One of the most exciting things about being a music lover is discovering a fantastic band you’d never heard before. Stumbling upon Peter Cat Recording Company (PCRC) as I did made me wonder how many artists may have slipped through the cracks. Certainly no one can listen to everything, and by no means does any one person know of all the great bands in existence, but I was pleasantly taken aback when I first heard these gawky dudes from New Delhi on their debut album, Sinema.
With their slightly mad, slightly sad soundscape, the album was a showcase for whimsical, nostalgia-inducing melodies, the band’s stellar hook work, the effortless way they slink into a groove and ace drumming. But sometimes a first impression that arresting can be an albatross.
All this is preface to my review of Climax, the band’s 2015 release. It was slipped into my hand by drummer Karan Singh following one of the band’s sets in the form of a red velvet box with a little red pill inside it that contained the download code. What made me download it was the album art — I was big into psychedelic rock back then and thought that the cover was somewhat groovy.
The album finds itself further through the looking glass than its predecessor. Unlike Sinema, where the basslines were nimble and the distortion kicked in unexpectedly, Climax is relatively slow-moving. While both share the familiar inebriated carnival of sounds, Climax decidedly straddles the line between meticulous studio polish and bedroom-recorded honesty.
It is a settling in of sorts as the record is dominated by seemingly non-treated sounds that impart the illusion of distance. Here, reverb plays a crucial role in creating that distant sound that leaves aching gaps where the echoes and shadows of sound combine to leave the listener staring at the spaces left behind.
After the initial adjustment, I realised that it’s all so spaghetti western with these guys. The collection of songs serve a steamy bowl of lo-fi, cabaret-inspired sounds that poked at my imagination more than anything they have previously released.
Suryakant Sawhney’s voice is all husk and salt, like a pistachio in a shell. He uses it to croon — I’m coming, to see you today on I’m Home — the lyrics sometimes sliding from words into loopy jibber-jabber. In fact, Sawhney seems to pick up lyrics and put them down as he pleases while his fingers roam around his fretboard, scouting for progressions and ditties that may prove interesting. This relaxed, bluesy attitude toward the song comes across as charming and delightfully sedative.
Copulations features an uncharacteristically playful mood, brimming with wistful guitar riffs and dreamlike soundscapes, while There is no Love Here has a classic jazzy sensibility to it — complete with waves and loops of drums.
The songs seem to melt into one another, and the listener will often discover themselves lost in the tracklist. It’s good, subtle background music, but lacks the engaging quality of their previous album.
Nostalgia is one thing, but when artists find a way to pay homage to a classic genre even whilst retaining their own identity, it can’t help but come off as an imitation. The record isn’t perfect, but shows us how a band can tinker with tunes without escaping its realm of sound.
Climax is the sort of nuanced, carefully fashioned work that comes only after years of hashing it out with one’s muse. And while it may be less dynamic, the roominess enjoyed by the band has translated well to the album, proving that these guys are wholly comfortable living in the past.
You can download Climax from Peter Cat Recording Company’s Bandcamp page.