As the ancient proverb goes, we are all cursed to live in times most interesting indeed. With each passing day it feels like we’re treated to another insight into another news piece set to affect conventional life. From climate change, social media, political turmoil, global economic implosion all the way to the constantly ongoing situation regarding the pandemic, trying to unravel the knot of chaos that is modern life feels like a monumental task reserved only for those willing to lead themselves to madness. But yet, attempting, and more or less succeeding, to comprehend and document the topics of 21st century living is Veritas, the debut album from Northern Ireland's post-everything project CATALAN!.
The solo endeavour of one Ewen Friers, trying to pigeonhole CATALAN! Into a singular genre is, well, nigh on impossible. Throughout the monumental 14-track span of Veritas, Friers indulges in danceable indie, math-rock, post-punk, post-rock, world music and even spoken word poetry. Understandably, this gargantuan myriad of sensibilities combined with the labyrinthine lyrical themes may give the impression of the record being inaccessible, or for lack of better eloquence, an utter mess. However, it’s not, and given Friers' musical background it’s understandable why. A touring crewmember for a range of artists including Frank Iero, Laura Jane Grace and Thursday as well as an established tour guide on his home turf of Northern Ireland, Friers’ experience in music proceeds him. What transpires is a record with an insatiable scope that makes sense of the chaos whilst being as haplessly digestible as it is ceaselessly enjoyable.
As Friers delivers sardonically poetic lyrics in a similar vein to Cassels, Jamie Lenman and even Sleaford Mods, CATALAN! swerves through the plethora of sensibilities this record plays host to with a sense of surgical fluidity. As the record drives through the sharp-tongued Future Of The Left-meets-Biffy Clyro experimentalism of opener ‘Roussillon Serenade’, past the swaggering post-punk Frank Iero romanticism of ‘OKA’ and into the sub-tropical bittersweet fizz of ‘Single Source’, Veritas collects an array of contrasting yet complementing themes before equipping them with consecutive tracks.
Yet, despite the record enjoying such a plethora of genre sensibilities, it ensures it’s constantly buoyant, inviting and haplessly optimistic sonically. There’s an animated sense of deliciously paramount left-field wonder running throughout the record, one that’s cheerfully danceable and strongly reminiscent to the experimental child like amusement of And So I Watch You From Afar and Cleft. All of this becomes lovingly that’s evident with the youthful archaic bounce of ‘Ungoogable’, the post-punk venom of ‘Solastalgia’ and the sun-blessed hula of ‘Seven Beans’.
Even with CATLAN!’s delectable penchant of amalgamating musical tropes in a fashion that surpasses a lot of more established acts, a major part of this record’s brilliance is the charm running parallel throughout it. The spirit that imaginatively illuminates the musical intelligent and educated lyricism, Friers’ charisma and subtle Celtic lilt highlights the album’s luminous depth and allows the deeply considered stream-of-consciousness approach to be easily enjoyed thoroughly. The genuinely brilliant pieces of spoken word poetry that’s interplanted through this record give prominence to this fact, especially in instance of the greatly humorous ‘GARE’ and the slightly minimalist synth laced ‘Turbany’.
The crux of this undeniably magnetizing record boils down to the balanced relationship between the lyrical content and dynamic musical sensualities at hand. The warm take on post-rock entangled indie punk is equally the vessel of the idyllically narration of chaotic modern life as it vice-versa. Whilst many bands focusing on such themes find such a balance between two vital elements of music difficult to maintain, Veritas ensure such a balance is stabilised. With references to local history and the variety of emotion being incorporated to further add a human touch, whilst this record is endlessly busy, it’s extremely accessible and digestible. Truly, given such a broad breadth, one could consider it a zeitgeist of living through this time period.
In all, the sheer scope of this record justifying it’s marathon run time. Even with it’s consistent tone on marring childlike wonder with matured ponderous lyrical subjects, CATALAN! jumps and dives through endless left turns, keeping one enthralled constantly. Warm, charming and appealing to anyone with even a passing interest in experimental sonic dynamism, Veritas is a phenomenal debut and one that justifies the all capitalisation and loud punctuation of the project's namesake.
Veritas is self-released October 2nd. Pre-order the album here.