“Flood network” is a computing term that, from what my technologically challenged mind can decipher, essentially does exactly what it sounds like. It’s a system that handles overflow, a series of nodes that collect spillover data, and push it onward and outward into the internet’s ether. Like most people in their early 20s, the Australian musician Katie Dey came of age online, and she owes a good deal of her following to the mass dissemination that uploading music to the web provides. Dey’s compositions on her new album, Flood Network, are impulsive, cut-and-paste electronic pop creations that sound intentionally clumsy, as uninterpretable as my definition of “flood network” is. A few weeks ago, I called this album pop music for introverts; bright and lively songs that pillage internal struggles and honor them. But aside from its technical definition, “flood network” is a term that suggests something totally different: an organic support system, a series of places you go and people you turn to when life overwhelms and the small upsets that make it hard threaten to take over.
That free-form definition can be heard in the dichotomy between Dey’s synthetic compositions and her lyrics. Though near-indecipherable at times, Dey’s words are deeply moving. Her voice is so pitchy at certain moments that her prose isn’t always easy to make sense of. When it is, it’s because Dey’s pointing to a specific revelation you shouldn’t miss. There’s mystery to Flood Network that’s initially puzzling upon first listen, but it’s so rewarding to feel like you’ve cracked Dey’s code once her prose unravels. This is an album that you need to sit with, listen and re-listen to, until Dey’s meaning is made clear. And sitting with this album is well-worth it, because the lyrics on Flood Network are coded messages of support and resilience separated by interludes that act as connective tissue, short compositions that chain one bit of poetry to the next.
Dey’s lyrics pinpoint a certain emotional intensity with such specificity that they merit huge allusions, metaphors, historical points of reference, to make sense of. On “Only To Trip And Fall Down Again” she invokes the devil and god and internal demons that remind her of goodness, and toward the album’s end, she returns to him/her/it seeking an explanation. “I was indebted to you for the stones you threw/ For the sake of the lord,” Dey sings on “Debt.” All of the songs on Flood Network navigate darkness and light and the space between the two polarities without ever submitting to either. On the album’s debut single, “Fear O The Light,” a song that parallels asdfasdf’s “fear o the dark,” Dey finds solace in that same darkness that torments her. “You want my soul so I gave you all I had left in me/ I live in dark so I can’t see past its serenity/ And all at once the raging sun makes it hard to see.” Still, there’s an uptick in her voice at the end of each phrase that reorients this song. Like the rest of the tracks on Flood Network, it’s not so much sad as it is honest.
There are more than a few turns-of-phrase on Flood Network that I return to, but the one that I’ve questioned regularly appears in “Fleas.” It’s the only moment on the album that I can hear when Dey specifically addresses a flood. “There’s a hole in my heart/ I can’t wait till it starts/ To fill up with mud/ In a flash flood,” she sings. That line warms me, because when Dey sings so pointedly about a deluge, it’s not a flood that suffocates and drowns; it’s a flood that heals. There’s so much life and heart in this album, it sounds like a painstaking work from someone who’s just starting to figure out what they really want to say. And it would be easy to tie my interpretation into some of Dey’s biblical references, to suggest that she is Noah and this project is her ark, but that’s far too dramatic, and it isn’t exactly right. Flood Network sounds like the work of someone caught in a tempest and fighting to find beauty in it. It’s an album that those in a similar predicament can seek some semblance of shelter in.
Flood Network is out 8/12 via Joy Void Recordings.