Monika CefisWhen you were young, did you ever open a music box to see an elegant ballerina twirling around to a romantic sequence of notes? If so, the opening segment of Monica Cefis’ Aristocat” is sure to transport you straight back to that moment. This is the first track from Cefis and her “band of misfit musicians'” forthcoming EP, Dreamed a Little Dream, and we are pleased to premiere the single today.

On the surface, “Aristocat” sounds like a quaint albeit bone-chilling single. However, the song is much more than just a nice listen, but it is full of nods to memorable moments in music, film, and theatre history.

The title, for instance, calls to mind Disney’s animated classic, picturing Thomas O’Malley, Duchess and her kittens on their Parisian adventure “when we walked like stray cats through the quiet streets”. In addition, as you listen to “Aristocat’s” opening melody, I defy you not to catch an undercurrent of the Sherman Brothers’ “Hushabye Mountain“, which is from another favourite childhood musical film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the theatre version is currently touring – catch it if you can).

And how weird is this – “Hushabye Mountain” is a track on the similarly-named EP Dream a Little Dream by Pink Martini and The von Trapps – descendents of the real-life family behind the story of The Sound of Music, yet another piece of musical film history.

If you’re not satisfied with three cinematic references, “Aristocat” also pulls in one of the most iconic scenes in movie history with the line “we will always have Paris”. If you need a quick refresher, click here for Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the famous scene from Casablanca. Cinema not your thing? For 20th Century feminist and existential philosophy geeks, there’s a mention of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre too. Once again, we are transported to Paris. Anyone for pain au chocolat at Les Deux Magots?

The sense that there is an underlying puzzle to solve, as the themes and references intertwine, is heightened by Cefis’s quirky creativity. She brings “found sounds” to her music, including the click-clack of an old-fashioned typewriter, the movement of a carnival automaton, or maybe the tumblers of a combination lock. Can we get behind the carnival mask, or through the lock, to discover hidden layers?

Monika’s vocals, accurately described as ethereal, matched with dainty percussion and light-as-air strings overlay a waltz tempo which, in turn, masks a vaguely, sinister arrangement. Are we dancing, or are we being danced by this piece? Determine the answer for yourself as you spin “Aristocat” below.

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Photo by Camil Tang.

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