Dolby and the Beat Street soundtrack: the perfect backdrop for long summer days of skateboarding and break dancing. Now wrapped in nostalgia and headphones, the 24 year-old multi-instrumentalist and super human hailing from the city of wind takes you on his sophomore outing, once again delivering his unique blend of influences. The result is a potent dose of neck-snapping abstract soundscapes rooted in Hip Hop and drenched in the atmosphere of everyday life. With upcoming compilation appearances, remix work and tour plans, Caural is currently in the studio finishing up his EP slated for the fall, featuring new instrumentals, cutting edge lyricists, and a remix by Savath and Savalas. Until then, Stars On My Ceiling gives you a look at the sky through Caural's eyes.


Alarm (Lucky Issue #13)
The title of this album is a fitting one, since the prime objective appears to be taking the listener on a journey to some other place. From the spastic beats, to the pulsating drum machines, to the bizarre effects and synthesizers, the music here does not appear to be of this world. But it doesn't sound like just another trip-hop album, and this distinction comes from the adventures that are to be had within these fourteen tracks, which utilize stylings that range from the usual electronics, to jazz, funk, and R&B. The spacey effects and assortment of side journeys prevent this from being too straightforward and predictable. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of upbeat and danceable numbers, but in an effort to spare listeners from suffering through an album's worth of monotony, Stars on My Ceiling also has a lot more to offer.
- (EF)

CMJ New Music Monthly (May 2002)
Zachary Mastoon, the 24-year-old sound collagist who records as Caural, claims a childhood love of rap. But, it's less a lifelong immersion for him than a wistful memory: when breakbeats appear in his music, they emerge and then recede. This blurry relationship to hip-hop makes the Chicago-area-based Caural hard to define and his second album a small treasure. Mastoon works with samples, but he's neither low-tech spontaneous like a turntablist, mixing sounds on the fly, nor high-tech crafty like a rap producer, looping hooks on PCs. Built only with a sampler-sequencer, the music of Caural can be called mid-tech, which may explain its warmth. Mastoon finds a burst of sound and then discovers the melody and counterpoint by restating it in different contexts. The result is dreamlike and more effective than if he just dropped fat beats over it. The wandering "Lilac" contrasts piano chords over so many sounds, it's like Mastoon can't decide which juxtaposition sounds best. The danger with creating this kind of album is where it ends up- most electronic acts don't set out to make unobtrusive background music, but sometimes that's how they're remembered: just ask St. Germain. But Mastoon seems to want to create rich background music, and there's no shame in his modest success.
- Chris Molanphy

Exclaim (April 14, 2002)
Just like Prefuse 73 manages to pull off with jaw-dropping success, Caural has the gift of taking dozens of breaks and electronic bleeps and has the skill to slot them in the correct spots to create beautiful music. Though not quite the musical genius Prefuse 73 is, Caural still has his foot in the door with a strong full-length under his belt. Caural's Paint EP was a pleasing little sampler of four cuts he had pieced together but who was to know it would lead to the advanced sounds he's produced on Stars on My Ceiling - an audio orgasm at times. Maybe best described as melodic and abstract hip-hop, Caural never seems to stay in one spot for too long and flips the script between tracks from dusty piano grooves, to deep jazz, and back to neck-snapping beats. "All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows" starts things off correct with a good dose of thumping beats later wrapped around a wall of tribal sounds. Then later the kid proves he can create the same amount of stereo pleasure by stripping things way down such as he does with "Lilac" leaving the occasional sudden gap and faint beats lingering or like "Untitled" with very minimal brush drums and soft, delicate guitar. Regardless what direction Caural chooses to hit you from he tends to succeed in painting a unique melodic gem.
- Noel Dix

