Katie Dey Flood Network

[Joy Void; 2016]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: “lofi,” “bedroom pop,” laptop possibility
Others: Xiu Xiu, Liz Phair, ???

Despite the Orchid Tapes associations, Katie Dey’s music is tough to pin down. Last year, the Melbourne producer/songwriter released a strange anomaly of a tape on the label, a messy composite of mangled synths, racing powerpop guitars, and, most jarringly, her heavily processed, pitch-shifted vocals. With scathing croaks and re-pitched shouts, the tape was impossible to peg with genre tags or sonic descriptors, meandering through its seven short tracks with a fresh force of wide-eyed experimentation. A strange, insular curio of a release, the tape flipped a middle finger on pop’s biggest demands with a number of wild, new contradictions; tracks like “don’t be scared” and “unkillable” leaked catchy hooks over noisy explorations, running wild with the giddy power of laptop possibility. And with almost no available images of the musician, Dey held out against the pigeonholes of subgenres and identity alike with every note of the delightfully bizarre release.

Flood Network is again a bundle of uncanny pop production, now in 17 syrupy tracks, eight of which are instrumental interludes. The songwriter mediates the stranger qualities of asdfasdf with an increasing number of pop triumphs — ones partially present on the earlier tape, now furling out in a way that, most prominently, marks a richer, more conscious intentionality. With hushed lyrics and a looped pulse of bass, “Fleas” teases out a new, more intentional restraint, while “Fake Health” feels like Dey at her most human, an eerie acoustic ballad not far from a pitch-shifted Liz Phair.

It’s a heavier release, filtering more and more noisy meanders into its sinewy scaffold of pop. “So Pick Yourself Up” finds sharper, tighter production, taking cues Julia Brown’s An Abundance of Strawberries in its ménage of cassette hiss and Ableton time-stretched drums, while “Debt” meditates on an extended cadence of guitar, leaning in with a grand gesture of intonation. “(F7) FOTI reprise” feels more like a blip of the art-pop productions of Jamie Stewart or Zach Pennington than anything from Dey’s past, slurring into “It’s Simpler to Make Home on the Ground” with a dreamy catharsis of somber MIDI strings.

Flood Network marks careful, explorative new growth for Dey, who still, after only a single release, has already shown us an expansive pop frontier all her own. Churning forward with the guttural, alien possibility of bedroom self-production, Dey peers out with a larger, heightened understanding of the space in which she best operates: soundscapes are more carefully mixed, lyrics more present, and it now feels like Dey is taking a symbolic step back, strategically planning larger moves. After an early rush out, Dey pulls back with a tidal recede, gearing up for a larger, more expansive pop trajectory. But for now, Flood Network shows the growing pains of acclaim, responding with a thoughtful ebb, a skim across the sand before the flood.

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