Katie Gately’s most memorable early work came in the form of long, shapeless compositions like “Pipes” and “Pivot,” two tracks that contain a bunch of fragmentary ideas threaded together by an alluring string of tension and noise. “Pivot,” which was released in 2014, is a particular marvel: Gately pieces together a rich tapestry of booming gothic gospel and cold, calculated distorted chill as she shifts her voice from demonic lows to twistedly angelic highs. There’s a boundless energy in a way that Gately spins all of these plates, and there’s also a sense that they could drop and shatter at any moment.
Two years later, the Los Angeles-based electronic musician is releasing her debut album, Color, and she gets to flex her well-honed feel for tension across 40 minutes of sharp and smart bastardized pop music. Her compositions have grown more complex since “Pivot,” but they’ve also become more accessible: Color has an abundance of entry points, from the thrilling late-night chase of opener “Lift” to “Sift”‘s wobbly but assured shrieks. Gately’s focuses her energy into crafting dense, shadowy husks of pop songs with unconventional but inviting structures — “Lift” incorporates 421 separate layers by her count, but it never sounds overbearing or overstuffed.
Color is an album with a dark heart, filled with cinematic intrigue that’s seems like a holdover from Gately’s background as a sound editor on films, but she keeps her songs from getting too abstruse or lost in the fog by basing many of them around childish curiosity. “Tuck” features a schoolyard chant in “cheater, cheater, blame-eater”; the album opens on Gately’s pulled-apart voice saying, “I don’t want to grow… up”; “Sire” sounds like a fractured, haunting lullaby. Most of Gately’s songs are constructed from found sounds, and it makes them intensely textural and infinitely appealing. It’s this sense of discovery among everyday mundanity that bleeds through, and helps elevate Gately’s often moody end results from glowering to oddly transcendent. As a debut, Color is pretty hard to beat. Listen below.
Color is out now via Tri-Angle Records.