Katie Von Schleicher was once challenged by her boss to write an album. The New York-based artist was interning at the city’s Ba Da Bing Records, who said they’d release a record of hers if they liked it. 2015’s ‘Bleaksploitation’ – a mini album of lo-fi indie songs – impressed and sealed the deal. And two years later her debut album proper, ‘Shitty Hits’, took those earlier blueprints and plumped things out. It also heard Von Schleicher veer into darker folk and Americana territory.
On ‘Consummation’, Von Schleicher makes good on the promise of those earlier records by stretching her sonic palette and producing more wounding music. If her last album considered a gaping gulf of understanding between lovers and the tribulations of anxiety and depression, then the follow-up magnifies those themes. Inspired partly by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1958 movie Vertigo (the plot of which Von Schleicher deemed to have an unanalysed subtext of abuse) the record unravels itself as a devastating confessional with her own parallels of mistreatment. Control, imbalance of power, devotion and despair tie these songs together.
Opener ‘You Remind Me’ sets the tone for the whole record. “One hand and my teeth on the cage/ We were wrong in this together”, Von Schleicher sings, her voice quivering amid warbling guitars and propulsive drum machine beats. Ominous, jangling chords lend a certain urgency; the time to flee is running out. Instead, she succumbs, replicating the abuse she’s come to know: “And now I can’t conceal my rage / You remind me”.
The bracing ‘Loud’ expounds that fear but works harder to overcome it. “I don’t want to let you in / I want to let you out”, Von Schleichere protests over Wurlitzer burrs and bright, jabbing guitars that sound ripped straight from Grizzly Bear’s acclaimed 2009 album ‘Veckatimest’. She toys with the luminance of that band’s chamber-pop leanings throughout ‘Consummation’ by employing balmy ‘60s Mellotron sounds that jar with heavy subject matter.
‘Caged Sleep’ plays out like a deformed post-punk track, driven by a krautrock pulse and peppy guitars as Von Schleicher wrestles with an anxiety dream. ‘Nowhere’, meanwhile, pairs funereal synths, doomy guitars and waltzing beats to prise open the hollowness she feels: “I’ve got tons of time / I’m nowhere”. And this album works best when she basks in the shadows. When the breezy garage rock of ‘Can You Help?’ and ‘Wheel’ enter, the mood flattens. Both songs circle with forgettable, unvarnished melodies that undermine the beautiful quirks of the record’s majority.
‘Consummation’ ends on a high note, however. Musty pipe organs, choral harmonies and lurching drums unite for fanfare on the grand ‘Nothing Lasts’. Here, it sounds like Von Schleicher has found peace by letting go of the tumultuous relationship introduced with ‘You Remind Me’. It’s a pleasing resolution to an enchanting record of twists and turns.
Release date: May 22
Record label: Full Time Hobby / Ba Da Bing Records