Katie Gately: She Comes In Colors

Katie Gately brings film and sound design to her eye-opening debut LP

As tired as tags like “experimental club music” and “avant-garde pop” can be, albums like Color, Katie Gately’s spellbinding debut on Tri-Angle Records, come across every so often, simultaneously subverting and eschewing the conventions of both in ways that dazzle, shock and captivate.

Drawing on her studies and work in film and sound design, Gately’s productions are often composed of countless layers (421 separate tracks, in the case of album opener “Lift”) of heavily affected clips of her own voice, found sounds and Foley recordings. These techniques have their roots in her time enrolled at University Of Southern California’s film school.

“USC’s film program tends to be directors, cinematographers, producers, but I applied specifically to study sound work,” she says. “I actually said, ‘I have no interest in directing, I just want to do sound’ when I applied, and somehow got in. I wound up taking a couple of electronic music courses there, too. They have really incredible facilities, and as soon as I realized I could use sound libraries and cartoon libraries, I was off and running. I got into trouble early on, though, while working on a film project. The director kept telling me that my sound design was too distracting. I got really carried away with these ocean sounds that were supposed to just be in the background.”

While her heady, extended methods would easily drift into unlistenable territory in less nimble hands, Gately’s productions are defined by a genuine curiosity, nimbly dancing on the line between excess and just enough. “It’s always about how much can I add before it just sounds too crazy,” she says. “What’s the most obnoxious thing I can make the song do? How can I have it be just 49 percent obnoxious and 51 percent fun?”

—Möhammad Choudhery