By Dave Bertram
Brooklyn-based Katie Von Schleicher was all jangly glam and scrappy on her 2017 album, Shitty Hits. Recording directly into one of those much-loved Tascam four tracks, she provided us with a kaleidoscope of lo-fi pop, doom-ridden folk and quiet piano solos. But despite all the advantages, nuances and creativity it inspires in many, perhaps the recording process created a box for her song writing style. Hindsight, of course, provides the opportunity for comparison – her new record, Consummation embodies a significant step forward.
Breaking free from the four-track, Von Schleicher glides into a bigger room with consummate ease. The record still carries many of the qualities of its predecessors – the energetic and self-confidence of Wheel, with the raw, zesty guitars and boxy rhythm sections which sparked the careers of many female songwriters, from Courtney Barnett to Anna Burch and Phoebe Bridgers, is a case in point. But the new cinematic and expansive ambiance is home from home for her.
The record was, in part, derived through her desire to dig into the subtext of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and explores the idea of being the invisible half of a relationship. But separately, it feels like Consummation is Von Schleicher completing a journey in finding the right sounds, arrangements and production in which to encapsulate her emotions.
This is signalled early on opener You Remind Me, where reverberated droplets illustrate the new production flourishes and contrasting guitar and drum patterns provide intriguing turns in composition. Nowhere is the first of a series of short ballads which, alongside Strangest Thing, draw influence from Kate Bush and The Cocteau Twins in keys-led arrangements, which convey longing and frustration.
Von Schleicher sticks with these themes using different musical vehicles. Can You Help? sees her switch to guitar for a two minute beat-pop indie floor-filler, singing ‘Can’t you just help me, just as well you helped yourself‘; Hammer turns the volume up, and is a straight-up foot-tapper with tasteful guitar lines as standard; Caged Sleep uses a gripping bass and drum combo and soaring, catchy falsetto chorus, which tips a cap to the likes of Goldfrapp and Weyes Blood. This is a weapon used to stunning effect across the record, with the latter reference perhaps most evident on Messenger – where the chorus of harmonies sit atop a blend of fuzz and strings – as it does across all the album’s high-points. While the arty Brutality and anthemic closer, Nothing Lasts, sees her use melodic patterns you might associate with Father John Misty.
On occasion, cinematic arrangement and production can be heaped on for the sake of it. Here, Von Schleicher uses only as much as required to bring a new dimension to her songwriting.
Secret Meeting score: 83
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