Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat - An Interlude to the Outermost ((K-RAA-K)³ CD)
Stef Heeren is probably really tired about reviews starting off with remarks about the name he chose for his musical endeavours, so I'll just say that I don't understand it either and leave it at that. I imagine that a lot of people were compelled to investigate his debut release, 2005's "If the Sky Falls, We Shall Catch Larks" CD also on (K-RAA-K)³, based on the name alone. I, too, heard some MP3s or something somewhere but promptly decided Heeren's brand of brooding, dark folk wasn't to my tastes, and that was that. I tend to have this hang up about any singer-songwriter stuff where if it doesn't grab me by the gonads from the get-go, I don't give it too much afterthought. Call it a character flaw. But when talks about "An Interlude to the Outermost" surfaced this year for the inevitable return of Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat, I was curious all over again, so I hastily accepted the offer to review it from (K-RAA-K)³ boss Tommy Denys. I knew even if I still wasn't hep to the music, at least I could appreciate the excellent cover art, because disheveled cats next to giant balls of yarn that look more like chunks of coal are just cute to me. And there can never be too much cat-centric cuteness.
I don't remember too much of "If the Sky Falls" because it was two years ago and I didn't hear much from it, but I was always under the impression it was pretty standard fare for your dark, brooding, acoustic folk set. Not to a fault or anything, but I just thought that's how it was. Maybe it still is. And that view was further enforced when "Prelude ("The World is in Fear Again and It Has All Been Manufactured")", the acoustic atmosphero ditty that opens "Interlude", finished...but then I was thrown for the loopiest of loops when "The Firesky" kicked in and it turned out to be a brash, poppy, folk rock stomper that probably might not sound too out of place on a given alternative rock radio station, with only the band name and Heeren's snarled, David Tibet-recalling vocal approach possibly holding it back from such a fate. "The Cranes Are Scared of Sunwords" is very similar - led by Hareen's dramatic vocals and acoustic guitar, backed by bombastic drums, accordion, and even a tambourine - this could be the glossiest production to ever grace a supposedly-apocalyptic folk record. It sounds like it shouldn't work at all, and it probably wouldn't if it weren't for Hareen's irresistable talent for writing killer songs. Elsewhere Heeren makes good use of the Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat Big Band (and choir!) but to less raucous effect, such as on the disparate, grey-skied "A Scatterbrain Sings of Christians and the Ghoul Bares Teeth" and the fantastically doom-n'-gloom sensibilities of "Beyond the Tanarian Hills". In reading various reviews and press clippings for this album, I'm surprised it didn't draw more comparisons to several bands from the Constellation label and their related families, particularly A Silver Mt. Zion, Molasses, and Exhaust. Not only is Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat (at least, on this record) similar in terms of instruments and arrangements, and not only do they bare likeness when it comes to explosivity and dynamics, but they all like to riff on, repeat, and generally dwell on choice passages (lyrically and/or musically) until they're certain to embed themselves into your brain for a good while after hearing them. It's especially noticeable to me on the gorgeous "Salt", very much like A Silver Mt. Zion circa "This is Our Punk Rock..." and the wonderfully expansive, violin-heavy "You Will Reap a Whirlwind", in which the title is recited almost exclusively for the entire six-ish minutes. It's not just for effect though, as throughout the album, Heeren consistently demonstrates that he has the uncanny ability to know when enough is too much and vice versa, so nothing here ever becomes annoying or tedious. Quite the contrary in fact, I found myself wanting to re-play even some of the longer songs just as soon as they finished. On the last two tracks, "Cornflowers For Our Brothers" and "All Movements Are Targets in the Minds of Tigers", Heeren's approach is probably at its most direct (and most similar to the material from "If the Sky Shall Fall", perhaps), and even though there are obvious comparisons to me made with Current 93, it still falls in line perfectly with the more wide-reaching sound Hereen has adopted on "Interlude".
Once you come to terms with what "Interlude" is (or isn't), you'll find yourself coming to terms with an intricate, emotional, and delicately-woven shawl of impressive songwriting skill and crisp execution, as joyous and hopeful as it is indeed brooding and dark. It's definitely not for everybody, but for those who it is for will surely be addicts for a long time to come...and will find themselves hoping that they're not in store for another two year wait in between records.
Beyond the Tanarian Hills