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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Where The Angels Fall is out now!

Image: Supplied.

Iconic Melbourne band, The Cat Empire have unveiled their new album, Where The Angels Fall. To celebrate the release, the band have curated an exclusive playlist for MILKY, full of songs that inspired their new body of work.

“Felix and I first formed The Cat Empire more than 20 years ago and a sheer zest for music was floating in the air. We had many conversations about new concepts, like the piano playing the rhythms, the percussion forming the melody, and things were fresh and exciting to say the least. When Felix and I decided to create our most recent recording, Where The Angels Fall, we were determined to recapture the energy of our debut release. Not only were we brilliantly successful, not a day of its making going by without big grins on our faces, we also managed to make one of the most sophisticated albums in The Cat Empire repertoire. I have been listening to this album on repeat and am still in love with it” band member Ollie McGill shares.


The Cat Empire’s Debut album (self titled) is actually one the most influential album towards the latest Cat Empire release Where The Angels Fall. Felix and I wanted to create an album that drew from the energy that we experienced whist creating the debut recording. We decided to use the same producer, Andy Baldwin, who has since become our very good friend. As soon as we stepped into the mad community hall in which the new album was recorded and saw Andy, beaming with his outstretched bangle ridden arms and a creative twinkle in his eye, we were instantly transported back 20 years.


This is a recording that has been on Felix’s and my for decades. It is still such an important reference for us when we are looking for new ideas. With his use of simple chord progressions, interesting vocal and guitar tones, repeated use a toy that makes the sound of a falling bomb and layers background chatter in various languages, Manu Chao made a remarkably interesting and alluring album.


In the drawn out period between the last 2 Cat Empire recordings Felix discovered an instrument of Cuban Origin called the Tres. Buena Vista Social Club’s recording of the Cuban standard Candela features the Tres repeating a riff that, as simple as it is, seems to build intensity throughout. This song is a classic example of the Cuban son.


Irekere’s Bacalao Con Pane (translated as salted cod with bread) features a complex guitar/keyboard riff accompanied by a heavy Latin funk groove. The rhythm section and horns are already driving until about halfway through when the piano montuno drops. A montuno is a style of piano rhythmic playing that has been integral in The Cat Empire’s palette and I really love how much energy can be added to an already pumping groove. Felix and I used to sneak into Melbourne music venue, The Night Cat, and watch the band of Melbourne icons, Los Cabrones, skilfully and energetically perform this piece.


As much as The Cat Empire continues to evolve its tremendous repertoire of world spanning genres, reggae has been an undeniable foundation in which so many of our tunes are built. The song, Papa Noah, gets stuck in your head and makes you feel good. Interestingly, Seeed, being based in Germany, like us with so many of our tunes, borrowed from Jamaica to produce this piece.


Major Lazer’s Get Free is another reggae piece. It is also one of the more creative productions I have heard, with its unashamed use of highly dynamic waveform synthesisers and densely layered held vocal notes coloured with delay effects. Other than that, there is a beautiful sparseness. Someone once mentioned to me that music has a black curtain, being the space around all the musical components within a recording. I feel that the black curtain is very prominent in this recording. I have created some interesting textures using synthesis on Where The Angels Fall.


I love the drum and bass groove featured in 70s progressive rock group, Can’s, Vitamin C. The dynamics of the rhythm section and the abrupt guitar and keyboard interjections perfectly follow the charismatic vocal performance. I get the feeling that these guys had a lot of fun on stage.


I discovered Herbie Hancock when I was learning to play jazz in high school. Throughout his career, Herbie managed to strike a perfect combination of jazz expression and downright funk. This recording of Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man by Mongo Santamaria is a classic example of a Cuban Cha Cha, another style that we have been known to borrow from. It is interesting to me how genre can be chopped and changed as an expression, no different to the loudness or softness of a note on a piano, and create a whole new effect.


Dr John’s recording of Iko Iko has always fascinated me. I have recently been letting this rolling piano style infiltrate my playing. This is fine example of the vibrant and energetic piano technique that has the wonderful stench of New Orleans.


By fusing traditional Yoruba music with Jazz/Funk, Fela Kuti invented Afro Beat in the 60s, which ultimately became a platform for the black power movement. The song Zombie was written after Kuti’s residence was ransacked by the African military, resulting in broken heads, backs and shoulders; reportedly, Kuti’s own mother was thrown out of a second storey window. Since then, performances of this song have invoked riots. It is interesting to me that a piece of music that is 10 minutes long and features drawn out instrumental solos can still have such a profound transformative effect.


Since I was a child, I have listened to Jazz music of the 50s and 60s. When I was an aspiring jazz musician in my teens, my father took me to a record store to buy a handful of jazz albums that have since become the foundation of my musical upbringing. Among these records there are 2 recording of Miles Davis’ So What, one from his album Kind Of Blue, the other a live recording, Live at the Plugged Nickel. The version of So What on Kind of Blue is very popular and I had heard it before, with its iconic bass melody followed by a chordal response upon which one could imagine the words “so what”, a classic example of ‘cool jazz’. When I first heard the the Live at the Plugged Nickel version, I was shocked at the bright tempo of this performance, upright bass player Ron Carter’s fingers gliding over the strings followed by Tony Williams’ expressive drums, Herbie Hancock’s sporadic piano accompaniment and Miles Davis’ wavering Trumpet phrases, followed by Wayne Shorter’s mind-bending journey into the cosmos on his saxophonic spaceship. This was my introduction to ‘free jazz’. Like Miles Davis, I try to never perform a piece of music the same way twice, making way for spontaneous expression.


Latin Playboys’ self-titled album was first introduced to me 20 years ago throughout the making of our debut album by producer Andy Baldwin. The track If features highly affected drum tones and grinding South American guitar riffs that reek of rum and cigars. The world that is created in this recording is so distinct. This transcendence is my favourite effect of great musical production.

Where The Angels Fall is out now!


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