On October 18th at the Metro Gallery, Fractal Cat released their first album, The Eye in the Dawn.
When lead singer and founder of Fractal Cat Miles Gannett speaks of his inspiration, he says, “I want to evoke a sense of awe toward the universe, the beauty and mystery of life. I want to evoke Love, Joy, Truth… and smiling and dancing.”
With the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Gong, all bestowing influences on their music, Fractal Cat is about delight and wonder in exploring the edge states of consciousness. Their sound is reminiscent of the past but also inhabits the now.
With their layered electronic effects, Fractal Cat’s influences have passaged the decades to arrive, sparking in the hearts and opening in the expression of Jason Baker (drums), Joe Clark (lap top), Miles Gannett (lead vocals & guitar), Meghan Gwyer (keyboard & harp), Keith Jones (vocals, guitar), and Andy Myatt (bass).
Like an oscillating, underwater memory, a Velvet Underground/ Simon & Garfunkel nostalgia emerges in their sound as a dream. Hypnagogic is an apt descriptions for Fractal Cat’s sound, which inhabits the groundless, free form space between waking and dreaming. It is a place of another more ambiguous and electric world, as The Eye in the Dawn strums and roars between.
Fractal Cat was first ignited with Miles & Keith meeting each other at an open mic in Ellicott City. They formed a band shortly after called The Supreme Now that had a couple of performances before it dissolved. Later, Miles met Jason on a yoga field trip when they went to hear the Dalai Lama speak. At Powwow, a yearly gathering that marks the start of Spring, Miles met Meghan who was then playing with Voodoo Pharmacology. While, Miles had known Joe forever, and they had even been roommates, it was when the band was formed that Miles asked Joe to join. Finally, Andy was last to arrive recommended by a Kung-Fu teacher.
Although, Fractal Cat has evolved and grown in members over the years, The Eye in the Dawn is Fractal Cat’s first album. It’s been a long time coming with “Spiral Slide”and “Some Angel” first recorded in 2007. While, “Home,” “Doesn’t It Feel,” and “Days Keep Falling” were first written by Miles in 2000.
Miles says, “The first song (The Eye in the Dawn) talks about how the sun is going to rise, but most of the songs on the first side are dark—‘night’ songs. And then the sun rises but it’s not exactly how you thought it was going to be….”
Diurnal and nocturnal, Fractal Cat reveals its sound as two sides of the psyche and seasons. While the experiences of the band members’ first love with music is a thread that’s brought forward and through the sound.
I asked members of the band about the first songs they remember listening to that opened or changed the way they heard music.
Andy was the first to respond: “what really got my ears pointed into the heart of the universe was when my parents took me to Sha Na Na at Merriweather for their earth-shattering, 1978 Tour. Everything I play now is just the bass after shocks from that show working their way out of my psyche.”
Miles: “For me, it all started with La Bamba the movie. I learned to play the song on the organ; I would wander around the neighborhood singing it at the top of my lungs, probably driving everyone out of their wits. Then I was introduced to Buddy Holly and the Crickets through the “Buddy Holly Story” movie. I knew that rock n roll was for me!….”
Jason: “As a small child, I remember my Mom playing Debussy and Scott Joplin on piano. I was 6 when MTV launched, and Billie Jean was playing all the time. It was then after seeing a big red drum set on MTV that I knew …. since … it has been John Bonham, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Miles, Max Roach and Tony Williams that have influenced my playing to name few….”
Meghan: “In 3rd grade, I was asked to pick an instrument for “strings.” I selected “harp” because I was trying to be difficult. It so happened the school had a small lap harp and my sister and I started together…. She eventually switched to flute but we grew up together singing and playing gigs …. Those are my best and earliest musical experiences and shaped my love of tight vocal harmonies and ensemble playing….”
Keith: “…. A life-changing moment was the first time I heard Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” on a mix tape. I knew I couldn’t write and sing that good but I’d never put down the acoustic after that.”
From this tight formation of musicians, there’s come a third mind of collaboration. The first time Miles saw Matt Muirhead’s artwork Miles wanted Matt to make an album cover.
“It was so trippy, and it had zebras and the like. I told Matt some ideas about the kind of images I was seeing in the cover. I think I said “mandala-like.” And then I told him that I was going to trust him to do his thing, and he was happy about that. It turned out perfect! The images in the painting echo the themes of nature and mysticism in the music. Birds are a reoccurring presence in the recordings, and there are lots of references in the lyrics to nature themes. There is a darkness and a mysteriousness in Matt’s painting, which also is present in many of the recordings, but also a seeking, a dawning, of awareness or “light.” I don’t know; what do you see!? The image of the house that is used in the artwork is the house in Waverly where I was living, and where most of the album was recorded. The eye in the painting is Matt’s eye—I guess that was his way of signing it!”
Like dendrites, signaling connecting points in and out on memory, The Eye in the Dawn triggers our own experience of the wild places inside ourselves.
When I asked Miles why we need psychedelic music now, he said, “To me, psychedelic music especially functions to break down mental rigidity, conceptual solidity, you know? So we can experience life more immediately—without the filter of thought-forming ….. We can listen to everyday sounds like dripping faucets and squeaky bicycles as music. … I guess Fractal Cat is like amplified Love, with bicycles. Psychedelic music …. helps people remember how to be like children, or to learn to be like cats: full of wonder.”
The Eye in the Dawn will be released 10/30 through Amazon & iTunes. And you can buy CDs starting today at Sound Garden in Fells Point!!
Following Fractal Cat’s CD release last Thursday at the Metro Gallery, The Megadrives with Joe Clark of Fractal Cat & Ryan Stinnett rock the electronic edge of Baltimore with what can be described as the chemistry of DJ brothers. Their energy and symbiotic interaction draws the audience into what seems like ecstatic mutual discovery propelling the listener into an oscillating future!
kataStatic, is Chris Mandra of Telesma’s solo project. Last Thursday Chris invited Sean P. Finn, Adrian Bond & Sarah Lovelace Smith to join him on stage. Like tonal mood rangers, kataStatic is a layered improvisation of electric and acoustic instruments, triggered samples, and the human voice. They are one part band and one part pure feeling, taking experimental IDM to another level of awakening.