What does Katie Gately sound like?
Experimental electronic playgrounds that haunt and celebrate in equal measure.
The review of Katie Gately – Fawn / Brute
Built upon unusual electronic beats, raspy synapses, brassy tones and curious vocals, Katie Gately weaves a fascinating sound. It’s one of those albums that draws you in with its offbeat charm. I knew I liked it on the first listen. I knew I loved it by the tenth. It is an album of two halves. The first half is inspired by the birth of her first child. The second is an exploration of British post-punk sonic brutality.
The key to Katie’s charm is the way she marinades her music with lots of odd sounds that point towards something. She rarely goes straight for the jugular melodically, but instead goes for it sonically. On the off-kilter fanfare of ‘Fawn’, the main percussion line is a selection of bleeps, blood and squelches that become a melody of their own. Then synths and brass toot and soar around Katie’s voice which sounds like she is about to whisper a mission-critical objective in your ear at all times. Between this and the stadium stomps and catchy vocal patterns of ‘Cleave’, it’s about as direct as the album gets. Katie said that part of the album was inspired by the busy and unsubtle dynamics of kids TV. She samples cartoon sounds and if you listen deeply, you’ll hear all kinds of effects in the audio mix.
‘Seed’ opens the album with muted brass and tickling hi-hats that heed a warning. As the synths turn into warning sirens, Katie’s calm drawn-out lower register brings a theatrical sinister edge. ‘Howl’ is far more dramatic and overt. The beats start chopping up the vocals into visceral barks and animal screaming samples. Making her voice a percussive thrust is a recurring theme across the album. ‘Peeve’ blurs her voice into a synth that distorts and bends like a weapon. When mixed with thin piano, sultry sax and moody retro synths – it’s like an industrial take on 80s pop. Cinematic flair peaks with the playful and brooding ‘Scale’. Sounding like a Russian Waltz mixed with mechanical drums and some genius use of deep oboe (I think) it’s an album highlight. Katie Gately uses her voice in so many inventive ways, you’ll often wonder what she’s transformed herself into. Alongside that, throughout the first half of the album, there is more than a hint of Disney villain to the theatrics and production. Flamboyant but damaged. A bit like riding a merry-go-round into the depths of hell. It is unique and takes a few listens to click but I recommend turning the sound right up to feel the music as much as listen to it.
The guttural use of brass and woodwind continues with ‘Meat’. Here, the instruments imitate a didgeridoo as the spine for a dark and pensive track. It signals a transition to the darker second half of the album where sonic violence seems to be the order of the day. Angry marches of toys, theremin, drums and all kinds of noises rachet up the sinister tension to dizzying heights. ‘Brute’ then unleashes a rubber tyre-sounding bassline that saws at your soul. Katie declares she’s going to rub the salt into our wounds and an industrial guitar ravaged seance accompanies the ceremony. ‘Chaw’ then moves us into coldwave. The empty beats and overlapped spoken word spirals out of control and into a spaghetti mess. This track goes hard, layering in a nursery rhyme sounding outro into white noise-damaged drum loops. Nightmare fuel is at your service, but you can dance to it too.
Reminding me of Bjork’s ‘I Miss You’ and her ‘Post’ album, ‘Tame’ is an absolute cavalcade of sounds. Starting out as bulky drum loops, the brass arrangements balloon out into funky solo moments when they aren’t sounding like oppressors. Thick keyboard chords drown other noises and Katie’s voice is contorted all over the place. There’s a moment where it feels like we’ve walked into hell’s idea of a limbo dance too. It is very difficult to sound both claustrophobic and maximalist but Katie Gately pulls it off. It’s a mood the entire album pursues but ‘Tame’ is where this style shines most. The album closes with ‘Melt’, a dark mash-up of cartoon baddie theme song and coldwave pop. Seductive but dangerous in an unhinged manner, it caps off an extraordinary album.
As I mentioned at the start, it took me a few listens to move from appreciation to love for ‘Fawn / Brute’. There is so much going on that I had to scavenge all the sound samples, ideas and complexities the album brings. It is a loud, brash, aggressive and blunt weapon of an album and had to wrestle with it to appreciate just how superb every element of it is. The attention to detail with tiny percussion loops, the clashes of musical types and the canvass of samples moved me from overwhelmed to wonderment. Then I was fully onboard like a cartoon villain myself, using this album like a book of war for the simplification of the daily news cycle. Katie Gately has categorised this album on Bandcamp as ‘mischief’ and it is the perfect descriptor. If you wanted your cartoon baddie to grow up and have a concept album about their life created as their experimental coming-of-age album – this would be it. Superb.
Recommended track: Fawn
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