Ghetto Blaster (Issue #7)
The sound maverick returns to drop another dose of hip-hop inspired beats. The Chicagoan comes with the raw literally. I mean what's more raw than composing beats. The multi-instrumentalist produces an ode to hip-hop that would have Beck in porno theaters in a rain coat wacking off. Don't get me wrong, he's no Premiere or RZA, but Caural gets downright creative with his work. In "For Earsnot (NYC)," Earsnot is a graffiti writer who has accomplished to scrawl his tag on more spots in NYC in a quicker amount of time than Joz or Easy did (that's for the graff heads). My question would be why the title. A poignant batch of tracks, Stars on My Ceiling is creative and innovative. Fifteen tracks deep and about an hour long- you'll enjoy it.
- John Arambulo

Lumpen (Issue 86)
I remember Seven pimping Caural (a.k.a. Zachary Mastoon) to me a year and a half ago when the Paint EP- which I ended up liking a lot- was about to drop... now the intrepid samplerkind is back with a third offering from his personal sonic landscape, Stars on My Ceiling.

I say personal sonic landscape because not only- like any talented artist- does Mastoon create a distinct, smoothly transitional mood across the entire album, but manages to build into every element the suggestion of his mindstate at the moment of its inspiration.

Like DJ Shadow and others (like Kruder & Dorfmeister), Caural has the ability to craft music that simultaneously rocks the beat and projects nearly tangible images directly into one's brain while listening. It would be nice to hear some collaboration action from this guy.
- Cowboy Joe Collier

Skyscraper (Issue 12)
I've heard a fair amount of hype about Caural, a young producer from Chicago, and as is usually the case with such a scenario, I received something quite different from what I expected. Stars on My Ceiling is one of those records that could either be filed in the hip-hop or the electronic section of your favorite record store. It's funny though, the first thing I thought of when listening to the album was the old New York City band Liquid Liquid. Blame it on the percussion of "All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows" and the opening bass harmonics of "Stick to Modeling" (the album's first and second tracks), but that's what came to mind. The rest of the album sounds more contemporary, straddling the line between hip-hop beats and electronica in a way slightly similar to Prefuse 73. "Sipping Snake Blood Wine" has a decidedly high BPM, while a few tracks are pretty beat-y in a funky way. It's pointless to attempt to resolve a definitive genre for Caural though, especially in the present musical climate. Unless we're talking about big ol' boom-bap hip-hop beats, I'm not the biggest fan of instrumental albums. But Caural holds his own. This didn't get my head nodding (I doubt that was the intention, anyway) but it's a nice, smooth listen. It's the kind of album that I find well suited to a long overnight highway drive or rainy weekend afternoon. And yes, Stars on My Ceiling was better than what I had expected it to be.
- Konrad Jandavs

XLR8R (April 2002)
In a genre where accessibility is often regarded as suspect, I almost hesitate to tell you that there is absolutely no one that won't love this: electronix heads and b-boys, four-year-olds and grandmothers. OK, maybe I'm overstating by a smidgen, but Caural's gossamer guitars and shirred hip-hop beats are quite simply undeniable, carrying the feel-good appeal of the Avalanches, the melancholy of Four Tet, and a happy-sad nostalgia for a time and a place you can't put your finger on. Over cracked mudflat breaks, technicolor tumbleweeds kick up whimsical jigs and dust devils morph into fantastic, ecstatic whipporwhils. It's a beautiful place in the country, and I'm buying property there now.
- Philip Sherburne

Aiding & Abetting
It is my firm conviction that the ability of DJs to create full arrays of sound using sampling, sequencers, drum machines, synthesizers, and the like has been highly underrated by a lot of folks. It's as if the mere use of technology somehow takes the soul out of the art. There's a similar argument going on these days in the painting (art) world concerning the possible use of lenses and other aids by the Dutch masters, and I stand firmly on the side of the folks who say it's the end result that matters. Caural isn't just a technology-driven outfit, but there's no way the sounds on this disc could've been created using the old cut-and-paste methods. The splices couldn't have been this smooth, this seamless. I'm sure plenty of folks will toss this right into the trip-hop pile, and that's not an unfair association. There are plenty of creative side trips and spacey grooves to be had here. But I hear more. The title of the album is revealing. I think Caural wanted to create an entire universe of sound. The folks came pretty durn close, too. From the first instant, the sound transported me to another realm, one with inverted laws of physics. Where the sky lies beneath the feet. I had to let go to truly grasp the full ideas expressed by this disc. And in that way, I guess, this album is one fine trip.
-Jon Worley

