Spider Kitten – ‘Concise & Sinister’

By Jay Hampshire

There’s a trick many lazy reviewers use to describe an artist as ‘The UK’s answer to…’ whichever intercontinental band they’re drawing an (often tenuous) comparison to. While such a device is obviously old hat at best, it’s definitely warranted when it comes to Spider Kitten – ‘The UK’s answer to The Melvins’.

While their sonic palette as a whole might be different, there are more than enough similaritiesto draw between the two acts; the blistering work ethic, the heaving back catalogue, the refusal to be easily pigeonholed, the broad range of influences, the consistently fluxing lineup, and the odd dash of playfulness. Spider Kitten’s discography thus far has included forays into psych, prog, punk, sludge, stoner, doom and a wealth of covers besides, never content to rest in the same niche or on the strength past glories.

2016’s last full-length, ‘Ark Of Octofelis’, was a hazy trip through acid-laced prog, but is a world away from latest offering, ‘Concise & Sinister’. The four tracks here see Spider Kitten at perhaps their darkest permutation yet, arguably even more so than their bleak and weighty viking odyssey ‘Behold Mountain, Hail Sea, Venerate Sky, Bow Before Tree’ confronted listeners with.

Conceptually centered around the tale of a disturbed drifter sifting through his fragmented and muddled memories while languishing in a prison cell, the music mirrors this suitably bleak theme. Opening with ‘A Glorious Retreat’s breathy, wearied vocals and slowly waltzing instrumentation, you’re hit with an immediate wave of tense exhaustion, punctured by growling bass and jarring guitars. Big, ringing, doomy chords take form among waves of splashing cymbals, reaching out into a bleak expanse. Maddeningly, snippets of unsettling noise lie just at the far edge of hearing, dissolving as soon as they take the briefest of audible shapes. Chi Lameo’s soaring clean vocals add a dreamlike quality, pitted against tumbling, tom heavy drums. Things shift leftward into a darker mode, stretching out slowly stretching and spindling into a bristling maelstrom of uneasy atonal chords and squealing feedback. The track focuses on measured, glacial, organic changes, a stately procession of shuffling drums and pulsing chords, blooming out further with ethereal synth strings and brass. Building to a crescendo of a thick wall of instrumentation, things slowly deconstruct, peeling away layer by layer.

And, if you thought you had the measure of ‘Concise & Sinister’, the Kitten step out of nowhere with the jangling acoustics and world wearied vocals of a Hank Williams cover. ‘Alone & Forsaken’s tale of woe serves as a reminder that it just wouldn’t be a proper Spider Kitten record without the odd gust of dusty Americana. ‘I’m Feeling So Much Better’ is a sudden explosion of neurosis, lances of feedback and chugging cascades of riffs beset by scalded shrieks and hardcore fury. Railing against insomnia, bitterly acerbic lyrics like “every day is the same as the last one” see this brief and brutal under-one-minute wonder sounding like Chris West has snuck in some influences from his more recent outfit, Made Of Teeth.

‘Martyr’s Breath’ returns us to the slow and the low, swelling with ’80s synth worthy of a John Carpenter score before ringing, triumphant chords echo the progression. Slow, methodical drum work and soaring, almost chant-like vocals evoke classic doom tropes while airy synths skitter and dance. Feedback drenched guitars slowly chug and grind, drum fills slowly ushering in gentle, creeping guitars that start to groan over a shuffling, super smooth psych groove. Things end abruptly, leaving a wake of looping noise that fades out fast.

Versatile, consistently engaging and and resistant to the formulaic, Spider Kitten’s latest full length is every bit of its title, a sinister statement of concision that will further cement their place in the UK cult music hierarchy. Long may their Melvinsian odyssey into the beautiful and the batshit continue.

JAY HAMPSHIRE

Three more album reviews for you

Boyfromthecrowd - 'Surrender To The Exercise'

Joyce Manor - 'Million Dollars To Kill Me'

We Were Promised Jetpacks - 'The More I Sleep The Less I Dream'