14th February – Houndstooth

In this menacing second album, LA’s Katie Gately invokes technical sorcery and a vigorous macabre to deal with loss. 

A sound designer by trade, Gately has invited comparisons to Holly Herndon for her previous work’s maximalist glitch. But here Gately summons much more bluster. The hair-in-the-wind, tempestuous soar of highlight ‘Allay’ marches with a grandiloquence closer to Glasser or Bat for Lashes. Elsewhere, she invokes a darker, more digital Kate Bush. Her vocals howl and seethe, halfway laments and incantations. There’s even an oddly British inflection to some lines, as if grasping for Old World mystique.

The record walks a fine line between gothic and camp. ‘Waltz’ is a case in point; an unholy 3/4 swing of harpsichord, creaking floorboards and eerily sing-song choruses. It’s creepy, but like a Penny Dreadful – all eyeliner, cobwebs and Helena Bonham Carter. 

Yet there’s also genuine unease in the background production: a nightmare orchestra of noises constantly rattling, shuddering, and slamming shut. Where sonic scavenging occasionally overstuffed the tracks on 2016’s Colours, these samples – recorded from real coffins, shovels and wolves – are here rawer, and more subservient to Gately’s vocals. The results are viscerally unsettling – particularly on ‘Tower’, where the maelstrom comes closest to drowning out her voice.

If the tone is gothic, the tragedy is surely epic. This is an album pitched at a scale usually computer-generated for movies where planets fall apart. In this way, Gately’s necromancer aesthetic makes sense, given that her production chops are truly their own kind of occult magic – conjured most artfully on 10-minute centrepiece ‘Bracer’. There, Gately at first spreads her lines breathily across vast spaces between metallic, tectonic claps. As her vocals build melodically, the tumult thuds with increasing urgency – climaxing into a sonic laser beam of noise. It’s no surprise this was the favourite of Gately’s late mother, whose passing in 2018 inspired the tracks since built around it.

Unsurprisingly for a record clinging to bereavement, the weight of it all can be overwhelming. Though some relief comes in Loom’s gentlest tracks, ‘Ritual’, ‘Rite’ and ‘Rest’, the second half demands some resilience, particularly on ‘Tower’. But ‘Flow’ goes far to temper the grief, recalling Nick Cave’s Ghosteen with its life-affirming vigour and skyline synths.

Ultimately, Loom reaches for redemption in a landscape of horrors. While Gately hopefully found hers, it might be a strain to hear it through the hubbub.

Buy: Katie Gately – Loom

Live: 1st April – Café OTO