It’s not every musical act who can claim they made their live performance debut at The Vatican, in front of a gaggle of high-ranking Cardinals, but that’s just what Cat’s Eyes did this past January. God only knows if the assembled clergy were aware that the male half of this duo was also the lead singer for a band called The Horrors.
Yes, this is collaboration between Horrors’ lead singer Faris Badwan and Canadian opera soprano Rachel Zeffira. The two became musically active after realizing they shared a love of 60s girl groups like The Shangri-las and The Ronettes. They began writing songs in the genre but the tunes eventually morphed into something, well, different.
The Shangri-las influence can still be heard on the opening track, also called Cat’s Eyes, when a dramatic chord begins the song flowed by Zeffira’s voice cooing, “let me tell you something”, which just as easily could have been, “is she really going out with him”, from Leader Of The Pack. But the rest of the track takes off in uncharted musical territory with a throbbing bass, soaring synths and strings and Faris’ dark, gothic voice underpinning Rachel’s light, airy soprano.
In addition to her vocal abilities, Rachel Zeffira is an accomplished musician, playing oboe, violin, piano, vibraphone and harmonium, among other things. Meanwhile Badwan take the sounds that Zeffira makes and runs them through various electronic gizmos to create a somewhat otherworldly sound. Songs like The Best Person I Know and Not A Friend are full of swirling ambient electronica while Rachel’s echo-laden vocals float gently over the music. The final result is not unlike something Julee Cruise might have sung on Twin Peaks.
Most of the tunes feature just Rachel singing although there are a few duets, most notably The Lull, a delicate piano-driven ballad that is quite gorgeous.
The album’s one misstep is unfortunately the longest of the 10 tracks (they are all under 4 minutes). Sooner Or Later features Badwan singing on his own. The track starts out with what sounds like the low blatt of a tuba and then Faris takes off with his deep, dark overdramatic singing. Its sounds like an outtake from the first Bauhaus album and completely out of place here.
Better are tunes like Bandit, where Rachel is free to let her voice loose while Faris whips up his cool and imaginative soundscapes. It’s not Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound…more like a Veil Of Sound.
Click here to listen to Bandit from Cat’s Eyes: