- The experimental composer brings operatic intensity to the subject of grief.
- Death has always found a powerful voice in music. Artists create their own language of grief and loss that can supply comfort and catharsis in desperate times. The experimental musician Katie Gately wrote her second LP in the wake of her mother's passing from cancer in 2018; before the diagnosis, Gately had been working on a different album, which she subsequently abandoned. The Los Angeles-based musician, who studied film production at USC and has worked as a Foley artist, brings together a film-score sensibility with a keen interest in field recording. (In 2018, she added peacock and owl sounds to this remix for Björk.) On Loom, she takes her interest in found sound to a gloomy, thought-provoking new depth.
The opener, "Ritual," swoops and swells with crystal-cut glissandos, eerie vocal processing and shadowy church-music reverb that recalls Grouper or Julianna Barwick, though Gately's earthy operatics feel distinct from the ghostly, celestial ambience of those artists. Then, a distant rumble of noise menacingly enters the picture. Gately chose her samples for their "associative power"; an earthquake recording was used to convey the depth of her emotions. ("I felt like my world was being shaken," she says.) You'll also hear a coffin lid closing shut and a shovel digging dirt—"Bracer" is the first track Gately put together after learning of her mother's cancer diagnosis, and from the whiplash percussion to the vulnerability of her voice it bursts with theatrical intensity. Elsewhere, wolf howls and screaming teenagers enliven "Waltz," while the manipulated recordings of her mother's voice and parents' wedding resonate throughout "Tower."
When Gately sings, "I am living in a womb made of dirt and dust," on "Allay," the sentiment can feel like a knife to the heart. The similarly poetic "Waltz," a slice of warped carnival horror, has her dancing "in a sofa made of coffin." "Tower" is haunted by "sweet, sweet dead souls." On the glassy synth pop of "Flow," "there's nowhere to hide from / a heart this big." On tracks like these, Gately deftly draws a personal memorial in the universal shades of grief. As she says, "My mother's voice is in this record, her picture's in the sleevenotes. This record is for her." If you've ever dealt with loss, Loom may also speak to you.