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Katie Von Schleicher - Consummation Music Album Reviews

With virtuosic arrangements and cavernous production flourishes, the Brooklyn songwriter’s second full-length is an ambitious record that miraculously does not feel like it’s taking on too much.

Katie Von Schleicher, a Brooklyn-based musician who also plays in the Americana outfit Wilder Maker, makes psych rock that belongs on empty, scorching interstates. Her decadent and intricate retro-revivalism feels synonymous with chrome finishes, the smell of leather interiors, and endless lonely stretches. Loosely inspired by an alternative reading of Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological masterpiece Vertigo, Von Schleicher’s second full-length album, Consummation, attempts to work through the quiet and often unnoticed struggles that come with feeling invisible in a romantic relationship. It is some of her strongest songwriting to date, complemented by virtuosic arrangements and cavernous production flourishes.
Consummation is a major step forward for Von Schleicher. The jangly glam rock of 2017’s delightfully scrappy Shitty Hits, recorded directly to tape in her childhood home, left plenty of room to grow. Consummation sounds huge. Its arrangements are overstuffed and pristine, indebted to what feels like every subgenre of ’70s rock without ever devolving into outright pastiche. The distorted guitars and painstaking vocal harmonies of “Messenger” scan as both mutant glam rock and sun-drenched AM gold. All lo-fi proclivities are gone—Von Schleicher isn’t hiding behind anything.
“Caged Sleep,” the album’s biggest track, is towering and massive, with urgent pacing and sharp turns. Von Schleicher describes watching herself as though in a dream and questioning her own existence. “The wall was full of green/No one looked at me/How strange/Am I free?” she sings, as her surroundings strobe in the background. Flickering with organs and finger-picked classical guitars, “Gross” verges on Renn Faire at its outset. “If you make honest work you believe it then/Unless no one’s home,” she sings, continually questioning herself and her process. The song maintains its slow, careful pacing until the last minute, when it transforms into a voluminous orchestral pop ballad. Von Schleicher’s best songs never quite go where you might think would make sense.

Musically, Consummation is an ambitious record that miraculously does not feel like it’s taking on too much. Its concept is more elusive. Von Schleicher reveals quiet flickers of pain, hinting at feelings of isolation and smallness with occasionally muddled results. But on “Nowhere,” she is at her most candid. She watches her past slip out of focus from the side mirror of a car, surveying the road behind and ahead. “I’ll buy my childhood home/All comfort in the end/And when it fills me up/I’ll be alone again,” she sings soberly as the roofline slips past the horizon. A synthesizer unspools beneath her words like a thread in an ancient sweater.

Von Schleicher doesn’t necessarily need to be transparent; more often than not, teasing out the hidden messages that lie beneath her impressionistic songwriting is genuinely enjoyable. Calling one’s pain by name can be terrifying, and she has a great talent for subtlety. Still, Consummation is at its most transfixing when it is at its most legible.

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