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cat skills
Kitty Craft
Catskills
March

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While we're not in the business of putting music into neatly-labeled buckets, we must admit that we're never sure how to describe Kitty Craft. Pamela Valfer's cut-up work adheres to its own unique aesthetic, and Catskills is even more laid back than last year's Beats and Breaks from the Flower Patch. It's languorous, lazy summer day music...with beats. More akin to dreamy bubblegum pop than downtempo trip-hop, Kitty Craft is like a nicotine patch for music lovers who can't make a cold-turkey break with breakbeats.

If you checked out Beats and Breaks..., you know the name of the game -- Valfer uses gentle-yet-bouncy percussion loops as a foundation for a variety of mellow samples -- acoustic guitars, floating pop strings and faintly psychedelic tinkling, spiced with a variety of interjections from lo-fi keyboards. But beyond the measured tempos and the scratchy seventies pop/muzak samples, there's a lot to enjoy, from "San Fran"'s brain-tickling sitar samples to "Comeback Queen"'s twinkly bell tones to "At the Charity Stripe"'s chewy analog synth accompaniment. Valfer's voice comes in multiple layers; mostly it's soft and sweet, like a lullabye, though her more nasal pronouncements may irritate. "How Long Can This Go On," perhaps the album's most energetic track, is downright delightful, though it might drive you nuts trying to figure out whether or not there's a sample of Funboy Three's "Our Lips Are Sealed" in there somewhere.

Detractors will tell you that most of Catskills sounds the same...and to some degree, they're right. Valfer is working with a fairly limited palette, and after the third or fourth song, if you're not listening attentively, the album devolves into a warm, friendly blur. Perhaps it would behoove Valfer to shoot for more variety the next time around, but there's nothing wrong with a warm, friendly blur -- indeed, it seems like that's the way the album is meant to be enjoyed. This isn't an urban soundscape. It's music for aimless Sunday afternoons, and picnics and low-key late-night get-togethers. It's the sound of modest luxury, and that's how you should approach it.

-- George Zahora
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