In a New Delhi living room, five pairs of eyes are locked onto each other. Everything is silent but for the tapping of fingers, but for the whisper of lips as they count a beat. And then they sweep the world off its feet with a muddy, reverberating, sonorous jazz-infused fanfare that sounds as if it is pouring down from the heavens, as if an alien spaceship floating in the stratosphere is making first contact through the universality of music. It feels like music from another planet – because it is.
Formed in 2010, Peter Cat Recording Co. are a band quite unlike anything else you’ve heard. Sitting outside the bubble of Western music they are seemingly unhampered by pre-existing paradigms or by the ongoing urge to categorise and demarcate our artists. Portrait of a Time: 2010 – 2015 is a fitting summation of their work so far, taking the incongruous and making it luminous. Take the title track: a crooning, beguiling swing number that half way through loses itself in a swamp of ambient electronica before returning to its core purpose. Or the hazy, shimmering well of Americana that is I’m Home, Suryakant Sawhney murmuring like a latter-day Hamilton Leithauser before the song briefly blooms and fades like a spring flower: “And who cares/If it fails/And who cares/If it stings/And who watches/And waits/Whose push/To the brain/I’m home.”
There are, of course, influences here but the blend is so eclectic, the vision so impermanent as to make it impossible for more than a moment, to think of whom they remind you. Closing track, Love Demons struts into view with sylvan elegance, with charismatic foreboding – “And why is it I pray/to Gods that always fail/to drag that girl back/through my window/and undress my face/and smile at me/while I put on my chains – and then bursts and refracts like on a mirror ball into eighties disco decadence.
Now signed to Panache, a Parisian label, and with European dates behind them, their unique sound is sure to see them become a growing influence inside the bubble. A new album, Bismallah, is out next week and the first single was featured on our April playlist.
Image © Franziska Albrecht, 2019