Gay Cat Park: Synthetic Woman LP (Medical Records, 2012)

April 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Gay Cat Park: Synthetic Woman

Gay Cat Park: Synthetic Woman

File under Records Paul Never Imagined Would Ever Exist But Now They Do And Paul Is Overjoyed. Sometime shortly after graduating college, I got really heavily into Italo-disco, and thanks to the Internet being a lot faster than it previously was, I was able to hear all sorts of incredibly obscure records I never would’ve known existed otherwise, and I absolutely fell in love with all sorts of ’80s Euro-dance oddities. Particularly exciting to me were the sort of obscure, cult-classic one-shots like “I’m A Vocoder” by Gary Cat Park, who apparently were group of teenagers from Italy in the early ’80s. The track was the first release on legendary label Il Discotto Productions, and it’s such a simple, catchy song, with charmingly mispronounced English lyrics (“circulator” instead of “calculator”, “microprocessor” pronounced “microprochessor”) about, well, being a Vocoder, a synthetic voice. The track’s about 8 minutes, has an extended instrumental intro, and maddeningly fades out mid-verse, like the album version of Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime”. It’s an absolutely classic song, and I was so excited a few years ago when Clone Classic Cuts reissued the song on a 12″, along with new vocal and instrumental mixes which truthfully are not better than the original. For 30 years “I’m A Vocoder” was the only released Gay Cat Park song, and now Medical Records (a reissue label that I absolutely need to check out more releases from) has released a see-through red-splattered LP of GCP material. Of course “I’m A Vocoder” is on here, but now we can hear what else was up these guy’s sleeves. Turns out the rest of their material isn’t quite as dancefloor-ready as “Vocoder”, it’s more uptempo and minimal-wave. I know, dumb made-up categories, whatever. The point is, it’s more synth-pop and less disco than I expected. It’s still every bit as amazing as I expected, though, of course. The LP comes with a huge sheet of liner notes, explaining how they modified cheap toy-like keyboards to function as real synthesizers. The first track on this LP contains a Speak ‘N’ Spell saying the band’s name, so you know this was such a homemade lo-fi project. Eventually they got hold of proper synths, but all the songs were still recorded lo-tech in real time; the liner notes state that “no sequencers were harmed in the making of this song” next to every track, although one of them contains a TB-303 bassline. Musically, Depeche Mode is definitely a major influence (the bands claim to own the entire discography and have seen them every time they’ve played Italy), and while it’s definitely easy to hear the early DM sound in this band, they still did something really original and creative. Aside from “Vocoder” my favorite track has to be the romantic instrumental “A Bunch Of Flowers”, which is just smiling-ear-to-ear synth-disco bliss. More than anything else, I just can’t believe they did all this stuff when they were teenagers, and that only one of these tracks actually ended up getting released at the time. How do you just come home from school one day and hook up some cheap keyboards and drum machines and record music like this? And why does it take 30 years for anyone to realize how brilliant it was?

The vinyl is probably all sold out by now, as it was limited to 650 copies, but you can stream and purchase the digital version on Bandcamp. And the fact that Medical Records has a Bandcamp means I have a ton of catching up to do now.

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