As students eagerly await the all-star Ivies line-up featuring headliners Janelle Monae and Mac Miller, a very different, up-and-coming group, the avant-garde Capillary Action, will grace the stage of Studzinski theater, offering a taste of the contemporary music scene that promises not to disappoint.

Named "New York's best band of 2009," by the Boston Phoenix, Capillary Action was formed at Oberlin in 2004, and offers a unique blend of experimental sounds. The band has played with a range of artists as diverse as Beirut, Wolf Eyes, and the Dirty Projectors, and after seven years and increasing recognition, continues to defy labeling.

Jonathan Pfeffer, the group's vocalist and the only remaining original member of the band, describes the group's music as "dense, emotionally mangled avant-pop."

"If the uber-cool MC at WBOR wanted to know, I'd probably [call it] post-earthquake Best Coast meets Einsturzende Neubauten," said Pfeffer. "If your grandma's friend was dying to know, I would probably say the songs are 'pop' in the way they're organized: verses, choruses, bridges, hooks; 'classical' in the sheer amount of information per square inch and the level of commitment for both performer and listener; and 'avant-garde' in terms of the songs' function and aesthetic concerns. If the person stares at me blankly, I'll probably just say, 'We're a rock band.'"

Delmar Small, Concert, Budget and Equipment Manager for the Bowdoin Music Department, simply said that their music is "out there."

Capillary Action is currently in the middle of a grueling tour promoting the group's sophomore album, "Capsized." Their stop at Bowdoin is bookended by concerts in Montreal and New York.

Regarding the new album, program notes for the upcoming concert read: "Capsized is a rapacious beast of an album, absorbing Ives and Bartók, Brazilian work songs and Bulgarian choral music, UK grime and Philly soul... It's exquisitely mapped and expertly performed, and the jagged edges come from Jon's daring, dense harmonies, not any slapdash genre-hopping."

The band's music is cerebral and emotional, cultural and universal, engaging and, on paper, sounds more than slightly intimidating. In reality though, it need not be. The fact that Capillary Action draws on so many influences and inspirations is far from a search for obscure sources to buff their street cred and create a fortress of nouveau art inscrutable to criticism or comprehension. Instead, the band is dedicated to telling the stories they want to tell through creative, expressive music true to their experiences and vision.

For example, Pfeffer draws on the aforementioned Bulgarian choral music because its haunting, spiritual and sometimes harsh arrangements changed his perception of harmony.

"I wish I could talk at length about [it] without coming off like a complete philistine," he said. "All I can say is that there's something about how simultaneously ugly and beautiful those harmonies are that made me feel more nuanced, shaded things than any other sort of music has made me feel."

"Beyond the fact that some of that music is so achingly gorgeous you'll feel about a centimeter tall, after hearing it I finally understood how I was going to express these specific emotions in song I felt were being short-changed by the techniques I'd been exploring in the past," Pfeffer said. "I highly recommend Le Mystere de Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2."

The depth and complexity of the music of Capillary Action is a large part of the reason why Associate Professor of Music Vin Shende was interested in the band's visit, during which the band will also lead a master class for Shende's Introduction to Composition students.

Shende hopes that the band's music will help show his students that classical composition techniques like shifting time signatures and key modulation can be applied to contemporary pop as well.

For Capillary Action, the chance to give a master class is one of the strongest draws of performing at Bowdoin. The band thrives off of dialogue and connection, and loves involving their audience in their music. Positive experiences giving classes at schools like Grinnell and Indiana University showed the band that while such conversations were not always possible at regular shows, colleges are a perfect venue for interacting with their listeners.

Capillary Action's current tour schedule includes stops at Beloit and Swarthmore.

For aspiring musicians seeking advice but unable to attend the master class, Pfeffer offered the following advice: "Don't be afraid to fall flat on your face. Because you will—a lot."

"I'm not interested in being a jukebox or a soundtrack to someone's first kiss," Pfeffer said. "I want to engage people, sometimes to the detriment of my own well-being—financial, emotional, or otherwise."

Capillary Action will perform on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Studzinski Recital Hall; the event is free and open to the public.