|Never let it be said that we don’t treat you ever now and again. An awesome double CD compilation from what can only be described as Britain’s most eclectic label, Fat Cat. ‘Branches and Routes’ is so aptly titled as Brighton’s favourite self styled ‘purveyors of quality noise’ have, since their inception in the late 90’s, attempted with a fair degree of success to map out the varying dilutions and evolutionary sounds that cross pollinate to what is in essence, the fundamental basics of music as we know it.
The label has admirably provided a springboard and outlet for many an artist operating outside the normal perception of pop, artists that are willing to push against the barriers of the commonly perceived notions of melody construction whether it be borne through the traditional medium of verse – chorus – verse via guitars and keyboards to the sprawling often unnerving scale ends of weird electronica, turtablism or laptop derived noise manipulations to name just a few. Whatever it’s been the Fat Cat have been there at the very centre of cutting edge standards, they’ve done it and written the script, the key to their success has been their unflinching sense of passion for the music they release, such is the wealth and depth of material found amid this 27 tracks compilation that it provides evidence enough that the last thing Fat Cat want is to be pigeon holed, instead they’ve evolved and shifted perspective to accommodate and deliver some of the most challenging concepts around. But then as the modesty written liner notes state, they are fans, and yet this is the point that is crucially underplayed, Fat Cat do not release material for the sake of it being a label thing to do, they release it because they want to share the enthusiasm, not to the beck and call of the dollar, though you sense it would be an added bonus and maybe that why it’s no great secret that they are among my favourite labels mainly because when each package lands on the doormat I never know what to expect, yet I always instinctively know it’s going to crucial.
As for the content, 2 CD’s that reveal the dynamics of the label, it’s depth and contrasting styles, a real mixed bag offering proof indeed that this label is unclassifiable. Of this collection there are three exclusive cuts, one each from Sigur Ros, Drowsy and Stromba. The set also sources material from the various factions within the Fat Cat canon, culling tracks from the split series, 7” series, the 130701 imprint and much more while taking two cuts from the highly acclaimed e-rmx series which originally centred around 8 7” singles all limited 1000 pressings in decorative sleeves with no visible signs of information featuring a host of artists setting their remixing skills to task on Icelandic artist Emilliana Torrini.
For want of better description CD 1 features in the main, the more electronic, beats and noise soundscapes while CD 2 takes care of the guitar side of business.
Mice Parade, who it has to be said have been missing in action for far to long, are represented by the shifting textures of ‘Pursuant to the vibe’, coated with subtle clicking beats and underpinned with a seriously groovy twang that neatly contrasts with David Grubbs opening ambit, the driving guitar twists of ‘Transom’. Mum’s ‘Green grass of Tunnel’ release from last year is a deliciously perfect example of simplistic interwoven electronics elegantly breezing in the ether, recalling the childlike qualities of early Sugarcubes and fizzed with the mystique of Broadcast, wonderfully fragile. And talking of the elf like one, Bjork goes to head to head with Funkstorung for an amazing remix that sees ‘All is full of love’ awash with dreamlike sophistication being twisted and ravaged by cosmic turbulences. Kid 606’s ‘Die in California’ catches him in a slightly more melodic mood away from his usual toxic sounding self. Set Fire to Flames, a collective based in Montreal within their ranks members of Godspeed, provide probably the collections most treasured moment. ‘Steal Compass / Drive North / Disappear’ a massively wide-screened soundtrack sound that perfectly captures the solemnity of Morricone’s dramatic scores and without doubt the centrepiece from their debut opus ‘Sings Reign Rebuilder’. Their current 2 disc set ‘Telegraph in Negative’ comes highly recommended. Transient Waves are another ensemble who’ve been away for a while, ‘Cruise Control’ parades their trademark enriched spacey atmospherics. One thing I would like to thank the FC folks is for opening my ears to the versatility of sounds that hide beneath the ‘dance’ umbrella, sounds that I’d have previously crossed the street to avoid, in particular Duplo Remote who despite the quirky after hours feel of ‘Cusp’ and for the fact variously augmented un-sounds are added to the mix, makes way for an intoxicating laid back groove that recalls a more clement Wagon Christ, and in the same respect you can add both Grain and Matmos for that matter. Closing disc 1 with, given a little push in the right direction, a summer hit waiting to happen. ‘Slow slow slow’ by Him is taken from his due any day now long player ‘Many in high places are not well’, dippy very dippy and lazy with it all treated to a psuedo Latino dub feel and touching closely on ‘John I’m only Dancing’ era Bowie.
Disc 2 is where the scorched earth policy kicks in, aside the ethereal opening of ‘Eg Mun Laeknast’ by Sigur Ros and the fittingly considered closing track from the sensitive sounds of the classical piano of Sylvain Chaveau and the selective planting of the amazing sound collages of Fennesz on ‘Badminton Girl’ and the click frenzy of the divinely twisted Com.A, you do get to have some serious lobotomy analysis with the onslaught of four bombastic cuts on the trot. French duo Programme cut through the bull with their mind blowing monoto-rock, hate ridden pop that sounds like a festering Big Black on a bad day while Party of One are more straight forward with their lo-fi angular melodic ridden ‘Shotgun Wedding’. Both serve as appetisers for the awesome finds for the label, the visceral psychotic sounds of Osaka based Xinlisupreme and the twisted primal frenetics of the monstrously challenging Giddy Motors. In amongst all the friction there’s the fluffy frequency hoping Far Eastern charms of Dorrine_Muraille, the racing glockenspiel jazz core antics of the sublime Dylan Group and the sweet ebb and flow of sonic turbulence courtesy of Black Dice.
‘Branches and Routes’ is not only highly recommended, but as a 2 disc set with over two and half hours of music so wide and disparate, it is essential, and who knows, like me you may learn a thing or two.