Using a plethora of computer programs to mutate her voice and found sounds into dense, unsettling sound constructions, Katie Gately's music wavers between abrasive industrial collages and playful, abstract dance-pop with an absurdist sense of humor and an ear for rhythm and melody. On early works such as 2013's sprawling vocal collage Pipes, she already displayed a knack for juxtaposing mischievous details with vast washes of sound. Later, she used this skill in increasingly expressive ways, bringing the whimsy and melody of her style to the fore on 2016's Color and emphasizing the intense moods within her music on 2020's Loom. On works like these and on collaborations with Björk and serpentwithfeet, Gately unites state-of-the-art technology and raw emotion in thrilling ways. Born and raised in different boroughs of New York City, Gately grew up listening to the opera her dad loved as well as her mother's favorite artists, which included Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie. After earning a degree from Carleton College in Minnesota, studying sound design in New York City, and earing a film production MFA from the University of Southern California, she began making music. An avid field recorder, she contributed to the self-titled 2009 CD by collage ensemble Seattle Phonographers Union. The Los Angeles-based artist began uploading her compositions to SoundCloud and issued two acclaimed releases in 2013. Katie Gately, an EP that arrived on Public Information, featured a track made from samples of an ice cube rattling in a glass, while Pipes, a limited-edition cassette on Blue Tapes, consisted of dense layers of her voice and took more than six months to make. After releasing a limited lathe cut 7" single with Prayer (Joe Houpert) on FET Press, Gately contributed to FatCat Records' split series, sharing an EP with Tlaotlon. In 2015, Gately appeared on Nosaj Thing's Fated album and remixed Björk's song "Family." She then signed to Tri Angle for the release of her full-length debut, Color, which arrived October 2016 and added more structure and melody to her music. Gately then kept busy with sound design work for several short films, remixes for Björk and Zola Jesus, production on serpentwithfeet's 2018 album Soil, and her own planned second album. However, when her mother was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of cancer, Gately returned to Brooklyn. As she cared for her mother, she worked on wrenching tracks inspired by her grieving process. Following her mother's death in 2018, those tracks became Gately's second album, Loom, which Houndstooth released in February 2020.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo
© Paul Simpson /TiVo
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World - Released February 14, 2020 | Houndstooth
Loom wasn't the album Katie Gately planned to make -- it was the album she had to make. When her mother was diagnosed with a quick-moving and terminal form of cancer, Gately returned to Brooklyn to care for her, setting aside another album's worth of music to pour her grief and anger into the tracks that became her second full-length. Instead of writing songs that tell listeners about her loss, Gately uses all of her brilliance as a sound designer to engulf them in the experience. She knows exactly how to manipulate sounds -- earthquakes, rattling pill bottles, her own voice -- to embody grief's physicality as well as its emotional impact. In the process, she generates a visceral reaction that resonates on an almost cellular level. On "Waltz," Gately pays homage to "Take This Waltz" by Leonard Cohen (her mother's favorite artist) by distorting its one-two-three beat into a heavy, sickening lurch. "Bracer," a ten-minute epic Gately salvaged from her unfinished album that was her mother's favorite piece from it, provides Loom's unsettled and unsettling heart. As it staggers from seismic drums to surprisingly whimsical woodwinds to glitching electronics, it captures the hallucinatory intensity of fearing, and waiting for, the inevitable implied in the album's title. Loom also suggests connections, however, and Gately expertly unites the different strands of her music over the course of the album. "Ritual" harks back to early works like 2013's Pipes with its massive layers of vocals, while its emotional directness recalls Color's experimental pop. On each of Loom's tracks, Gately blends ancient-sounding melodies with avant-garde production, all of which she weaves together to vividly express every possible vantage point of her loss. She's the cancer itself on "Allay," singing "I am running through your streets in circles" in a piercing tone that sounds equally mocking and sinister; "Tower" is a battle song that portrays cancer-fighting medication as huge drums that marshal the body's forces to fight. Most poignantly, on "Flow" Gately sings from her mother's perspective over radiant drones, delivering a beautiful vocal that's gradually swept away by echoes. Loom's smaller pieces are just as impressive as its major statements: Gately draws on the nearly sacred feel that's informed her music since the beginning with the spectral vocal textures of "Rite." This mood becomes more complex on the haunting "Rest," which closes the album but, wisely, doesn't attempt to provide closure. A stunning achievement, with Loom Gately beautifully honors her mother as well as her commitment to uncompromising music. © Heather Phares /TiVo
Electronic/Dance - Released October 14, 2016 | Tri Angle Records
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. Though her Tri Angle debut is easily one of the label's poppiest releases, her experiments remain as bold as ever as she refines the dense vocals and bristling textures of Pipes and Pivot. In fact, Color's funhouse mirror versions of pop might even be more complex than her previous work. From moment to moment, Gately evokes pop rule-breakers like Roisin Murphy and SOPHIE; the kitchen-sink surprises of mainstream pop producers such as Bloodshy & Avant; the audacity of the Art of Noise, and the masterful yet freewheeling arrangements of Carl Stalling. However, Gately's unabashedly maximalist approach is all her own, especially on Color's opening one-two punch. "Lift" begins with the atmospheric sounds of her early work, then pivots quickly to sultry harmonies, rubbery, funky rhythms, and a sung "doot doot doot" hook that's more distinctive than a synth would've been. On the stunning "Tuck," deceptively sweet vocals and spiraling trumpets echo decades of jazzy pop with mysterious, decadent results. Though Color may be superficially more accessible than Gately's previous output, there's still a lot of tension within its tracks. The enmeshed vocals and instrumentation heighten the surrealism on "Sift," where slabs of skull-crushing noise give the impression she's singing from deep within heavy machinery; on "Rive," her voice and writhing strings entwine like a ball of snakes, bringing Color's spooky undercurrent to the fore. Gately prevents listeners from getting too overwhelmed with more spacious songs like the vaguely Middle Eastern "Frisk" and the strangely torchy title track, which sets the album adrift on dark drones. Even on more restrained moments like these, Gately's audacious ideas and artistry make Color a dazzling debut album.
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