KITTEN PYRAMID, THE STORY SO FAR
BY DAVID STUBBS
Scott Milligan conceived Kitten Pyramid with friend Tom Goodwin out of a sense of frustration with the limits of music in this world, prompted by some tipsy punter giving an unsolicited rendering of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ in the Malt Cross pub in Nottingham. Why did albums run out of steam after three tracks? Why did artists plough such linear furrows, looking down, not up, or from side to side? He imagined a music that ran the full gamut of colours, styles, emotions, from pop to prog, from the Earth to the sky. “I’d always fancied the idea of a Polyphonic Spree-type choir with a Prince-like, anything goes, creative approach,” says Milligan, quickly adding, “with Beatles hooks and a licence to press Metallica or Joni Mitchell buttons if we fancied.” Feeling that ingredients were still a little lacking in his proposition, he further added Björk, Frank Zappa and Super Furry Animals.
The name “Kitten Pyramid”, meanwhile, was the germ of an idea just now coming to fruition. A lifelong meat eater, albeit one toying with vegetarianism, Milligan was nonetheless struck by the arbitrariness of human carnivores – to eat a cow was fine but to eat a cat, your nan’s cat, was an act of monstrous cruelty. He saw a “meat pyramid” featured on a mixed grill menu. Suppose that meat were cat meat? A Kitten Pyramid, indeed? What was really the difference?
Formed in 2010, Kitten Pyramid were a volatile, messy proposition, seeking to take (mis)shape, featuring anything from two to 20 members, with Milligan the only constant. Their first album was ‘Uh Oh!’ and with its meticulous arrangements and neo-psychedelic stylings, it caught the ear of Tom Robinson in 2015 who invited them to tour with him. They also took the album on a tour of psychiatric hospitals - the album had been dedicated to Milligan’s uncle, a lifelong sufferer from mental illness. This attracted the attention of The Guardian, who followed them and wrote up a feature. The tour, as well as being a fine gesture, was an apt metaphor for Kitten Pyramid – a group taking pop music to places to which it ought to go but far too infrequently does.
An early recording, ‘7 Day Duvet’, eventually found its place on 2021’s album ‘Koozy!!’. It’s an apt starting point for newcomers - solipsism to share, threatening to burst in all directions. Inward and into the sky with diamonds, Koozy!!, despite its exclamation marks, was dedicated to Milligan’s mother, an emotional powerhouse, a rock of strength, who succumbed to COVID, her immune system fatally weakened by MS. Described by this writer in Classic Rock as “joyful and sombre, playful and solemn”, with time and speed changes signifying its swift changes of mood, it reminded of Van Dyke Parks one moment, Wire the next, but reminded ultimately of Kitten Pyramid.
2022 and the story continues.
Back to that rumination on vegetarianism. Triggered by driving past a livestock lorry, Milligan considered exploring the topic in greater depth – a film, an album. Vegetarianism was an answer for experts in climate change but, for Milligan, only yielded further questions to ponder. “What about plant-based foods? There are so many now, and what will happen to the animals if we stop breeding them? Is it just their farts that are wrecking the ozone? What happens to the livestock farmers? Where will we get the manure from? What about the rest of the world where meat is their only form of protein?” By June of 2022, Milligan had a film script, director, producer and full crew in place. The film seeks not to tub-thump or virtue-signal but look at the issue from all sides, generating enough material and substance from which to draw a possible conclusion.
‘Road hog’ was the first single from the upcoming album KIDDO, released in May and featuring Pigcasso, the painting pig and viral art sensation, marking a participation in the first ever human/non-human art collaboration. Milligan always said that where music ultimately failed to stimulate him, fell aesthetically short, he would turn to film for inspiration. Now he has turned to film as a medium.
Kitten Pyramid are more, much more, than the standard issue vague, strumming introverts. They are music-plus.
David Stubbs, London, June 2022
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