Four years since the release of Color, Katie Gately is back with a record just as heavy on vocal effects and harmonies, but which pushes things in a darker direction. There is also less sonic variety on display here, overpowering maximalism being her weapon of choice on all but a handful of shorter, interlude-like tracks.
Waltz, appropriately, keeps to a steady 3/4 metre as abstract and ominous lyrics build the track to a fever pitch (“dance, dance, dance in a sofa made of coffin”), accompanied by instrumentation that melds folksy and electronic elements with aplomb. Meanwhile Allay rides a plodding bassline, dramatic bangs and overlapping vocal layers, all very evocative and soundtrack-ready.
The centrepiece of the record is undoubtedly Bracer, which Gately constructed the rest of the album around in the wake of her mother being diagnosed with cancer. Big, action-movie-style whacking sounds reverse and then hit, much like a pendulum of noise sweeping past, while orchestration seeps around stream-of-consciousness lyrics (“I was about a silly man’s string, I was a bow”). The track is episodic in nature, moving from one section to another with no recapitulation and consisting of interrupted climaxes designed to mirror Gately’s “anxious brain chemistry”: the effect is exhausting, disorientating and instantly brilliant.
In a record so vocal-centric it’s nice to have Flow, dominated by a four-note synth sequence that proves the perfect canvas for melodic lines (both major and minor). It is one of the rare moments where a musical element seems like it’s meant to share equal space with the lyrics, and when they are both devoured by cavernous reverb it feels like the perfect catharsis.
Loom is an intense record, full of feelings of loss, confusion and angst. It’s also an early contender for best electronic album of the year.