Somnambule - Writing About Music

FatCat Split Series ~ 17

The FatCat Split Series comprises an ongoing string of split 12” vinyl singles with different artists on the A and B sides. As the label’s website declares: “Curated by Obsessive Eye editor Dave Howell, the aim of the series has always been to mix and merge divergent sounds and styles (...) to chart a more abstract, leftfield terrain for the label, whilst giving a platform to new and emerging artists... ”

No. 17 matches five tracks apiece by Chris Smith and The Ivytree. The Ivytree is San Frasiscan Glen Donaldson whose music mixes acoustic guitar with bouzouki, windchimes, etc. So far, so nothing, but the fives pieces here explore drone-like folk settings with the sound of the acoustic guitar shimmering like a heat haze on a hot summer’s afternoon. There’s something hallucinatory about the occasionally keening vocals and instrumentation as if Donaldson were harking back to the psychedelic cusp of the 60s/70s, but there’s a muffled edge of danger to the music that eschews platitudes or banality of any kind. In Meadows has my two cats looking surprisedly at the ceiling trying to spy where the birdsong and insect buzzing is emanating from (when this passage is succeeded by gorgeous windchimes they give up and stalk away). With Bird Proof, Australian guitarist Chris Smith offers up a glorious noise that’s rich with activity that can never be more than half-spied as if seen through lace curtains in the distance. Holding Tank (For Vice Criminals) is a little less dense, it’s squalling sheets of sound ebbing and flowing while it sounds as if Smith is slamming his instrument remorselessly in the background.
Colin Buttimer
March 2005
Published by Milkfactory