telling the scene kids what to listen to since 2001.

Monday, January 16, 2006

cats and cats and cats

It's all very well and good salivating over US/Canadian bands but the chances of them appearing in the UK and Europe for you to see can be quite slim. Sometimes us Pommies/Limeys/Wankers need home-grown talent to make challenging yet rewarding music. One such band, called cats and cats and cats, appear to be holding up the fort on this side of the pond. I am ashamed that I heard the name ages ago and thought it was a fantastic band name but thought they would be shit, but alas I was wrong, they are wonderful.

They share the same vision as Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies of making experimental schizophrenic post-hardcore. However, where said band can appear to just throw ideas together and sometimes not pull them off convincingly, cats... can just idea hop all the while without sounding contrived. One such example is "Happiness for Lola"; which begins as a spaz-math-rock-indie workout and then moves into lilting post-rock enviable of Explosions in the Sky. The guitars sound so pure on every song, both clean and when they come crashing in. The UK has a real problem with bad guitar production so to hear some warm tones emanating from their axes is a breath of fresh air.

They are from the South of England and I can't find out much more apart from the fact that they are on tour across England in February. They have recorded a CD called Victorialand which can be picked up at one of their gigs or ordered via their Myspace.

Monday, January 09, 2006

the player piano.

Utah's The Player Piano are exactly the sort of band I secretly love in my emo heart; taking influences from the late 90s US indie scene (Death Cab, mostly) as well as underground instrumental champions Pele, Tristeza and Sharks Keep Moving, they've created something that sounds almost timeless. If you stripped The Appleseed Cast of their bombast and focused on those quiet moments before Chris makes his guitar growl, if you've heard TOE's new album, if you imagine Tristeza without the mindnumbing blandness, you're getting close to what The Player Piano sound like.

Beautifully intertwining guitar lines dominate this record, sounding like Death Cab around the We Have The Facts with weirder time signatures or, again, The Appleseed Cast's quiet bits. Vocals are sparse and generally heavily processed, keeping the main focus on the sophisticated melodic shifts the guitarists are capable of. Though the opener, "Scanning Faces", betrays a little too much of their clearly emo band past, the second track, "Sudden Left" will have you hooked. A pretty little twin guitar melody is backed by a walking bassline as the drums alternate between tapped hihats and open, splashing sounds, before the track opens up to a gorgeous emo-influenced guitar pattern. As they return to the main guitar riff, the drums pound out beats that drop neatly between the guitar melody - they even allow themselves to flick off the clean channel for the grinding ending.

The track that follows, P1/4, reminds me of Ganger's drifting bass-led soundscapes, with slightly more emphasis on the upper registers of the twin guitars. Without feeling the need to move anywhere, the band slowly work around the riff, exploring, creating branches, before returning to the original theme.

Other tracks of note are "Milwaukee Mile", which hammers away with the band's version of hardcore riffs - in reality, they don't push too hard, as if concious of their roots in the clean guitar sound. "NJB" opens with frantic off-kilter riffage before slowing to half-speed in what becomes almost a dirge, all splashy cymbals and big trebly chords. "Mayday" makes the most out of its simple riff patterns and explodes into Appleseed Cast big-chords-and-anthemic-yet-muted-vocals near the end.

I'm glad I stumbled across this record; I pretty much played it on repeat for a few days and I'm still not sick of some the tracks. Check out "Sudden Left" and tell me you're not convinced.

The Player Piano - Sudden Left [#2 from "Satellite" on Sunset Alliance Records, 2002]
The Player Piano - Scanning Faces [#1 from the same]
The Player Piano - Mayday [#6 from the same]