This past year has been a lot to unpack. Making sense of it all is nigh on impossible. To even try seems like such an overwhelming task. One man up to the task is Ewen Friers, one third of Northern Irish punk trio Axis Of and now the man beneath the banner of CATALAN!
Naming one’s debut album after the Latin word for truth is a bold statement but it appears to have been one borne of a genuine yearning for Friers to represent his own. ‘Veritas’ follows a string of diverse singles; its creation saw Friers relocate to a secluded glen on Ireland’s north coast with his live band and producer Ryan McGroarty (Beauty Sleep, Start Together Studios), arranging voice notes, demos, lyrics and instrumental into this fully realised and stylistically divergent album over a 10-day period.
CATALAN! is a difficult act to pin down. Post-rock, post-punk, dance punk and folk are all present. Guitar leads are seasoned with Latin/calypso flavours and several tracks throughout the album are peppered with tropical percussion, with Frier’s distinctive, youthful Derry lilt adding a sense of local charm over the top.
Fans of Friers’ other outfit will be easily won over by choppy-as-tidal-waves opening track Roussillon Serenade, over which Friers rants at will about Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, wondering “how the fuck am I even writing this?” Oka features gorgeous, tremolo guitars giving way to a bass heavy funky punk stomp and layered harmonised vocals, another recurring sonic treat used to full effect throughout ‘Veritas’.
Single Source blends these layered vocals with a scintillating salsa-like beat, namechecking Bruce Springsteen amongst other things, Friers’ voice betraying an aching vulnerability, before the song explodes into a guitar-driven, post-rock hyper drive.
For all the captivating genre-bending, pulled off with a deftness that equals that of better known acts, there is as much charm. Friers’ exuberance and attention to detail paid to both music and lyrics (there are a few genuinely brilliant, if entirely singular, spoken word poetry pieces on here) alike make ‘Veritas’ a thoroughly enjoyable listen.