by trevor elkin
Past favourites of GFP, we recommended Cats Of Transnistria in our 2015 Flow Festival preview and caught their show in the murky concrete bowels of the Suvilahti powerplant that serves as the festival’s playground. Hearing their debut album ‘Divine’ brought back the sheer weight of expectation as we interloped among the intensely silent, mainly home crowd watching Tuomas Alatalo’s plectrum poised to strum out the first reverberating chords.
‘Divine’ faithfully captures that magical live experience, each song slowly laying down a soft mantle of gentle guitar and organ, which Henna Hietamäki’s ghostly folkish harmonies fall into and melt away. The effect is both hypnotic and all-consuming in its simplicity. As on their EP ‘Away’, COT adopt the introspective stance of shoegaze but know when to stop adding layers of sound to an already rich aural feast. Leaving this space allows the ebb and flow of each song, with the listener becoming one with the performance. With the shortest track being just over 6 minutes, it is testament to COT’s ability to engage us so profoundly that these epic soundscapes feel like fleeting moments.
There’s a sense of drifting away from shore, upstream towards an unknown place on ‘Let It Happen This Way’. Each guitar phrase ripples out then back again with reassuring regularity, encouraging us to let go, to surrender. ‘Feel The Divine’ and ‘Separation‘ continue in this way, gently and seemingly without agenda. Sometimes, but not so often as to break the reverie, we encounter dissonance, aberrant notes or tangential feedback, signalling something darker and impassioned is on the horizon. Sure enough, the tranquility of ‘Displacement’ is eventually agitated by a blizzard of guitar fuzz, which then subsides.
Like perpetual delta wave sleep, ‘Divine’ mainly hovers in the infinite space that divides consciousness and dreams, rarely stirring us from this blissful state. But when it does, it does so with ferocity and intent. The climax of ‘Thunder Comes’ is only made possible by the meeting of their two extremes; raw, visceral and almost impenetrable guitar cuts into the angelic, rapturous harmonies. The jarring embrace of these elements is transformative, closing in and around us until we too, are lost.
Divine is out now, via Soliti