Dark Atmospheric Rock
Gubbey Records – March 24, 2017
Cat Casual is the moniker of Louisville’s William Benton; ostensibly, the Holy Midnight are the three musicians joining him on this cassette: Brian Foor (keyboards), Sean Gardner (bass, percussion, backing vocals), and Tim Pinkerton (drums). This is a full-length self-titled release from the group, shrouded in a moody, decidedly dark atmosphere.
The album’s opener, “Sending,” is the only track recorded apart from the rest of the album – it establishes a strong tone (thanks, in part, to some guest humming from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) before Benton’s baritone vocals come in, ending the track with a fiery electric guitar solo. “Ladyfingers” is colored with a long intro of subdued bass, guitar effects, and soft drums that contrasts with a dissonant, angular chorus of descending chords. The very next track, “Mock,” opens with a lighter, shuffling beat strung together with organ, drums, and bass – about a minute in, the song shifts into a higher gear, making way for a noisy guitar solo. “Come Back” is the most straightforward track on the album, lyrically. Benton’s response during the first verse is a repeated “I’m not coming back” which is exchanged during the second verse for “I’ll come running back” – these verses are punctuated with bursts of weight and texture from the band. “Untitled” is the last track on the tape’s first side – it opens with a heavy, piano-driven beat that gives Benton a great platform to perform vocally. The final two minutes of the track are a frantically intense burst of sound from the band, complete with another wild, colorful guitar solo.
The second side opens with “And You Move,” a track of synth loops and a spoken word bit that sounds like a transmission from far away – giving a nice palette cleanser between each of the tape’s sides. “Wicked World” is breathlessly quick, and Benton’s vocals are mixed almost to match the force of the accompanying instruments on the song. My favorite of the album is “Mutadis Mutandis,” which opens with contrasting chords on the organ, tolling like a church bell, before being joined slowly by the rest of the band. The chorus is made up of the repeated “I’m bound in chains I hate to break, don’t want my place in history” – powerful lyrics that Benton says reference the deaths of people like Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who then became names of the movement seeking justice for their deaths. The album is closed by “Francesca,” a track with instrumental flourishes that give it an art-rock bent, and whose vocal delivery is not unlike Nick Cave.
Cat Casual and the Holy Midnight listens great as an album with a decided atmosphere throughout, a sound that matches the idea of a ‘holy midnight’ – the album is dense, dark, moody, reverent, and contemplative.
Tracks I Liked: Mock American!, Come Back!, Untitled!!, Wicked World!, Mutadis Mutandis!!!, Francesca!!
Ben Southworth – March 26, 2017 – Kenwick Place