Wednesday 9 March 2016

Spider Kitten - Ark Of Octofelis (Album Review)

Release date: April 29th 2016. Label: Undergroove Records . Format: LP, CD, Cassette and DD

Ark Of Octofelis – Tracklisting

Side One - 1.Underestimating The Consequences Of Effective Propaganda (Part I) 2.Feline Will

Side Two - 1.The Ark 2. One From The Heart 3. Hymn 4. Duplicitous 5. Launch 6. Underestimating The Consequences Of Effective Propaganda (Part II)

Band Members:

Chi Lameo – Vocals, Guitar
Chris West – Drums, Vocals
Steve Jones – Bass
Gareth Day – Guitar


Newport’s Spider Kitten do a lot to evoke their name – mashing together two or more often dissimilar genres or elements and splicing them together to form a hybrid that has many familiar elements, but is still something wholly individual. Ark Of Octofelis, their latest release in what is amounting to a truly titanic back catalogue, continues to showcase their skill in combining their wide ranging influences, and their continuing pursuit of doing whatever the fuck they want musically.

Side One kicks off with forlorn, reverb heavy notes, which are joined by smooth, low vocals. A sampled helicopter whirls by, delivering some splashy cymbals and a robust, downcast bass groove. This ushers in a lush, dreamy crawl through multi-layered, ethereal vocals and subdued guitars, punctuated by jazzy drum fills and a rising organ solo. It’s somewhat rambling, all about subtle progressions and natural, organic change. Pleasingly retro, the rhythm section is the thread that pulls you along, while the guitars, vocals and keys sprinkle on additional gloss. Moving into ‘Feline Will’, backmasked guitars and shimmering synths add to the ‘acid daydream’ vibes, before the guitars mesh with the rest of the instruments for a triumphant drive home. The repeated vocal refrain of “I submit unto the spider/its feline will be done” acts as a canny, slightly tongue in cheek reference to the band themselves, as well as the overall concept storyline behind this release.

Side Two jams in with the bright, almost flamenco picked guitar lines of ‘The Ark’. Altogether the second side is more varied, a buffet compared to the set-meal of side one. While this lifts you up, the underpinning bass notes that slide in add a sense of unease, the guitar injecting slight atonality to reflect this. It’s breathless, giddy stuff, synths building up to an intense, almost uncomfortable wall of sound, before the fading out to a rampant, fuzzed out riff. It’s a real blues-driven stomper, driving forwards with ballsiness before the tension breaks into big groaning, doomy chords and whining guitars.

Layered group vocals add a sense of drama, the riffs and drums slowly building pace, working towards something, chiming bells and a running riff pushing us on, before winding down to a lumbering, sludgey breakdown, ending with a squeal of feedback. The acoustic guitars resurface, the band flexing their folk muscles, with layered, dusky vocals and additional percussion echoing an earlier form of songwriting, one as old as the land itself. A serious spoken word segment is thrown amongst the jangling, ascending chords before things end abruptly, replaced by the fade-in of an angry mob and a huge, knurled bass riff and tribal tom hits. The palm muted, dense chug is pierced by a whining, alarm-like synth, the riff lumbering along, predatory. It builds to a climax of juddering synth and grinding feedback. The same mournful notes that open side one return, and you’re trapped in a never ending cycle. And that’s alright by us.

Even using twice as many words, you cannot begin to fully account for what Spider Kitten can do in the 40 plus minutes on offer. A melting pot of influences and themes, they bring a lot to the table without sounding hackneyed, directionless, or like a pastiche. The instrumentation is natural and excellent, never forced. A daunting listen, and one that deserves time dedicated to it to truly appreciate, but totally worth it. With repeated spins, you’ll find hidden depths. Submit unto the spider.

Favourite track: Feline Will.

Words by Jamie Hampshire

Thanks to Richard at Sheltered Life PR for the promo. Ark Of Octofelis will be available to buy on CD/DD/Cassette/Vinyl via Undergroove Records from April 29th 2016.