A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night’ is packed with songs that instantly grab the attention and never let go. Often it will be via memorable, if not downright odd, opening lines as exemplified by the record’s first track, ‘Montagnard People’ which begins with Katie von Schleicher singing “when you’re mourning the past, you’ll try to remember your ass / when I was twenty five / Amy said do your naked portraits now”. Simultaneously, it will be though classically lush instrumentation with the song including wonderfully structured and layered string arrangements from Wilder Maker’s Gabriel Birnbaum (four violins and two violas) together with saxophone toots, an unexpected guitar blast and von Schleicher’s wafting sigh of a voice.

Appropriately for an album whose title references Harry Nilsson, it is crammed with a wry mischief and what feel like sundry in-jokes, including the opening song’s Dwayne Johnson reference and the suggestion on Bandcamp that the first 100 preorders would receive a free zine titled ‘Dwayne Johnson in Review’. The album perfectly combines elements of 1970s singer-songwriters with a modern feel. ‘Every Step Is An Ocean’ begins with hammerspinet, a hybrid piano and harpsichord instrument, and von Schleicher stating “I wake up to a sea of long faces”. Sweeping orchestration lifts the mood to reflect the observations “feels like the desk clerk gave me the lottery… I want to win you every goldfish”. The lyrics have a fragmentary approach, making sense in their momentary essence or as a reflection of fluctuating emotions but not as a continual narrative.

On ‘Cranked’, Nick Jost’s sub-aqua bass and the stylish guitar of Sam Griffin Owens, who is better known by his own recording name of Sam Evian, blend with orchestral swells that offset the melancholy melody. ‘Elixir’ starts with a country rock stroll, von Schleicher’s vocal at its most direct admitting “I wear becoming like a burlap sack feel sick and dirty / wanna take a nap / well if I’m carried off to the land of fools/ I’m done with oversharing now I’m cool”, followed by the ironic aside “I wish that I could just get high and drool”.

The album’s middle tracks ease down with ‘Texas’, a hushed piano and strings ballad with dreamy vocals sketching vignettes of the south that puts a shiver down the spine. It is followed by ‘Bottle It?’ which has a gentle countrified feel interspersed with harpsichord and Wurlitzer embellishments. They also show the value of listening to an album in its entirety and the order chosen by the artist as their impact might have been diminished in a random shuffle.

Shifting mood again, ‘Overjoyed’ is a hyperactive, heavily sugared pop song seeing her riding to a cat scan in the car of a gynaecologist to the stars, launching into her biggest chorus (“I don’t want to be critical, I’m overjoyed / and everyone’s my friend / it makes it easier to get off on my love”) enhanced further by her wordless backing vocals. It is easy to image it being a chart hit in an earlier era.

‘400 Pillows’ reins back the pace, von Schleicher’s high, wispy voice drawing in the listener, asking “is it ease am i dying?… do you want to be famous or like me, aimless?” to the accompaniment of guitar, congas and far off whistling. ‘Ruby’ is Hammerspinet led and has her delivering some questionable advice (“Ruby, you are beautiful / tell him to hang up and call you back with his shirt off.”)

‘A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night’ ends with ‘Jeanine’, a hushed ballad utilising deliberate guitar before introducing tautly wound orchestration, a song she describes as a love song for assholes written from the point of view of an asshole and unreliable narrator. It completes an album of destabilising observations and wonderful melody, von Schleicher’s most complete offering yet.

Katie von Schleicher: A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night – Out 20th October 2023 (Sipsman)

von Schleicher “Cranked” (Official Music Video) – YouTube

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.