His third release following an LP for Toshoklabs and an EP for his label Chocolate Industries, Chicago resident Zachary Mastoon (aka Caural) creates a perpetually dreamy beat collage on his 2002 hip-hop instrumental set Stars on My Ceiling. Ranging from Prefuse 73-like rhythmic abstractions, sampling urban audacity likeness to Squarepusher, and a more organic Boards of Canada aesthetic, this is chillout music for the headmusic sect of both the electronic and post-rock genres, and a healthy mental subversion at that. Highlights include "Stick to Modeling," the haunting bossa on "Sipping Snake Blood Wine," and the AM radio throwback in "Lilac."
- Nic Kincaid

Beginning his musical journey in the summer of '84 with a Fisher Price tape deck bumping one cassette with Thomas Dolby on one side and the "Beat Street" soundtrack on the other, this 24-year-old instrumentalist delivers a unique blend of influences, only hinted at on last year's Paint EP. This fully-matured creature displays all colours of the sonic spectrum, a potent dose of neck-snapping abstract 'scapes rooted in hip-hop and drenched in the atmosphere of life. Kid Koala styled, this sampladelic maestro will go far. Fresh artwork by Kid Acne.

Boston's Weekly Dig (April 24th- May 1st, 2002)
What would be the final outcome if a post-rock band like June of '44 or Tortoise got caught at a battle between DJ Shadow and DJ Krush and somehow their respective styles managed to merge? Just maybe, the bastard creation would take its guise in the form of Caural (a.k.a Zachary Mastoon). Hot on the heels of his Paint EP, Stars on My Ceiling is versatile, with influences spanning from rock to downtempo. Think head-nodding beats, piano loops, and fleeting melodic hooks. Unfortunately, at certain moments, Caural's eyes are bigger than his stomach, and songs become overworked and scattered. Regardless, the album is interesting, as it sharply contrasts the music released by the darker and subtler Chocolate Industries staples: While, Sluta Leta, and Push Button Objects. That said, Stars on My Ceiling is an accessible, if not cohesive, debut full-length and is well worth checking out.
- Andrew Schrock

Both Sides of the Surface
At least one artist comes around that stands out from the rest every year, one whose techniques are understated but will speak volumes to all that stop, look, and listen. This time around, the honors go to Chicago's own Zachary Mastoon aka Caural. Recording for the Chocolate Industries label, he is certainly in good company alongside the genre-bending tactics of Sluta Leta and the block-rocking beats of Push Button Objects and While. Adding his own influences to the mix, Mastoon's outlook on life and music seems full of wide-eyed innocence. At least that's the impression one gets while listening to Stars on My Ceiling.

Hip Hop is the underlying theme, but what happens beyond that falls under a wide spectrum. His beat-making style rivals DJ Shadow's in terms of anchoring his compositions with drums that take over your heart rhythms. Drop the needle on "All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows," symphonic hip-hop against a lush backdrop of samples and percussion. (Then again, I like anything with a little kalimba in it. Nothing makes me chill out faster than the sounds of an African thumb piano). "Red Sunshine" features the same types of juxtaposition. Hard, fist-pumping breaks are front and center, but the playful lilt of Spanish guitars create a nice contrast. "Sipping Snake Blood Wine" continues the jazz descent, almost displaying beats of a broken variety, but held in check by a tight bass line. Then there's the mushroom-enhanced visions of "Mint & A Hospital Watercolor"- stoned enough to conjure up a psychadelic jazz vibe without leaving you reeking of patchouli afterwards. Call it dreamlike soul, call it hip-hop from an alternate universe, call it what you will... just know that Caural is the bomb. And he's just getting started.
- Macedonia

