Year of the cat
Bollywood, and some signature sounds in Delhi indie band Peter Cat’s new album
When Delhi indie band Peter Cat Recording Co. (PCRC) released its debut album Sinema in 2011, listeners took notice of how different the band was from the rest of the Indian scene.
The songs often had bizarre narratives that dealt with the likes of sex workers and their delusional lovers. There were even tracks that visualized an alternate universe where a celebratory march was being taken out by a victorious Japanese army at the end of World War II. The music was an unholy mix of stomping waltzes, 1950s pop, shades of The Velvet Underground and cult favourites Neutral Milk Hotel, and old Hindi films. But the lasting impression was of a band that sounded like an inebriated Frank Sinatra fronting a gypsy jazz outfit at a carnival.
In 2012, PCRC came out with Wall Of Want. Not an album as such, it was, as the band described it, “a lo-fi collection of old tape experiments, self-destructing loop and brief laptop recordings”. After that, band members worked on their solo projects and a near deafening silence followed as far as Peter Cat was concerned. Yes, they gigged steadily across the country unveiling new songs, but no album was forthcoming.
Until now. Peter Cat is out with its new album, Climax, and though it features a new member (the multi-talented Kartik Pillai on organ, guitar, trumpet and electronics), the sound is still quintessential PCRC, albeit a bit murkier. Suryakant Sawhney, vocalist, songwriter, guitar player and the mastermind behind Peter Cat, drawls, sneers and sighs through the new batch of tunes in his customary detached, world-weary manner.
Movies are a big influence on Sawhney’s music. Even the title of the new album alludes to the kind of denouement that is so beloved of Bollywood film-makers. The physical copies of Climax also reference the Matrix—you get a small red jewellery box containing a red pill which has the download code for the album. Apparently, some buyers popped it into their mouth, perhaps thinking that it would let them stay in wonderland and see how deep the rabbit hole went.
Climax opens with the creepy instrumental Clouds, which features PCRC’s trademark swirling organ sound. The track may remind some film buffs of the 1962 cult horror film, Carnival Of Souls. What lends the album some of its power is the deliberate pacing of the tracks. Following Clouds is the dirge-like I’m Home, where Sawhney, drenched in echo, stretches the words over 7 minutes. There is a bit of respite with the jazzy Portrait Of A Time with its tinkling ivories and sharp bursts of trumpet. Things slow down again on Flies, and so it goes on. Copulations finds the singer wanting to do it “in ease” with his girl, parked by the beach. There Is No Love Here is a slight return to the waltz tunes of Sinema; Namonia also harks back to the debut album with its festive gypsy romps until you decipher its downer lyrics. The song may or may not allude to our current prime minister, but if you repeat it a few times quickly, like Sawhney does, it sounds like “ammonia”.
Climax is not a neat album and, unlike its cinematic allusions, sounds quite disjointed when you hear it the first time. You will need repeated listens for its charms to work on you.
Climax, independently released, is available for download for Rs.200 on www.pcrc.in/climax
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