mega cat makes a slashing debut from members of Smokey Brights

mega cat makes a slashing debut from members of Smokey Brights
Photo cred: Brittne Lunnis

A lot can be said about an instrumental album, considering the journey is all in the sound. One moment, it can be upbeat, jazzy, brimming with confidence; the next, it can wind down to almost defeat, oozing with melancholy. Layer upon layer, it’s the fusion of melody, musicianship, and machinery — not to mention all the fun bells and whistles you can add in post. It tells a story, one of infinite interpretation.

What started as a lockdown jailbreak turned into something so much more for members of Smokey Brights.

Seattle-based players Ryan Devlin and Kim West weren’t going to let the pandemic stop them from pursuing their passions. By the fall of 2020, musicians were still left twiddling their thumbs with public restrictions keeping concerts at bay. Instead of surrendering to dissociative madness, the two teamed with Aaron Benson to just jam — recording the sessions in their home studio. And thank god they did. And scratch that madness bit, that’s up for debate.

Whether or not it was their initial intention, mega cat was born. Those intimate sessions captured the emotions of the time: the hope, the eagerness, the fear, the ennui. This collection, when played front to back, is a symphonic opus, starting intriguingly uptempo with “Rat Fight” (see music video of which below). It’s actually the first track the trio laid down together, blending spy movie avant jazz with 70s Afro Beat — the kind that harkens back to blaxploitation film credits. By the second song “Worm Rider”, listeners have already heard a cacophony of flute, bongos, horns, synth, and keys over the usual suspects guitar, drum, and bass. More serious in tone and timbre, “Worm Rider” is the part of the movie when the protagonist is presented with a choice, the fork in the road, the challenge. Will they rise to the occasion? Maybe. But first, they must complete a training montage that pushes them to the limit, deceivingly titled “Celebrate with Port!”. Regardless of how the port fits in, the hero masters time and space through lustrous reverb and fluctuating time signatures. Now they’re ready to fight.

Which leads us to Sarah Connor…

The “Ballad of Sarah Connor” parts one and two divide the album down the middle, best heard on vinyl. Why? Because Part 1 ends side A, leaving the listener with the ultimate sonic cliffhanger before having to flip the record over for Part 2’s resolution. Absolutely brilliant. The 140-gram vinyl is yellow with heavy black splatter (like a tiger, which is literally a ‘mega cat’… no words describe how entertained I am by this band’s subtle wit). Also incredible is the original cover artwork by Shogo Ota; if there was ever a visual representation depicting the amalgam of this epic transmission, it’s in Ota’s illustration. Shapes collide with colors collide with eyes collide with hues collide with textures collide with teeth. Primal personified.

But back to the music. Just after chill jazz shoots up your spine in “Don’t You Ever Get the Creeps?” comes the “Good Newts” — it’s time for a flashback. “KRA1 (origin story)” is a smooth, jivey, underwater level of Donkey Kong kind of jam, spelling out not only the players’ initials (Kim, Ryan, Aaron) in audible format but also their prologue… mega cat’s inception. And now that listeners have the full story, the album leave you with a ‘mission accomplished’ feel in “Cool Adult”. Put the aviators on, rev the engine of the sports car, and peel off into the distance… that is, until another installment of the series arises.

And hopefully there WILL be a second installment.

With the world restored back to business as usual, Ryan and Kim are whisked back to their native Smokey Brights roles. But, for now, it seems the founding trio are keeping mega cat clawing away at the limelight. The band is actually touring this transcendental release with Dave Dederer (of Presidents of the United States of America) and Jacob Whinihan (of La Fonda) joining on guitar and percussion, respectively. Next stop is Treefort in Boise, Idaho (shoutout PNW!) and after that, who knows? Cat’s got their tongue.

Buy the vinyl or digital album:

mega cat – “Rat Fight”

Stream the album on Spotify:

Cover photo by Brittne Lunnis

Artist links: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.

Tour dates for mega cat

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