Both Sides of the Surface
(Top 15 of 2002)
Zachary Mastoon will go unnoticed by most people, which is unfortunate. This album is one of the best surprises that 2002 had to offer. Full of wide-eyed innocence, ambitious beats, and rich compositions, this is the soundtrack for a positive outlook and big dreams.
- Macedonia

Dusted Magazine (July 25, 2002)
Zachary Mastoon, a.k.a. Caural, reportedly grew up influenced by the old school pleasures of hip hop. This comes as no surprise while perusing the new double black-wax of Stars on My Ceiling, a grand follow up to his Paint EP. This one-man mixing wonder showcases his talent with a plethora of sampled sounds and a talent for handling many other additional instruments.

Unlike most sample and turntable gurus, Caural’s pieces are more premeditated songs than chance adventures of where the needle drops next. Comparable to genre-ambiguous artists like Fourtet, Tommy Guerrero and req, Caural stems from his hip hop framework into the undefined realm of electronic sound. The first track "All These Days Just Melt Into Tomorrows" melds a straight-forward hard snare beat with chimes that sound like galloping horses into a complicated, deeply structured track rich with meandering bass and heavy drum work. Caural’s organic feel for the samples and beats are elemental to his sound. While most of the music here is instrumental, the subtle jazz arrangements and atmospheric vibes are more original than most downtempo artists.

Chocolate Industries has, with Caural, again found and supported an artist that is fresh, young and original. The label’s recent work with Push-Button Objects, EL-P and Diverse, covers the more lyrical and subterranean roots of hip hop, but Caural differs from the trend. Stars on My Ceiling showcases the confusion of fusion that integrates lighthearted fuzzy feedback and samples with the high-hats and snares.

While current PC technology now allows your next door neighbor’s kid to throw down beats and loops quicker than ever before, Caural skillfully constructs the pieces of each track with a sampler and sequencer, the way it was meant to be done. Every song on Stars on My Ceiling is accessible, fitting rather perfectly into long drives and the late nights of mellow, undefined goals. The combinations of tight beats, guitars, and the old dusties, in cuts like "Sipping Snake Blood Wine" meet somewhere between DJ Cam, Fourtet, Beneath Autumn Sky, the touches of the Function 8 crew and even the experimental ends of Mira Calix. Mastoon dials out from the area of Chicago and is in the process of making a follow up to this wonderful release, but why hurry? Caural and Chocolate Industries have brought you the beat-oriented album of the summer, minus the bling-bling.
- Nate Howe

Dusted Groove
We'd guess this probably falls somewhere in one of the "intelligent" or "ambient" or "electronica" sub-genres, but this has a much warmer feel, clearly sampled largely from actual instruments and records, rather than relying on synthesized tones, and with a more energetic groove than you'd expect from some chill out type record. Quite jazzy at times, with nice space and textures, but like a lot of stuff on Chocolate Industries, defying easy classification. Fourteen tracks in all, mostly song length, but a few shorter interlude type numbers, including "All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows", "Stick to Modeling", "Retrospect", "For Earsnot (NYC)", "Red Sunshine", "99 Cent Garden" and "The Shadow of Someone I Never Knew".

Caural may not be prolific, but he makes up for it in quality. Caural (aka Zachary Mastoon) released Paint, a four-track EP, last summer. This summer, he blesses us with a full-length. Caural's music is soulful and melodic. It's also light and airy and chock-full of instruments. On "Stick to Modeling," vocal bits swirl over deep bass thumps. A wicked break is mixed in about half-way through, and the track flows into the next cut's piano intro. "Camphor" combines a hip-hop beat with jazzy piano and bass, while "Retrospect" is a brief abstract interlude. "Sipping Snake Blood Wine" is even more jazz-inspired, with live bass, horn, and what sound like reversed vocal samples. "Mint & A Hospital Watercolor" combines a gorgeous guitar melody with a downtempo beat and the sound of crackling vinyl. "99 Cent Garden" is my favorite track (clocking in at 40 seconds) with cut-up samples a la Prefuse 73. At times this album reminds me of Luke Vibert's music. It's almost impossible to tell what's a sample and what isn't (if anything isn't). Nonetheless, Caural's a master at this genre. He's much more sophisticated than Amon Tobin, for example, with tracks that are never one-trick ponies.
- Jacob Arnold

When releases like this show in the office mail, it's both a burden and a blessing. You quickly realize use of the word "eclectic" offers no help when it comes to explaining a release such as this and you're left trying to explain the nature of the music without knocking you upside the head with boring metaphors. On that note, let's give it a shot, shall we? 24 year-old Chicago-based Caural brings his sophomore release and it could be best described as something you'd find off the Ninja Tune label, however he's on the excellent Chocolate Industries. Caural builds songs with his multi-instrumentalist approach to an instrumental and hip-hop based production style. Dirty breaks and jazz constructions give way to moody piano work, acoustic guitar and odd samples into work that focuses more on the general atmosphere and emotion of the piece then any proper song arrangement. You find the need to listen to the album over and over to really grasp the larger picture because, while subtle, many details are contained within each song. While the overall downtempo sound isn't anything new, the strengths are in the arrangement of the tracks. Caural is anything but predictable and drops a lot of beautiful surprises. The spectrum runs from gritty to lush and atmospheric and- best of all- you can feel the emotion and human elements in his music. Perhaps it's because of [his] tendency to stay away from the synths and stick to acoustic sounds, or maybe he just knows how to write a damn fine melody.
- Justin Hardison

IlManifesto.it (Italian)
Non e secondario, leggendo le note biogrfiche di questo artista hip hop 24enne, che Caural venga da Chicago. Gia, perche nonostante il nostro sia da sempre amante della cultura hip hop e di fatto l'impalcatura di questo bellissimo disco sia costruita intorno a ritmiche hip hop meravigliose, senza mai una sbavatura, quasi sempre "phat" come dovrebbero essere in un disco di questo genere, Caural pensa hip hop con in testa una vaga forma di post rock che fa suonare tutto diverso da qualsiasi disco di hip hop strumentale, americano o inglese che sia. Senza far uso di rime, Caural construisce allora quattordici suite di hip-hop strumentale zeppe di punti di rottura, di sorprendenti cambi repentini di umore e di atmosfere, in bilico tra il jazz e una vaga forma di indie post rock, che suonano ancora piu sorprendenti se si pensa che sono incastonate nel lento incedere dei beat al rallentatore di questo disco.
- (G.P.G)

This is not your typical instrumental hip hop album. Maybe it's the things Caural samples, but Stars on My Ceiling feels somehow off-kilter. Twinkling piano lines and what sounds like a guitar played in reverse are some of the elements that create the mood. Plus, toward the end, the songs progressively slow down until the beats are but just a memory.
- (AL)

Say what you will about the Windy City, the musicians living, working and recording music there have a unique and distinctive approach to sound. Caural, Zachary Mastoon, is no exception. Like Tortoise, Cul de Sac, Jim O’Rourke, (is there something in the water?), Caural gifts us with a dreamy surrealistic pillow of sound. This is not the pillow that you rest your head on; rather it’s a pillow that you rest your head in. I can’t get this recording out of my MP3 player. If you like sound journeys, experience this record. A personal Poptart fav since 2002. 11/20/2003 -Don Yates

An adventurous album of jazzy instrumental hip hop from this Chicago DJ who skillfully blends a variety of shifting atmospheric textures and exotic flavors with hard hip-hop beats. 11/15/2002 -Don Yates

