Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Spider Kitten - Cougar Club (album review)

Spider Kitten is a prolific sludge band from the UK.  In fact, they are more than a sludge band as they give a multitude of styles a workout but for the sake of argument, we'll call them a sludge band.

Unearthly harmonies characterize opening track "Twin Obscenities".  The guitar is thick, fuzzy, almost drony or tuneless, creating a smoky, hazy void out of which waft melodic harmonized vocals, allowing glimpses of salvation from the punishment.  It's a statement the band continues to make over the course of the first three tracks.

"Burdened" is another weird track, the guitar wails atop a downtuned groove like curling wisps of smoke.  Again, the clarity of the harmonized vocals contrast with the heavily distorted instruments to make them really pop out, if you know what I mean.  Somewhere along the way we hear a sample of a woman pleading strangely from some video that I don't recognize.  There's an aura of obscurity or occlusion about this record that works favorably for the band to create an oppressive presence of uncertainty.

"Dark World", a Saint Vitus cover, is bookended by some quotes from the highly quotable film Network, a point of reference used by many, including the terrific German sludge band Voltron (see review here).  It's a fine cover, done with a Spider Kitten spin on it rather than a faithful-to-a-fault read through.

"Time Takes Its Toll" shows the band bust out the old acoustic and deliver a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club like sermon.  It's a moment of clarity from out of the heavy and hazy mists, creating a pivotal moment and allowing the listener to refocus their attention for the closer, "Cougar Club".  "Time Takes Its Toll" is a strong track in its own right with nothing to sustain it but vocals, background atmospheric effects and a guitar that is joined mid way by a companion adding some nice accents and counterpoints to the main melody.

The title track is a bass heavy trip back to the days of the mid 70s, when rock bands were feeling the pinch of prog and layering ambient synth atop heavy landscapes.  The band take their time building up a wall of sound and at just a smidgeon under 14 minutes it makes for an epic closer.  Finally, we emerge from those cloudy mists of heavy fog and enter the room.  Loud chatter and background noise lets us know that we have indeed arrived ... at the cougar club.  Adrift in the desire for that which is lost and hopelessly groping for scraps of that which can be regained if only time itself would stop and begin to spin in reverse.  The Cougar Club is the smoke-filled room, full thick with the cruel haze of time, memory and desire.

'Cougar Club' is a heavy record.  It's heavy in tone and it's heavy in atmosphere, of which it has oodles.  The songs are fogged in heavy black smoke out of which emerge the harmonized and melodic vocals which suck the listener in deeply.

Highlights include: "Twin Obscenities" and "Dark World"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 37:37

From: Cardiff, UK

Genre: Sludge, Doom, Stoner, Experimental

Reminds me of: Ice DragonWizard Smoke

Release Date: Available for download now on Bandcamp, physical copies available January 14, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Lost in the transitional world between the dream state and wakefulness, life and death, occasionally a presence emerges from the smoky haze whose voice is sweet and whose hidden blade is sharp indeed ...

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