Cryptozoologists’ Pond Life is a journey through the eccentric mind of a deep-feeling, scatter-fingered poet.
Cryptozoologists’ tools are scissors and glue. While Zach McCann-Armitage’s penchant for assemblage art is evident enough from his merch—cut-and-paste collage tarot cards on Home Depot paint samples—it’s equally evident from the ramshackle communion of synth pulses, jolting percussion, and fractured, yelping vocals on his latest album, Pond Life. With unerring conviction, Cryptozoologists throw these gritty, often disparate parts together, delivering a mesmerizing hodgepodge of songs confronting the absurdity of modern existence. The biggest take-away? The more you ponder your existence, the more absurd it gets.
Throughout Pond Life, McCann-Armitage serves as tour guide via his narrator’s neural pathways, unburdening himself of shards of truth and half-formed pontifications along the way. There’s a whimsy to his stream-of-consciousness reflections, which refuse to stick to any one theme but generally return to what McCann-Armitage refers to on album-opener “White Silk” as “the agony and hope of forever learning to live broken.”
With the flair of an epileptic revivalist preacher, McCann-Armitage relays images of orchards on fire and patrol cars on hilltops, ponders the guillotine, and confesses to having lost his passport—equally agonized by the profound and the mundane. However, he also finds solace in the mystery of the ancient moon, vowing to pluck flowers in back alleyways, and considering the potency of creative practice itself. Pond Life bursts with disorienting tonal shifts, juxtaposing lazy lines (a refrain of “yeah, whatever” haunts “Tubefeet half-landings”) with urgent cries (“I hang around helpless in orbit” on “Owled in the night grass”). The cerebral and mundane crash against each other, as when the narrator contemplates his place in the universe before losing hope, giving up, and trudging off to yet another Subway sandwich dinner. Like Dan Bajar, McCann-Armitage does not discriminate in analyzing the brokenness of the world—his is a world in which walking down the street, eating fast food, and writing poetry are equally ludicrous, painful, and hopeful.
Trapped in a psychic cycle of collapsing, recovering, and relapsing, Pond Life’s most overt sign of hope comes in its final line. While album-closer “Tubefeet Half-Landings” mainly addresses “graceful irrelevance” and “vacant ventures,” its final line reads: “the paint’s on the canvas – what shapes will you make before it dries on you?” In this way, our scatterbrained, scatter-fingered narrator admits, in the face of this lunatic life, the beauty in the sheer possibility of change. Just as a collage repurposes found parts, we broken people can shapeshift while the paint is still wet.