Other Music
Chicago native Zachary Mastoon (aka Caural) has a fantastic knack for crafting incredibly organic instrumental electronic music by way of post-rock styling over hip-hop production. For his sophomore release, "Stars On My Ceiling," Mastoon samples acoustic instruments and sounds, from the human voice to the piano to handclaps, placing them over dirty breaks and jazzy compositions. Similar in concept to Amon Tobin (sans Tobin’s darker textures) and certainly more accessible than many of his Chocolate Industries labelmates, the arrangements throughout are mysterious yet sweetly melodic. "All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows" is propelled by sampled breaks and layers of cowbells augmented by the melodic repetition of a thumb piano. The theme is carried into the second track and becomes more haunting with the backward manipulation of a human voice. Throughout the album, Mastoon chooses the piano as his favorite source for sampling but he frequently utilizes distinct sounds like reversed tape loops or percussive noises to accent changes. Quite often, these also exist as the main melodies. In "Sipping Snake Blood Wine," a wind chime glides along a slippery bass line until the song deconstructs into the hyper refrain of jazz drumming and a collage of saxophones that buzzes like flies. Once again, Mastoon has expertly crafted an album that in spite of technology remains distinctly human and melodic. Recommended.
- (GH)

Pitchfork (August 5, 2002)
There are several musical byproducts of the technological revolution: a new widespread accessibility of complex audio software; a sudden wealth of extremely personalized, genre-less music; and a small army of critics, versed in pop-deconstructionism, who busy themselves with constructing new words to contain the sounds that they're purportedly experts on. From 'Intelligent' Dance Music to glitch-hop to whatever-step, critics are quickly establishing a new vernacular of non-descriptive, esoteric terms that act as a shortcut to actually describing the music.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not without sin; I've definitely splooged a few zingers into the critics' cannon of linguistic banality. And when something as indefinite and mercurial as Caural's new Stars on My Ceiling drops, I get that Rumsfeldian itch to deploy the troops; "hip-hop," "electronica," and "post-rock" anxiously clutter the front lines, while "glitch-hop," "downtempo," and "tribalism" ready themselves to swoop down and pigeonhole Caural into an artistic corner. So, for the sake of maintaining my analytical integrity, I will attempt to refrain from namedropping any micro-genres, and instead focus on providing a naked portrayal of the music contained within Stars on My Ceiling.

"All These Todays Just Melt into Tomorrows," the record's opening track, is an accessible and percussive-driven salvo that liberally applies a voice synth, cowbell, and various African percussion instruments. The track is organic, cerebral, and fragmented, like a musical fusion of Salvador Dali and Georgia O'Keeffe, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Perhaps what's most intriguing about the album is that, while Caural is musically manic, the distinction between sounds isn't based on track numbers. Caural will flip the script in the middle of a song while carrying over various sounds from track to track, a device that denotes his intention that his work be experienced in its entirety. The jazzy keyboards of the first track almost seamlessly fade into a two-tone line that introduces "Stick to Modeling," a track in which fast breaks swell up from a backdrop of backward music and stunted vocal samples.

Throughout Stars on My Ceiling, Caural attempts to inject certain aural motifs between the seemingly disparate sounds and samples, creating a monolithic soundscape out of asymmetrical bits and pieces. Juxtaposing sounds is definitely one of the themes here. On "Camphor," Caural places a mellow piano line against a drum line that hardens as the track progresses. Reversing samples so that the bass sounds warped and inside out is another theme: "Retrospect" is almost entirely comprised of them, and the listener is left wondering what the track would sound like if it were actually played backwards. But, for the most part, Caural ensures that the album is both interesting and enjoyable, and he rarely sacrifices the listener's pleasure to his various conceits. With its infectious Spanish guitar, laser-like samples, and clear, uncluttered beat, "Red Sunshine" is one of the loveliest and most listenable instrumental tracks of the year. And the organic, airy quality of "Ultra Vivid" makes it a leading contender for outside nighttime sex jam of the summer.

