Paul Catten - Themes And Variations For Strings And ElectronicsMore commonly well known fronting some of the finest extreme bands from these shores, such as Medulla Nocte and Murder One, Paul Catten has unleashed his latest and very different album with “Themes And Variations For Strings And Electronics”. A solo project exploring classical music, as well as intimidating noise, which challenges the listener right from the very start.

‘The Shocking Reality Of Reaching Midlife’ opens up the album and the sound of rainfall and a woman crying take you into a world of unnerving melodies. Strings accompany the dissonant piano during this introduction to the album. From the first point this album is uneasy listening and that is exactly what it sets out to be.  ‘An Army Of Narcoleptics Swarm Upon Us’ starts off in a much more melodic way, with soothing strings immediately settling you down after the rather more frenetic first track. The sense of security doesn’t last too long as you are hit by a wall of white noise and feedback about three minutes in after almost being counted in. This track finishes where the first one started with the samples.

The minimal piano of ‘The Jedi And The Selective Mute’ gives the track a very isolated sound. Like other solo instrumentals I have heard recently, the production gives the music an echoing, haunting feel, as if the music was recorded alone in a huge room. ‘Sonata For Oscillator And Theramin – estinto’ is the shortest track on this album. Two minutes dominated by electronics with the melody coming from the theramin, which is used to excellent effect throughout the album, appearing sporadically and adding a new, ethereal side to this release.

To finish this release we have ‘Finale: Serenity In An Ocean Of Storms’. At nearly fourteen minutes long it is by far the longest track on the album and for the first third of the song, it is sombre, before the electronics come in, but the melody stays throughout and slowly returns to become the main feature over the electronic soundscape before slowly fading out as the album comes to a close.

This collection was written and recorded entirely by Catten and although he has experimented and moved away from the typical song structure before with projects such as Stuntcock, but he has pushed himself this time with the added strings and piano. An eclectic mix of subdued beauty mixed with feedback and distorted noise. The mix works well, and the whole idea and presentation of the album gives the idea as this being a labour of love. An album that could easily be misunderstood as just noise, but when you take the time to listen to it fully (and through headphones), it is half an hour well spent, and you seem to discover something new on every listen.