Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Katie Gately Fawn / Brute


The birds peck out the eyes of the stepsisters, the sister locks the witch in the oven to save her brother, the mother decapitates her stepson and cooks him in soup — such grim familial imaginings are fit for songs by Katie Gately, who for nearly a decade has been making delightfully twisted sonic fables of her own. Gately’s electronic music is theatrically expressive; her clanging, clamorous soundscapes have always had a flair for the dramatic. On her new album Fawn / Brute, she roots those soundscapes in familiar myth: bedtime stories and nursery rhymes that are mischievous and dark-sided.

One great entry point for understanding how the album works is “Howl,” a highlight that appears early on in the tracklist, billed as Gately’s own “musical rewrite of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.” The young girl at the center of this story is less naïve and more cunning, as she leads the wolf to a public execution. It’s the sickest (probably only?) breakdown that features demonic barking and a crowd cheering along to its fiery conclusion, pitchforks drawn.

Gately acts as something of a macabre Mother Goose on Fawn / Brute. Its pair of title tracks present her at her most feverishly vivid and flourishingly lyrical. “I rubbed my eyes and I scratched my head and laughed aloud because I wasn’t dead!” she exclaims on the former. “I hushed my prize and I snatched her up a shred of calf cow silky braided bread!” She descends into an Alice In Wonderland-style drug-induced mania on “Brute”: “Holler and holler and holler we’re had/ Bit by a substance that drove us quite mad.” Though Gately’s music doesn’t really sound anything like Kate Bush, they share an appreciation for the baroque and fantastical, and their voices can convey the same sort of churlish glee.

It makes sense that Gately would lift so heavily from the narratives that populate our childhood this time around: Fawn / Brute was written while Gately was pregnant for the first time. The album’s structure is intended to mirror the transition from childhood into adolescence, those formative early years marked by wonder and fear, all filtered through Gately’s own experience with bringing life into this world. “When I got pregnant, I started to get creative again,” Gately explained in a statement. “I had a lot of energy at first, but later on, my pregnancy was stressful and worrying, so the music got darker and darker: I was making angry music while I was supposed to be feeling maternal.” A sense of playfulness gives way to paranoia; the conflicting waves of emotions are primal and protective, vulnerable and powerful. The album keeps circling around to the dualities expressed in its title: the innocent and the animalistic.

Gately has always felt just as much like a director as she does a composer. She started out as a sound designer for movies, and it was when she was making foley sounds for a short film that she started to think that she could apply those same techniques to music. In her songs, she wrangles together a large collection of found sounds and field recordings — for one track on her 2016 debut Color, she boasted of using more than 400 different layers. The compositions she creates are pounding and dense; as she’s developed her craft over the years, she’s made the painstaking construction of her tracks look almost easy. She’s landed on a sweet spot between the avant-garde and the avant-pop. Though her songs are tedious in their attention to detail, they are boisterous and immediate. They’re hulking machines, with the impressive scale of architecture.

The most striking moment on Fawn / Brute comes on “Chaw,” a pulverizing distorted charge where Gately loops her voice into a cacophony of incessant worried thoughts. It’s not as florid as the rest of the album: a visceral, sweaty thump where the anxiety is palpable and the grotesqueries of the human body are on full display. “My feet are frozen, when I wake up there are awful smells/ My body, nubs of meat and fat on bones/ Which move slowly as they decay outside my door,” she sings. The only release is fresh air — “I walk outside and I don’t smoke a cigarette, don’t inhale, and I scream into a city, scream into a city” — and even that feels like a trap. It’s less fairy tale and more waking nightmare, but in Gately’s capable hands those are often one in the same: mangled and devilish and raw.

Fawn / Brute is out 3/31 via Houndstooth. Pre-order it here and listen below.

Other albums of note out this week:
• boygenius’ the record
• The Hold Steady’s The Price Of Progress
• The New Pornographers’ Continue As A Guest
• Deerhoof’s Miracle-Level
• B. Cool-Aid’s Leather Blvd.
• Gel’s Only Constant
• Lamp Of Murmuur’s Saturnian Bloodstorm
• Sondre Lerche’s Avatars Of The Night
• A Certain Ratio’s 1982
• NOIA’s gisela
• PACKS’ Crispy Crunchy Nothing
• Buzzy Lee’s Internal Affairs
• Steve Gunn & Dave Moore’s Reflections Vol. 1: Let The Moon Be A Planet
• Samiam’s Stowaway
• The Alchemist & Larry June’s The Great Escape
• Conway The Machine’s Won’t He Do It
• Leggy’s Dramatica
• William Tyler & The Impossible Truth’s Secret Stratosphere
• Davido’s Timeless
• Mystic 100’s’s On A Micro Diet
• Omnigone’s Against The Rest
• nothing,nowhere.’s VOID ETERNAL
• Baaba Maal’s Being
• Scott McMicken’s Shabang
• London Brew’s London Brew
• Kalia Vandever’s We Fell In Turn
• Jisoo’s ME
• The No Ones’s My Best Evil Friend
• James Holden’s Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities
• The Zombies’ Different Game
• Jared Mattson’s Peanut
• Lordi’s Screem Writers Guild
• Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness’s Tilt At The Wind No More
• Rotten Sound’s Apocalypse
• Murray A Lightburn’s Once Upon A Time in Montreal
• Eddie Chacon’s Sundown
• City And Colour’s The Love Still Held Me Near
• Last In Line’s Jericho
• LIES’ Lies
• Faintest Idea’s The Road To Sedition
• miniaturized’s miniaturized
• Melanie Martinez’s Portals
• Kommand’s Death Age
• Puscifer’s Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired
• Alan Braxe’s The Upper Cuts (2023 Edition)
• The Who’s The Who With Orchestra Live At Wembley
• Toledo’s How It Ends: Unrated Edition
• Small Black’s Small Black (Deluxe)
Spinning Gold soundtrack
• Dead Moon’s Echoes Of The Past: The Anthology
• Tyler, The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale
• Billie’s The Billage Of Perception: Chapter Three mini album
• Ric Wilson, Chromeo, & A-Trak’s CLUSTERFUNK EP
• Barrie’s 5K EP
• Rosie Thomas’s Lullabies For Parents, Vol. 2 EP
• Michigander’s It Will Never Be The Same EP
• dust’s et cetera, etc EP
• TDJ’s BACK TO 123 EP
• Bad Blood’s The Bad Kind Decides EP

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