Karen Carpenter does psych rock.
There is something both exciting and pensive about seeing a musician turn from a recorded straight to tape bedroom rocker to going full beans in the studio with a fully realised album. Katie Von Schleicher has done just that, from her debut album in 2017 to Consummation, her 2020 follow up – she’s grown and expanded her audio palette. Katie sounds better than ever.
I discovered Katie in reverse, finding this album and then backtracking to her debut, but the journey and step between them is noticeable. Katie creates psych rock that is allowed room to breathe. There is something very retro about the whole thing – very 1968-73 in the production, instrumentation and the way the music glides. From the uptempo crunchy rock of ‘Wheel’ to the drifting ethereal Carpenter feels of ‘Nowhere’ – both feel of that era but neither sound alike at all.
For me, Katie Von Schleicher is in her element when she is playing with something slightly unhinged and off the rails. ‘Caged Sleep’ is a great example of this as its a strong driving rock track that throws in chords and octave jumps you aren’t expecting to add quirk to the rock. ‘Loud’ and ‘Can You Help’ lets Katie’s higher register soar like Kate Bush over Cardigans styled rock riffs. There is just a hint of cassette hiss and warmth in the production to make the tracks feel crunchier and messier. It gives the entire album an indie glow that it basks in throughout.
Harks back to the bedroom days are still here but this time it is by design not necessity. ‘Messenger’ is a beautiful cross over of choral rock and cheap sounding drum machines. The ethereal doom drones of ‘Gross’ also benefit from the hazy tape production vibes that seep throughout the album. It is a song that will likely be overlooked by many but it is one of my favourites on the album. It is so gothic and ghostly and taps into many of the lyrical themes of the album about feeling invisible. That concludes with the track ‘Nothing Lasts’ which feels like a timeless rock ballad.
It would be remiss of me to not comment on Katie Von Schleicher’s vocal gymnastics. On songs like ‘Brutality’, ‘Messenger’ and ‘Strangest Thing’ – Katie offers an almost operatic bleeding heart performance that defies easy categorisation. It isn’t quite operatic but it has that strong wavering bellow to it and she rinses every drop of emotion out of every word. It really is quite evocative and clever.
It took me a few listens to really click with ‘Consummation’ but it is a very fine rock album. Leaning into some of her lo-fi past is no bad thing but the whole album feels big, bold and rich with sound. So much thought has been given to things feeling old yet revitalised that it feels strangely timeless. Most of the best rock is.
Recommended track: Loud
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