Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope is one of the most startling and disturbing works I have heard in a very long time. The brainchild of Michael Zapruder, it’s basically derivative of American folk, but the record departs so radically from this launchpad that it’s hard not to diagnose him with a severe case of musical wanderlust. Nevertheless, what shines through Cocktail Horoscope’s dense layers of unusual instruments is Zapruder’s lyrics. Bizarre and dreamlike, they contain a rich, literary level of detail that elevates these quiet little diaries to miniature symphonies that are at once grand and heartbreakingly intimate in scope.
The album oscillates subtly between moods and themes, but overall, the record is melancholy, even at its more hopeful moments. Even with the vast array of acoustic instruments (most of which have no place on the average rock record), most of it is steeped in vintage electronics, and Zapruder’s raspy baritone barely overpowers the clicking of old drum machines and flute textures. Its highlight is easily the ballad-like “Black Wine,” a finely woven tapestry of a story that’s so detailed, it’s easy to forget that it’s almost nine minutes long. Even with its flaws, Cocktail Horoscope is a very, very rare kind of record; at its peaks, it exhibits the depth and emotional maturity of a film. It’s grandiose and impenetrable at times, but Zapruder serves as the best kind of unreliable narrator, and as he gently guides us through his very fractured psyche, it’s hard not to be caught off guard.
In a Word: Depression