Katie Gately mines the seismic events in her life for musical inspiration. In her 2020 album, ‘Loom’, she channelled the loss of her mother through sampled sounds sourced from coffins closing, meat smacking, elephant trumpets, cantaloupe stabs and earthquakes. Her latest release, ‘Fawn / Brute’, sees her exploring the flipsides of childhood energy following the birth of her daughter in 2021, taking a journey from effervescent early years to teenage turmoil.

Gately composes her songs from a library of samples to create genuine emotional off-kilter pop songs rather than veering down a formless experimental cul-de-sac.  ‘Fawn / Brute’ is invariably a full pelt experience, consisting of 11 tracks with single word one-syllable titles starting with ‘Seed’, full of playful references to nature and mutant sampled trombone. ‘Howl’ is a musical rewrite of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale in which the heroine is not hunted by the wolf but navigates the forest and receives rapturous applause for following her own curiosity. It takes inspiration from the dynamics of kids TV music, builds a cacophony from samples of animals and human screams while maintaining the rhythmic hyperactivity of a toddler.

‘Fawn’ is reminiscent of Animal Collective at their most manic with the energy of a children’s party fuelled by fizzy drinks, the rhythm of bouncing mischievously on a squeaky bed. Throughout the lyrics capture the parent’s response to the mayhem they are perpetuating, in this case reflecting the continual exhaustion (“We prepared a beast and it’s all a daze… We pretended it all was splendid… I rubbed my eyes and I scratched my head and laughed aloud because I wasn’t dead”).

‘Cleave’ is a song celebrating Gately extracting herself from an increasingly hostile platonic friendship, acknowledging that while it might be a lonely and impractical choice it is a relief, the tinkly dance sheen giving way to the drama of booming electronics and wailing saxes matching the sentiments (“My head will not shut the fuck up”). ‘Peeve’ continues the playful journey (“A wicked fella / A storyteller”) while reflecting the full-time nature of motherhood (“Daddy’s home but you want mommy… Don’t you dare mess with mommy”) with theremin samples, layered voices, buoyant beats and weaving saxes.

‘Scale’ starts as a mischievous waltz but with dark piano melodies signalling a change of mood suggesting the nerve-stretched neurosis of parenthood (“Wake up to the sun – don’t harm her… don’t starve her… don’t alarm her… just calm down”) while ‘Meat’ pulses with brooding menace overlaid with intense energy.

‘Brute’ is a love song for old vices, an acceptance that parenthood does not necessarily lead to maturity, mirroring the tug of war between fierce protective love and crankiness caused by lack of sleep. The song boasts a massive grumbling bass noise constructed from the manipulated rattling of a cardboard shoebox while the multiple layers of voices and sounds recalls Jim Thirlwell’s variously named Foetus bands and Cop Shoot Cop.  ‘Chaw’ maintains the brutalist feel with an abrasive beat and auto-tuned rap capturing her anxiety (“Falling asleep I remember your body is the size of my heart expanding falling off a cliff”) and a flippant acknowledgement of her response (“I walk outside and I don’t smoke a cigarette, don’t inhale and I scream into a city”). ‘Tame’ shows no intent to live up to its title with frantic beats, an enjoyable trip to bedlam.

Musically, the closing track, ‘Melt’ seeks a return to earlier playfulness with its superb rhythmic shifts and singing that flits between neo-choral and jazz-inflected to complete a journey that is conceptually satisfying and musically pleasing.

Katie Gately: Fawn / Brute – Out 31st March 2023 (Houndstooth)

Katie Gateley: Fawn – Listen Here

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.