The pleasures of pain

The Delhi-based band describes its music variously as “cabaret”,“folk”,“gypsy folk” and “punk” and it could all get very,very confusing.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published: August 13, 2011 3:54:41 am

Sinema

Peter Cat Recording Co. Available for download at http://petercatrecordingco.com

Rating: ****

It’s difficult to categorise Peter Cat Recording Co.’s music. The Delhi-based band describes its music variously as “cabaret”,“folk”,“gypsy folk” and “punk” and it could all get very,very confusing. But it isn’t,chiefly because there’s an overriding surreal,noir feel to their debut album Sinema,which takes some distinctly vintage sounds to create music that is definitely modern. The liveliness of their music is offset by the darkness of the lyrics,which speak of heartbreak and loss,and even explore more sinister topics like

murder and rape.

Peter Cat Recording Co. draws on a wide range of influences to give their music its distinctive colour. There’s melancholic accordion music (produced using guitars),graceful waltz patterns,cabaret tunes of ’70s Bollywood cinema; and the swing and jazz of Frank Sinatra. While the tunes sound so playful,the words brood.

There’s an unsettling jauntiness in vocalist Suryakant Sawhney’s singing that forms a weird but effective bond with the sinister lyrics of Pariquel,which is probably about a murderous woman. In Happiness,he takes a perverse pleasure in observing cynically that “Happiness allows/ us to live our lives/meaningless”. The Clown on the 22 nd Floor,which seems to be from the point of view of the possibly insane and helpless husband of a prostitute displays the same malice. Take even I’ve Got Roses,where the “hero” seems to be asking his girl to give up her pursuit of fame and come home with him: it is bittersweet romance put to music.

The protagonists of all the tracks seem to revel in their pain and dysfunction; their tone is similar to the cackle of a toothless old lady who rather enjoys her reputation as the neighbourhood witch. To make the mix even more interesting,the whole album has the scratch and fuzz of old vinyl that makes the music sound wonderfully retro.

This isn’t an album for those who’re looking for happy tunes. It’s for those who are attracted to the seamy and the grotesque. To use a metaphor that is more direct: if David Lynch ever made a dark comedy set in a carnival which is haunted by the ghost of RD Burman,this would be the soundtrack. If that’s the kind of movie you’d like to watch,this is the album for you.

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