The name Oliver Catt might not be a familiar one to many but over the course of the next few months we predict it more than likely will be. As Fantasy Rainbow, the project conceived in his Richmond bedroom a little over 18 months ago, Catt has managed to create one of the year's most startling debuts. Initially little more than a solo exercise brimming with ideas and a batch of songs largely expressing one form of self-loathing or another - listen to Fantasy Rainbow's 2011 "Christmas single" for further evidence - Catt has gradually written and recorded a batch of songs that stand comparable with anything released in a similar vein on either side of the pond in recent times.
He's enlisted the help of various friends and acquaintances along the way. Local musician-cum-producer Jonathan Coddington, former Answering Machine singer/guitarist Martin Colclough and a host of budding musicians including brother Josh all having played a part in Fantasy Rainbow's evolution, while Catt's relocation to Manchester undoubtedly sped up the recognition process somewhat.
Having released three EPs on the Tiny Lights label culminating in the excellent No Hope. Not Ever six-tracker in March, Grammy winning engineer Vance Powell, more recently known for his work on Jack White's Blunderbuss, invited Catt over to his Sputnik Sound Studios in Nashville with producer Ed Spear and Bos Taurus was born. Consisting of 11 brand new recordings, the only one previously available being 'O, Weirdo', released as a 45 at the back end of summer, its a multiply diverse collection highlighting Catt's strengths as both songwriter and arranger.
Opener 'Soda Scream' clocks in at less than two minutes, its two-chord melody riding merrily along the A6 towpath like a Mancunian take on Bright Eyes. By contrast, current single 'Condominium' takes its instructions from Pet Sounds before lacing it with the DIY aesthetics of a modern day Jazz Butcher. Just when you think things can't get any weirder, they do. Fusing the afrobeat rhythms of Vampire Weekend's first record or Animal Collective when they can be arsed, 'Nothing But' stands out as Bos Taurus' most danceable, and affluently accessible three-and-three-quarter minutes. Because to all intents and purposes - and despite its strictly lo-fi sensibilities - Bos Taurus is an incredibly infectious pop record, make no mistake.
'Earwax' draws inspiration from Grand Prix-era Teenage Fanclub, Catt even sounding like a young Norman Blake as he inquires "Could you be there when I need you?" at the song's midpoint. What's most charming about Bos Taurus though is the way every single piece reveals another side to its creator's character. 'Portra' takes the aftermath of rejection into Gedge-like territories, Catt opining "Baby I've tried so hard to get upset" over a woozy, surf-inspired riff. Meanwhile, 'Bread Biscuit' aims for the stratospheres, combining a bunch of ideas that could have formed up to three individual pieces on their own into one song.
Obvious comparisons are bound to be made with the likes of Christopher Owens (nee Girls), Wavves and Spectrals, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but at the same time sells Oliver Catt and Fantasy Rainbow short considering the diverse range of musical styles flowing through Bos Taurus. 'Or; Comfort' takes jaunty pop wonderfulness to a world inhabited by the potty-mouthed sons of Pavement, while 'Golf World' might not quite last two minutes but in its one minute and 57 seconds somehow manages to create a brand new genre all of its own; slackerfunk.
What's most incredible is Oliver Catt has barely left his teens, yet still effortlessly managed to craft one of 2012's finest records. While the weight of expectation is a burden, judging by Bos Taurus the future looks distinctly bright from every angle for Catt and Fantasy Rainbow. And that folks, is why anyone claiming the UK's underground music scene to be an arid and fallow wasteland really needs to get out more, because there's a whole lot more Fantasy Rainbow's just waiting to be discovered. You have been told, now what are you waiting for..?
8Dom Gourlay's Score