CATSCARS – Construction ( White Plague Records 2011 )


Issued back in March of this year, the economically titled CONSTRUCTION is the debut from one of the more interesting electronic entities currently operating in Dublin. Rough mixes posted on myspace a year or 2 ago pointed towards the evolution of a non-derivatave sound and this instantly sparked an interest. This is the result of 2 years of sporadic conjuring, or as stated by Catscars, “ a labour of love, but mostly pain ”. Whatever frustrations or hic-ups that might suggest, they’re not apparent in the completed work. Instead, CONSTRUCTION delivers a confident, colourful and eerie soundscape and an impressively developed approach to synthesised music.

The album’s opener, GOING DOWN acts almost as a title piece to the album, it’s brief and throbs to a marching beat with haunting layers of vocals and murmuring synths, hinting at the desolate playfulness to come. B-SONG is the nearest the album gets to bleak early 80’s electropop. This disguises itself like an obscure b-side but still manages to retain a disquieting air. NEW HOUSE reverberates with a wash of electronics, great haunting vocal tones and a tense building percussion towards the end, suggesting that something evil is about to jump out of a wardrobe. WISH I HAD is one of a number of tracks built around a driving beat that lies somewhere between an 80’s gothic rhythm and something which nods towards one of many experimental German entities from the previous decade. By now, a very apparent Catscars trademark emerges – the vocals sitting down into the synthesised layers rather than being up front. In many ways they’re treated as another instrument and not vocals in a conventional sense. Whatever the intention it works to the benefit of a very identifiable sound. MONSONG is built on the spine of another determined drum pattern with reverb heavy keyboard, randomly generated eerie electronic squeals and twisting tones rising throughout. The aptly titled TOYING WITH ME weaves screams in and out of a warbled tune that balances on the knife edge of playful and ominous. THIS EVENING OF BULL hangs on the suspense of a ringing single note signature with a distant voice and ebbing waves of sound and is one of the more free form pieces on the album. DROID is rigidly mapped out by a tribal rhythm, a monotone drone and suggestions of melody that seem to steer cautiously clear of the main drive. It’s evocative and playful and is over too soon… this marching droid obviously didn’t have far to travel. WOLVES is very different, building a minimal techno scaffold like Plastikman at it’s very best and rather than being in conflict with the rest of the album as you might expect, it’s louring resonance compliments the floating gothic tones elsewhere. The final track NO FUN starts in the same vein but evolves through a glitchy rhythm into a wonderfully creepy melody that plays on nightmarish unpleasantness. It’s a sublime and appropriate ending.

The strength of CONSTRUCTION lies in a minimal and eclectic approach to electronics. It’s a remarkably individual sounding album which effortlessly balances a scale of harrowing soundscape and sonic mischief. On top of this, it’s a slow burner, taking a few listens to break the surface and realise what’s unique here, which only adds to the long shelf life it will have to many ears. And while it’s quite possible to ascertain where the inspiration for these constructions might come from, the Catscars sound ultimately succeeds by not trying to be anything other than itself. – Boz

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