Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: Tri Angle
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Even before she released her first album, Katie Gately's music generated a lot of excitement, and rightfully so. On her singles and EPs, the former sound design student used her training in highly creative ways, manipulating and layering found sounds and her own voice with results that were otherworldly, thought-provoking, and witty at the same time (on "Dead Referee," a track from her self-titled debut EP, she turned a basketball game into a séance). Gately's wit is even more apparent on the full-length Color.
The most profound of our thoughts and feelings leave indelible prints on our memory. So I recall when I first heard Katie Gately’s 'Pipes' (early 2014, the start of my second semester at grad school, early evening, waiting for the bus), and where (slumped in a chair, in the lobby of the student centre) and in what state of mind (tired, frustrated, and leery of the other students around me). And I recall rising into the labyrinth that unfolded before me, discarding my books and notes to chase after cascading lights and dive into monsoons that spiralled like staircases.
By manipulating and layering her own voice, experimental electronic artist Katie Gately presents a mutant chorus on her debut LP, the chaotic yet mellifluous Color, which arrives courtesy of the Tri-Angle imprint. Piling on found sounds and noise, the producer emphasizes a "more is more" approach to music, always making sure that there is a melody or something approachable for her audience to latch onto. Opening track "Lift" immediately slides right into her "49 percent obnoxious and 51 percent fun" ethos, with punishing salvos of noise and obliquely presented vocals that only relent to a beat-meets-melody pattern when Gately deems the listener has had enough.
The valences of “pop” and “weird” have become increasingly compatible in the last half a decade—Miley Cyrus eschewed her post-“Hannah Montana” trend-hopping for an album co-written by Wayne Coyne, PC Music traded in their outsider art status for an imprint deal with Columbia, and member Danny L Harle released a track featuring vocals by Carly Rae Jepsen. But the mainstream has always cherry-picked from the underground and alternative artists have always had pop proclivities. (Remember The Whitey Album, Sonic Youth’s tribute to Madonna?) Nothing about this overlap is particularly shocking or rebellious anymore—from albums to playlists and beyond, the monoculture always finds a way, and everyone will someday inspire Kanye West.
Katie Gately loves to play with fire. She’s far more formally educated about sound than your typical DIY producer, but this fascination with technique has brought her to a bold realization: more is more. That’s the idea driving Color, a debut album that is, more than most, a full-fledged embrace of maximalism. It’s the type of record that piles so much onto each sonic platter that you listen in constant fear of it toppling over, and although Color could benefit from a bit of breathing room, each batch of mechanical sludge is given enough attention to thrive.
Robin Carolan’s Tri Angle Records has played an important role in the politics of style and relevance of the time after blogwave — say, after the death of Altered Zones. To its credit, the label never fell into the step of any idiom in spite of plenty of attempts to pin it down under the suffocating term “witch house. ” It always acknowledged the tension between the imperatives to highlight singularity and to have integrity as a large-scale cultural tastemaker, beginning with its first release — Let Me Shine For You, a mixtape explicitly inspired by Lindsay Lohan (who appeared on the cover) — and featuring a few acts that would become important to the electronic music of the first half of the 2010s, like Laurel Halo, Autre Ne Veut, and Oneohtrix Point Never.
The opening track "Lift" is a microcosm of Katie Gately's debut album, Color. It apparently involves 421 separate layers of audio; Gately, an LA-based graduate of the USC School Of Cinematic Arts, describes it as "every childish sonic instinct I've ever had combined." There's a catchy bassline in there somewhere, but you're mostly distracted by the raging storm of details. There's Gately's voice, accompanied by "doo"-ing and "aah"-ing versions of itself, honking saxophones, whizzing fireworks, heavily processed percussion and a hail of other unidentifiable sounds.
Finding that perfect balance between experimental, avant-garde and accessible pop tendencies equals finding alchemical gold. Late Trish Keenan remarked that the avant-garde is no good without popular, and popular deemed rubbish without avant-garde. Katie Gately, LA-based sound-designer/producer turned musician, makes that uniqe alchemy seem effortless on her thrilling debut LP for Robin Carolan's Tri Angle Records.