Let’s face it: at least 80% of albums released these days may as well be collections of individual tracks as opposed to coherent overall bodies of work. Not that there’s anything strictly wrong with that – people’s listening habits are getting more and more A.D.D. in the face of constant “buzz-band churnover” (™ Drowned In Sound’s Sean Adams), while the whole ‘albums as an artform’ argument always had a whiff of rockist dinosaur ludditism to it. Still, it’s nice when a record comes along that has an atmosphere and vibe all of its own, where individual tracks blend together and become more than merely the sum of their parts: Women’s Public Strain, Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead or Scuba’s Triangulation spring to mind.
Catscars, aka Robyn Bromfield, doesn’t have much in common with any of those names but her debut album Construction does possess a coherent, unique character; consistently eerie and disquieting, the muffled, subterranean nature of her new wave-tinged sound lends her compositions an evasive quality. The production is a vital element here, as tracks flicker in and out of focus, subtly shape-shifting, with submerged vocals that sound somewhat disembodied. On ‘Toying With Me’ and the chiming ‘Monsong’, ghostly, jarring effects echo in and out of the mix, while ‘Droid’ is a spooked-sounding instrumental with a steady, insistent rhythm. The general feel of the record makes even more sense when you take into account the Catscars live show, with its background projections of vintage sci-fi/horror movies.
‘B-Song’ is arguably the most striking track of all, stepping out of the shadows to reveal a genuinely catchy synthpop hook and an (almost) upfront vocal. It nevertheless retains an air of chilly aloofness, with spectral backing vocals adding to the track’s weightless ambience. However, the tracks that don’t immediately stand out blossom with repeated listens, not least closing number ‘No Fun’, wherein muted, distorted electronics stutter and meander their way into an off-kilter, robotic groove. It somehow manages to sound in keeping with all that’s come before it, yet completely different at the same time – the perfect way to end this absorbing album.