When Katie Gately emerged in the mid-2010s, bedroom pop still felt like a distinct genre born of circumstance, rather than a stylistic umbrella under which even megastars now operate. But the intricacy and audacity of the California-based artist’s third album reclaim the term for digital gear freaks and tinkering hermits: meticulous and introspective, but with a maximalist sweep that reflects the workings of a chaotic mind.
Gately’s avant-pop style, on her scatty 2016 debut and 2020’s punishing Loom, loosely presaged the rise of manic, internet-bred hyper pop. Her songwriting instincts on Fawn/Brute transcend that genre’s conceptual and melodic perversion, instead producing electro mini operas that whip up a maelstrom of dislocated voices, honking saxophone and roughshod, junkyard-style percussion. She wrote the album during a stressful but hyperactive pregnancy and the songs plot a trajectory from her daughter’s imagined childhood – sing-songy, frantic, bewildering – into the pandemonium of adolescence.
Despite her professed adoration for vignette virtuoso Billy Joel, Gately’s cinematic scope and spooky sound design seemingly owe more to her background in film production. Chaw’s antic vocal collage could soundtrack a panic attack scene in a psychological thriller, while Peeve conjures the sort of edgeless haunting you might expect from a Tim Burton Netflix series. The industrial powerhouse Brute ricochets between bowel-tingling basslines made from the manipulated rattle of shoeboxes. You will find little robust melody or Piano Man finesse in these strange symphonies. But rummaging through Gately’s mazy, beautiful disorder is a beguiling adventure in its own right.