by Evan Welsh (@evanswelsh15)
If you’ve listened to Katie Dey before, you know how immediate the recognition is that you’re listening to something unlike anything else you’ve heard before. Since 2015, the experimental-pop artist has been releasing some of the most groundbreaking music of the decade by herself, from her room in Melbourne, Australia. Throughout her entire catalog, with her distinct approach, she has masterfully used bedroom-pop to confront grand questions of personhood in the information age.
On Solipsisters, Dey has evolved her sound to make room for synthetic, pastel-colored instrumentals that sound like exploring the world of a Final Fantasy game—the digital nature of the music often keeps the timbre light, but Dey never allows for anything to feel saccharine or disingenuous. Where this album shows the most instrumental change from her previous work are the huge, 80s-influenced drums utilized on many of the tracks on the album and the keys serving as the foundation from which the majority of the songs sprout, instead of a guitar. It’s difficult to make comparisons with Dey’s music because of it’s singular nature, but with this album, she sounds like if Kate Bush and Björk had a musical love child that could only communicate through Fruity Loops plug-ins and HTML code.
With each release, Dey’s vocals crawl slightly further out of the dense, electronic web, and on Solipsisters, Dey’s lyrics and voice come through clearer than on any of her previous work. This is decidedly her most direct effort in clearly relaying feeling through language. This album sees Dey initiating her most sincere attempt at a two-way conversation she has ever had between herself and her listener. Her voice is constantly cascading, disintegrating, and reconstituting itself throughout the listening experience while she grapples with the reality of a physical presence and the consequences of its release, and is impeccably set against glittering soundscapes that effectively place the organic through the lens of the artificial.
“Stuck,” the most outwardly poppy of any of the songs on the album, is sonically bright and jittery, with delicate piano keys that weave in and out of synthetic horn bursts and sharp percussion. The slower, pulsating, and balladic “Dissolving” follows, and flawlessly bleeds into the instrumental intermission “(at least for now).” The second half is the more expansive side of the record, allowing more room for Dey’s songs to grow at a slightly slower pace, and for her to spend more time reflecting upon the difficult questions she’s asked herself. “Shell” is a track that builds into the most euphoric climax of a computer-generated orchestra and fidgety electronics. The songs “Reflection” and “Escaping” are both gentle and somber ruminations which lead into the final two tracks, “Unforming” and “Sieve,” which are two of the longest songs Dey has ever released. The album hauntingly closes with Dey returning to the key, string, and drum sounds introduced in earlier tracks like “Solipsisting,” and a wish for life before the circuit opens and leaves the listener and Dey again without communication.
Structurally, Solipsisters is Dey’s most mature work, constructing an album of ten songs, including just a singular interlude made to guide listeners from one half of the album into the other. The album feels cohesive and whole, each piece forwarding and reflecting upon the sonic and lyrical themes of the work. Dey at once confronts the discomfort and distance felt existing in a body that constricts one’s true expression and in existing and trying to communicate in a digital landscape that constricts relationships in the concrete world.
Solipsisters is Dey’s grandest musical project to date. It is cacophonous, sprawling, introspective, and entirely unique—an exploration to try and find comfort in, and liberation from, the confines of the corporeal, and the search for a metaphysical home where the soul, unfettered, might find intimate, human connection.