While it doesn't successfully translate into a prosaic form, on "For Earsnot NYC" Caural successfully brings the background noises (i.e., record static and recording noise) to the foreground in an attempt to illuminate the beauty of the incidental. While most of the song is comprised of noises that barely register on the EQ, Caural drops sound altogether for much of the last two tracks and uses the breaks and silences to develop a musical narrative. It's an interesting concept, albeit one that feels a bit too forced and indulgent.

And self-indulgence isn't the only problem with this album. "Mint and a Hospital Watercolor" drifts dangerously close to Air territory, and although I have resisted confining Caural to a certain genre, whatever it is would definitely be prefaced by "lite." Another major complaint is that at times Caural seems to be merely dabbling in the various genres that inform Stars, resulting in the equivalent of a micro-genre megastore that carries everything yet specializes in nothing. But while Stars on My Ceiling probably isn't going to impress a hardcore devotee of any one of the genres that Caural briefly appropriates, for those who love highly conceptualized, original music this is a pleasure.
-Sam Chennault

Sophomore album from Chicago native Zachary Mastoon. A playful cross between low-end soul-jazz hip-hop (thick kick/snare beats, Steve Wonder "Innervisions" style-piano samples and electric bass slides) and poppy electronica (Mouse on Mars comes to mind at points). On Chocolate Industries.

Stance Magazine
Sounds like 24-year old Chicago native Caural is having a helluva time bouncing around on his second release, Stars On My Ceiling. In true postmodern artistic fashion, Caural spits raw hip-hop to effortless pianos, horn toots to bass riffs. The hodgepodge album is a dizzying ride through electronic sensory override, oftentimes jarring from one spastic soundscape to the next. You'll either love or hate homeboy's style, but something tells me he doesn't really care.
Sounds like: Rae & Christian, Radiohead, Sea and Cake
Influenced by: the Beat Street soundtrack, skateboarding, break dancing

Caural's latest album, Stars On My Ceiling, is an involved and undefined work similar to the likes of Fourtet, Mira Calix and (predominantly) Prefuse 73… Stunted vocals, background noise, organic drums, playful guitars, melodic pianos and phone conversations preside over most of the album, creating a rich, but often frantic and indulgent showcase.

"All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows" weaves desperate sounds alongside a wide array of samples and percussion. The track is manic and fragmented. Backward music and cramped vocals create an odd, cluttered soundscape setting the tone for the entire album. "Stick to Modeling" features similar types of juxtaposition; an ongoing theme where Caural combines and introduces new melodies and samples throughout the track, but anchors it with a theme that is used again on the next track.

This is perhaps the album's best attribute. The distinction between sounds isn't based on song, but rather on idea, mood and direction. Caural will modulate, flip and break throughout a song, but will then carry over various aspects from track to track. This personalized device suggests that Stars On My Ceiling is to be listened to in its entirety. The downside is that with all the changes, Caural dabbles and touches on so many different forms of expression that the album feels forced, like he wanted to use everything at his disposal no matter what the result would be.

While Stars On My Ceiling is an interesting album from start to finish, the large breaks of silence on the last two tracks, and the constant flood of new sound gives the feel of an artist unable to find a clear voice. It's as though he tries everything, and is unable to specialize in anything.
- Rust.

After checking out the Paint EP cause of the funny cover art, I dug the vibe, but it seemed that Caural’s style just dropped from the clouds. I had no reference point. Now that he has dropped a full-length, I am very impressed with this extended body of work. Tracks like "All These Todays Just Melt Into Tomorrows" give Caural a place at the front of the innovative beat makers. The sound is dreamy, but in a rhythmic, danceable way. I can imagine playing this record at the end of the night and the cokies getting down to the drum kicks of "Red Sunshine" or the licks of "Camphor." To complete the dreamscape, Caural fills in holes with a variety of abstract tracks like the analog hiss of "For Earsnot (NYC)" and the intricately produced "Ultra Vivid." Overall, a completed vivid picture is created with the hilarious Kid Acne cover art sealing the deal. A start of a promising Chocolate Industries career. 14 tracks on double vinyl.