Thuistezien 115 — 16.11.2020

Simon Crab & Fritz Catlin
Onze Ambassade Festival 2019

Simon Crab and Fritz Catlin began their musical careers as integral parts of a small 1980s underground rock scene based in London. It was a genre-pushing environment, exploring industrial sounds and newly emerging post-punk directions. It challenged many of rock and pop’s conventions, was politically-minded and critical of the mainstream world it existed in. Several acts from this scene now hold semi-mythical status and often crop up in retrospective articles and documentaries as harbingers of new musical directions. Yet, Simon Crab’s ‘Bourbonese Qualk’ and ‘23 Skidoo’ that featured Fritz Catlin unfortunately don’t make it into the accounts of their musical scene as often as they should. These two bands seem mysteriously non-existent online at first glance, but once you dive into their past you discover the traces of two fascinating, influential and forward-looking projects that left a memorable trail across the depths of offbeat rock.

An intensely DIY approach of self-releasing music gave these two aforementioned groups freedom to push the boundaries of their vast vision, but has made it harder until recently to discover their music. Their desire was to follow their constantly curious vanguard spirits, without having to mediate their sound for anyone’s taste or for sales. They are also groups that are difficult to neatly categorise in any specific genre, and proved more open in their multi-stylistic genre-bending than many of their more frequently-mentioned contemporaries. Their chameleon–like ability to bring in elements from a vast array of emerging genres and draw from musical traditions from all around the world make them projects that require listeners to keep an open mind and to challenge themselves. This attitude and curiosity was only expanded in subsequent projects featuring each of these two musicians as they keep moving forward into new territories and explore new trends in electronic music. A great example of this is Simon Crab’s 2000s project ‘Sunseaster’, which pushed his music into a unique, expansive yet slightly abrasive ambient world based on filed recordings and a wide array of percussion sounds.

As such, the collaboration of the two is no surprise, and the unique musical spirit that has underpinned their respective careers is what we see onstage when Simon Crab – on laptop and electronics – and Fritz Catlin – on drums and percussion – performed at the 2019 Onze Ambassade Festival in a set bathed in dark and trippy coloured light-scape projections. Their set shows instrumental pieces that are moody and elusive, drawing from industrial music, electronic music and dance music, featuring a mix of bare-bones drum grooves which is matched with a rough timbral edge and a grooving ambient mindset. The pieces are unified in approach yet contrasting in style as they also bring in elements of dub music, hip-hop and trip-hop-tinged grooves, and even sounds reminiscent of Indonesian Gamelan. Somehow it seems like it is music you should be dancing to in an ecstatic stupor, but also music that you want to sit back and experience fully intellectually in a concert hall setting.

Written by James Alexandropoulos - McEwan