The first thoughts that comes to mind when you read the title of the new record by Big Cats What If It Doesn’t Get Better? are likely macro thoughts of society crumbling into stagnation. Quickly, after pressing play on the his sophomore solo album those premonitions will disappear in the warm atmospheric grooves that could have been the soundtrack to the Apollo 11’s moon landing…if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were having an acid induced dance party while there.
The title actually is a motivating mantra of Big Cats, real name Spencer Wirth-Davis. “It’s a saying, I’ve used a lot over the last couple years to remind myself to keep pushing and trying new things; taking risks and being okay with failing.” Wirth-Davis said.
What If falls in line with the previous releases from Wirth-Davis, in the sense that it is a progression in sound and process. The sound is futuristic and organic; dense but not cluttered; ethereal but bassy. The organic feel of the record is due to the how the process started. Similar to his last two full lengths (For My Mother and Pangaea w/ Toki Wright), this record began with live sessions, where Spencer would record himself playing or others to a cassette tape. “I recorded all the original samples on the same cassette tape and at the end of the day I’d pull samples from it and just record over it the next day.” He said. “That kind of colored the sound of the record, especially later on when that tape was getting worn down and other bits were coming through that had been taped over a bunch of times.”
These songs were recorded in the Summer of 2015 and culminated in two weeks towards the end of the season when Big Cats inked a deal to release the album through OkayPlayer; a deal that ended up falling through. “The real push to actually get a record out came in August. I was in a meeting with them playing a bunch of beats and they were like ‘Oh, we want to put out a record. Do you have something ready?’ and I was like ‘Yeah totally have a record ready. It’s just on another hard drive.'” Davis said, with a tint of sarcasm. It appears that Big Cats and OkayPlayer still have a good relationship, they premiered this new record.
The song titles on this album give a glimpse into the reserved sarcastic side of Wirth-Davis. Some overtly, like “Crooked Face Dumb Fuck” which he describes has “sorta autobiographical.” and “The Creator Has A Master Plan, Just Kidding We’re Holograms” the latter being an ambient spinning nod to saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and his album which the track borrows part of it’s title from.
Others are more simple and subtle like the fast-paced dancy track “Nevada” which Spencer explained as “a place I want to go but never been,” then adding “I’m pretty sure there’s aliens there.” Or the last track “The Sons of God Are Everywhere, Sometimes It Can Be Difficult To Recognize Our Brothers.” which he said is inspired by an alleged quote from the Pope after a UFO encounter. “That’s probably a totally made up store because I heard it on one of the many paranormal podcasts that I listened to.” Wirth-Davis said.
The album features the talents of Gen Divine, Toki Wright, Claire De Lune, Nelson Devereaux, Lydia Liza, and Eric Mayson. The latter three, who contributed the most, will accompany Big Cats onstage for the release show Saturday, March 26 (TOMORROW) at the Amsterdam in St. Paul. Sloslylove and Lexii Alijai will perform opening sets and Claire de Lune will make her DJing debut as well. All of the details are here.
Give a listen to the new record below, buy the digital copy on bandcamp, or head to a Twin Cities record shop to pick up the vinyl.
Main photo by Erin Pederson.