Sugarcane‘s Cat’s Eyes is an album propelled forward by the loss of one bass guitar in South America and a renewed fascination with bossa nova style beats, to create a fusion of indie and Latin American sounds – Spanish guitars, cicada, samba drums, steel pans and exotic percussion accompany British indie songwriting,
On first listen we are suffused in wonder, as the immediate landscape takes us to an island filled with exotic animals and colourful parrots, the room fills with palm trees, chandeliers and chaise longues, in a post-modern style world of tropical ambience. All dipped in a menagerie of self-realisation, joyful beats, celebration and psychological exploration, while Robin French takes us on this karmic meditation to Eagle Peak for a birds eye view.
Title track ‘Cat’s Eyes‘ is a song that finds its impetus in a car accident that took place in South America, an impactful moment in lead singer Robin French’s life where he lost control and somehow survived this harrowing experience. He recounts the thoughts that whizzed through his consciousness of mortality and words left unsaid, ‘…and I think of all the things that I’ll never get to say to you,’ brought to a standstill in a moment. Robin reflects on life, all encompassed in thoughts and ideas collected in this magical and sun-drenched album.
‘One Specific Thing‘ reflects the glorious line-up, with guest vocals from the BAFTA award winning actor Antonia Thomas (Misfits and Lovesick). She recalls a series of events in poetic storytelling style similar to Lily Allen, as the album begins its journey across a wondrous landscape.
‘Blondes Have More Fun‘ tells the story of cultural re-appropriation, accompanied by some exotic steel pan drums to take you right back to the carnival. We move into ‘Midland Girls‘, soothing and gentle, as this introspective rendition recalls moving to the bright lights of the city, filled with the hope and optimism, the heartbreak and euphoria of dreams, downtempo, disarming and melting.
‘Bethnal Green Blues‘ dances through the night, gentle and honest, a coming to terms bossa-nova style existentialist exploration and brutal self-examination. Robin French declares ‘I’m a counterfeit’ – in this compassionate rendition, he overcomes obstacles while a couple dance the samba cheek to cheek. The cicada takes centre stage as we shimmy into ‘Forever‘ and Shambala Mess brings exotic percussion and sound effects, a more daring feel ‘you went into the jungle’, a story of lost and found, accompanied by samba beats, a dance track in slow motion as the band members trek through a post-festival psychedelic storm.
‘Clear Blue Sky‘ is a refreshing and rejuvenating sun-drenched fantasia, a blissful barefooted walk through the peaceful, elegant, joyful moments, as this chanson steals you away. Accompanied by a smattering of thunderstorm at the opening Robin French talks of his friend Josephine, a sweet and caring dedication to an innocent love.
Robin French re-imagines the opening of his favourite novel in ‘Wide Sargasso Sea‘ from the perspective of a parrot, with steel pan arrangements, maracas and other exotic delights. A jet-black calypso, fun, jerky, deftly serious. We part with the swooning ‘Night Owl‘, a sweet-beautiful lullaby, melancholy and melodic, an illustration of an insomniac, yet a soothing refreshing night cap.
While lynchpin, the former bassist with Mr Hudson and the Library and esteemed comedy writer Robin French has gifted his BAFTA nominated writing skills to style, create and craft this beautiful debut album, there were a whole host of talents who came together, from Siân Herbert (Of Ghosts & Other Forms) who makes a guest appearance on steel pan and flute, bolsanaro drummer Xande Oliveira, who has worked with the likes of Alison Moyet and Max de Castro, plus the talents of double bassist Klaus Stahr. The brilliant steel pan player and professional dancer Claire Niestyo-Bame completes the talented line-up.
Cat’s Eyes is out now on Frizz Records.