Third album from American electronic artist is a cohesive and impactful listen, with a burgeoning sense of ambition and individuality shining through
The last time we heard from Katie Gately was back in 2020 when she released her second album Loom, a collection which showcased her ability to splice vocals with forward thinking electronics. It was partly a response to the death of her mother, which accounted for the moments of heaviness and darkness that permeated the album. New album Fawn / Brute sees her again take inspiration from the circle of life, this time specifically from the birth of her daughter. Rather than being a sentimental, inward-looking exercise in maternal emotions however it sees her instead focus on the energising sense of wonder and life-altering possibility that such a life event brings.
It’s clear from the start that there’s a lot to unpack on Fawn / Brute. It once again draws from predominantly electronic palette, augmented by a range of engagingly processed vocals. It comes with some unorthodox musical adjacencies and occasionally irregular transitions but a burgeoning sense of ambition and individuality shines through. Howl is an early highlight, pleasingly claustrophobic and with a passing industrial quality (Gately explained how it was her musical rewrite of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, possibly revealing how the arrival of her daughter and the associated cultural inputs have found a way into her work).
Fawn is representative of some of the lesser seen juxtapositions featured on the album, the pronounced lurches in the background being offset by the lighter, pop-centred vocals. Moments like this prove how she deserves to be considered as part of the vanguard of forward thinking artists able to blur styles and embrace technology (she certainly inhabits a similar sonic space to the likes of Anna Meredith and Holly Herndon).
As the album unfurls, further notable moments arrive. Scale possesses a leftfield playfulness, Brute is permeated by strafing electric guitar, Meat has a Kate Bush-esque off-centre quality and Melt sways alluringly. An unsettling otherness meanwhile defines much of Cleave, leaving the listener never quite sure in which direction it will turn next (something that could be said of the album in general). Ahead of the album’s release Gately commented how “I wanted the album to feel like something my daughter could enjoy as she grew up so the first tracks are childlike and upbeat, but as we get older we start to experience a volcano of emotion, angst, and conflict”, and it’s certainly possible to plot the shift in dynamic as it progresses.
While the album’s more maximalist aesthetic may bring challenges for the casual listener, for those who commit it succeeds in being a cohesive and impactful listen.