Art rock? Jazz? Indie pop? Synth pop? Peter Cat Recording Co. lean hard on the wayward psychedelia underpinning their origins when you listen to Bismallah, intrigued, Simon Coffey, decided to lounge it out a bit at Neck of the Woods.
Peter Cat Recording Co. must rank up there as one of the coolest names for a band ever, it’s origins are unknown (for me at least), but there was a cat called Peter that used to frequent Lord’s Cricket Ground in London from 1952 to 1964, so given the group are from New Delhi in india, and we are all aware of the place that Cricket has in the Indian psyche, well true or not it’s rather loveable conjecture: Cats, Music and Cricket, a wondrous dovetail.
Peter Cat Recording Co. are not new to the music industry having been formed around Suryakant Sawhney in New Delhi, who while in San Francisco in 2009, had the idea to create a band, which in 2010 he did back in India, and released their 2011 debut album Sinema via Bandcamp. Fast forward past through eight years of a series of independently released records, freewheeling live shows,in slow struggle which saw the addition of brass and on to releasing a compilation of past endeavours on french label Panache, followed by their 2019 album Bismallah (which received 4 stars in NME) Then covid hit, and it was not until last year that Peter Cat Recording Co. really managed to take their artistry out to the world, including a super-successful North American Tour which saw them playing with the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, The National and Duran Duran.
Is already onstage at the godly hour of 8pm, actually he is a duo, both on guitars, acoustic guitars though Reiki is the sole vocalist. Raglan original Reiki Ruawai is no stranger to music having released two solo singles a couple of years back. His back story is bigger, progeny of Cornerstone Roots members, leader and singer in Masaya, whom since 2019 have released a single, ep and an album of soulful based reggae, and toured Australia with originators Katchafire.
Having schooled myself in Peter Cat Recording Co. preshow, but not been aware of Reiki presence on the bill, I am stumped by this strange pairing, his laid back pseudo-reggae-soul-rnb makes me think I might be at the Coroglen or at the chilled-bro stage at RnV. But when you realise that the crowd here tonight are those very same people who would go to the aforementioned places, then it clicks, the audience are a mixture of young and old, still in holiday mode, living the faux-ideal kiwi summer so derealistically idolised in L&P and ANZ Summer TV ads.
Thus many in the crowd of young and old, were endeared to his/their bro-showmanship, as he/they worked his/their way through a stripped back soul and harmony set. Both highly competent on guitars and with Reiki Ruawai able to deliver harmonies in droves, they did the mahi and entertained the room, warmed up the seething masses for the cool-cats
Peter Cat Recording Co.
The cool-cats are running late, perhaps struggling through the awkward path to the stage which involves pushing into the audience, slows Suryakant Sawhney (vocals, guitar), Kartik Sundareshan Pillai (keyboards, guitar, electronics and trumpet), Dhruv Bhola (bass, brass and samples) Karan Singh (drums) and Rohit Gupta (keys and trumpet).
Immediately I am taken. Peter Cat Recording Co. gently arrive in a swirling soundscape, a mix of keys, brass and guitar, that creates anticipation for Where the Money Flows, that starts with sultry sexy voice reminiscent of a jazz crooner, a minimalist sound that obscures it’s scathing critique of modern day capitalism. Suryakant Sawhney charming vocals (in a not too dissimilar vein to Jeff Buckley) really reach into the room on Floated By, as the band carefully craft and gently slot together. The brass is magnanimous, and explodes the sound in the room.
The soundscape intro on I’m This is reminiscent of 60s sci fi movie soundtracks, and slows the set down, there are still the offbeat keys, the singers self-eclecticism, but the combination sees the band teetering on the edge of complacency. Fortunately they whip out a melancholy song Heera with its sexy drumbeat swing, officious keyboard outbursts and especially when the brass comes on a return that pushes the engagement levels back up.
An hour into the set and the disco funk flavour kicks in, while the brass is a fundamental element, the beat is welcome and there is a groove in the room. Another soundscape segues into bluesy brass ridden crooning, the themes of angst and romance are never far away, underpinning the set tonight. Its followed by a Tropicana-style 70s rhythm that has the crowd singing along like they used to when The Love Boat appeared on TV, well not quite, the encore is a 1930’s style scat -scat very cool but a bit derivative, but it achieves the group ending on a dancefloor high.
Like Suryakant Sawhney’s emotive evocations, the night was a rollercoaster of energy and style, delving into musical indie-alt counter-culture, and then careering back into the safety of convention. Depending on your own world-view, you either wanted more pasta or more rice. Hopefully with a new album in the making, we’ll see these cool-cats back in town soon.
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