Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Kate Boy – The Way We Are

You know we like… what we like…


Katherine St Asaph: I wish I knew why Kate Boy isn’t clicking with me. Everything about them is everything I love: scratchy Cat Dowling vocals, scratchier synths, massive hulking choruses, high concepts. Normally there’d be an explanation to follow, but I’ve literally got nothing. Is it hype? (Kate Akhurst had solo work once. The cloud won’t tell you much. This seems off somehow.) Maybe this is too pat? Perhaps it should have the “Northern Lights” chorus? Fuck, I don’t know. Good track, I guess.

Brad Shoup: The intro riff exhales like a mud creature, but there’s a sudden cut to Akhurst, seething about something. The chorus goes to split-screen, and it’s Knife enough, at least until she digs deep for “out of my head,” so deep she’s practically fracking. All good enough, but then they spend the bridge (and an entire ‘nother break) swinging. Ah well… anything that can block out the Spurs’ OT loss, if only for a couple of minutes, is worth the benefit of the doubt.

Anthony Easton: In different hands, these beats could be read as skeletal or prickly, but there’s something generous to them, a kind of friendly minimalism. Maybe it’s the voice, or the exhortations towards positive speech. It’s a nice compromise.

Alfred Soto: With electrowhooshes out of Depeche Mode’s Some Great Reward, I expected more from the game singer, who does go places with wailing that would impress The Knife.

Iain Mew: The sound is kind of Niki & the Depeche Mode, which is carving out a niche, but they create an atmosphere and then don’t go anywhere further with it. I really miss the synth acrobatics last time.

Patrick St. Michel: Yes, it’s probably the easiest go-to comparison, but “The Way We Are” really does sound a lot like The Knife of a few years ago, down to the vocals. Nothing wrong with that though, especially when The Knife didn’t even release anything sounding like them.

Crystal Leww: When Kate Boy performs live, all four members of their band wear the same thing: black t-shirt, black baggy pants, and black baseball caps. This includes the only female member, vocalist Kate Akhurst. This has the effect of emphasizing equality between members of the band and desexualizing the visual look of the band for the purpose of putting the focus on the music. Kate Boy’s music, like their on-stage attire, manages to emphasize equality and create an androgynous yet oddly sexy sound. Akhurst’s vocals on “The Way We Are” sound hollow and robotic; it’s possible to tell that they come from a female vocalist, but they’re are put through the effects machine to echo and ring, to sound fucked up and distorted. Her voice is meant to just be another instrument in their band, no more important than the bleeps and bangs. The pieces working together all sound massive and cavernous, and this sounds like a group that knows its identity better than some artists who have been around for much longer.

Will Adams: Kate Boy’s aesthetic hinges on mystery. Their artwork features band members’ faces obscured in shadows, all in black and white. In their videos, you barely catch a glimpse of vocalist Kate Akhurst’s eyes. They only have four songs, three officially released, one in un-ID’d concert footage – no B-sides or demos or miscellany. The band’s name refers to a fictional, androgynous fifth member. Their music is cohesive, digging deep into a particular sound rather than dabbling in genres. For any artist, this level of consistency would be impressive, but for an up-and-comer, it’s unfathomable. “The Way We Are” is like their mission statement, a four minute thesis on their signature sound: pounding kicks, percussive bass, and ricocheting synths. Akhurst shows an impressive range, her voice low and scratchy in the verses, then vaulting into the stratosphere on the chorus. A chorus effect lays over the vocals, distorting them so they melt into the music – as expected, Akhurst’s real voice is obscured. Kate Boy have conjured an eroticism rarely heard in music. They give just enough to allure but keep one foot in the shadows, pulling you into their strange world.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “We!!! Expire!!!” The chorus — this chorus! — begins with Kate Akhurst eliciting a throaty evocation of death then works its way back from the abyss before plunging back downwards. Vocals give way to shuddering, antsy electronic affectations that rack up the intensity, drum tattoos pound away and Akhurst multiplies herself into a multi-tracked chorus of doom. Previous single “Northern Lights” smothered Akhurst’s vocals in jagged synths, all but rendering her useless by the extended outro; here, her presence looms over proceedings, daring you to foolishly challenge her authority.

Cédric Le Merrer: Martial beats, icy synths, androgynous vocals… this is dry anti-fun, and I don’t think the pro-breathing stance of the lyrics is strong enough as a statement of purpose to justify it. What exactly are they singing about? I need specifics. Am I oblivious to some anti-breathing forces out there?

Reader average: [8.14] (7 votes)

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2 Responses to “Kate Boy – The Way We Are”

  1. Oh my, looks like my mean last minute blurb got this from 7.22 to 6.90, which put CHVRCHES ahead of them in the “Knife soundalike” category. I feel like a swing state. Now I finally understand Spiderman’s plight. I really should have found the time to give CHVRCHES a blurb to even things out.

  2. Detective work: