Katrina Ford and Sean Antanaitis had been in a number of bands before forming Celebration, including the semi-legendary Jaks. Then they stumbled across drummer David Bergander and decided that he was the man to help them in yet another new project.
The result was Celebration, and eventually they found themselves on 4AD, the indie label for all occasions. With support from TV On The Radio‘s David Sitek (who appears here in his role as a producer and musician), Ford and Antanaitis have produced an album of gentle, if sporadically confusing, beauty.
The album opens with recent single War, an absolute peach of a song, which is full of heart, aggression and social comment: it’s probably the highlight of the album. A scattershot drum pattern, a psychedelic organ that punches and whirls uncontrollably, and then there’s Ford’s vocals. To say that she sounds ambiguous would be something of an understatement.
At times you find yourself scanning the liner notes to see who is sharing vocal duties on a lot of these songs – such is the versatility of her voice. In the space of War alone, she’s a hooting banshee carnival stallholder, a breathless male Indie God and a female torch singer. She has a fantastic range and delivery, and the rest of the album only continues to prove that she is one of the most exciting and schizophrenic vocal talents around at the moment.
In all honesty, the rest of the album struggles to compare to the exhilarating opening salvo of War, although there are some truly magical moments throughout. In place of War’s aggression, songs such as Ancient Animals or Holiday find themselves heading into territory marked ‘jazz’. Sometimes they lead you on a merry dance through the most terrifying Carnival you’ve ever been to.
This isn’t as bad as it sounds (even the Jazz bits); indeed at times the gently undulating keyboards create a sprawling dream world for Ford to exercise her vocal talents. Sometimes it borders on self-indulgent, but when you’re faced with lyrics like; “Once I led the kittens to cave, so fed the cub to his grave, all right,” (on Foxes – another of the more driven aggressive numbers) that seem so bleak and full of oblique messages, it’s easy to forgive a little excess.
Celebration is the kind album that you really need to be in the right frame of mind for. There is so much going on in these songs: they slowly build themselves into layers of sound, they change direction and mood at a moment’s notice, and they confuse, disturb and delight often within the space of a few seconds.
These songs demand your attention: without it you will miss a lot of the depth that this band has to offer. You should spend a while with Celebration; although it’s unlikely you’ll want to spend too long in their company at any one time.