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of course i had to write about the new katie dey album

It feels odd to write about Katie Dey’s music as I’ll never be able to think about it objectively – ‘asdfasdf’ and ‘flood network’ have essentially been wedged into my brain for the past four years and that makes me oddly sentimental about the Melbourne-based musician’s creative output. Around this time in 2016 I met an internet friend who went on to become a scarily large influence on my life and one of our first conversations revolved around Dey’s first EP – I essentially just looped the record over and over in order to have something to say to that random internet person, starting an obsession that hasn’t really ended yet. This obsession essentially just snowballed when Dey released ‘flood network’, my favorite album of all time – I remember wandering around a post-Fleadh Ennis essentially just killing time until I got a text back while blaring ‘fear o the light’ and feeling a vague dread that now seems fairly nostalgic to look back on. I’m not sure exactly why Dey’s discography resonated with me so much at the time but it captured a larger feeling that was oddly cathartic to observe – Sasha Geffen once remarked for The Fader that the album “fold[ed] somatic joy into waves of chaos and anxiety” and that’s the closest I’ve gotten to explaining the appeal of ‘Flood Network’. The record essentially channeled the same anxious energy my life was constantly defined by and turned it into a bunch of shoegazey hypnagogic pop songs, something that offered me an odd form of solace when I was probably at my most misanthropic.

I guess half of the appeal of Dey’s work came from how little we knew about her – you could barely discern half of the vocals on her records due to all the layers of Kerovee they were put under and whatever lyrics that did get released were heavily redacted. You knew that her work was highly intimate and you could feel the emotional intensity emanating from it but you (rightfully) didn’t have the full picture – Jazz Monroe hit the nail on the head when she compared the experience of listening to Flood Network to “the voyeuristic thrill of hearing emotionally knotty music made to satisfy nobody but its author, sometimes at the audience’s exclusion”, the album essentially just gave you the space to discern your own meaning from it – even if that’s odd to admit. You’d never know for sure what emotions fueled tracks like ‘frailty’ (and perhaps the internet shouldn’t know) but you could relate to the intensity, feeling slightly less alone as a result. In the past, I’ve stated that Flood Network was an album that (unintentionally) felt like the internet and I think that comparison holds up – “at its best it sounds like a computer dying while someone has a weird heart-to-heart with some stranger and that experience summarizes a scary amount of my life (and a scarier amount of these music posts)”. To a certain degree my life was shaped around this album, naturally making me scarily excited for what’d come next.

‘Mydata’ is an album that’s been hinted towards for years and perhaps that’s why I’m still a bit surprised that it’s out – tracks like ‘Darkness’ and ‘Data’ have been floating around the internet as b-sides for ages and it feels a bit odd to no longer have to open up Soundcloud to loop them. There was a three-year gap between Dey’s previous albums and I’d initially just expected for something similar to play out – I remember her claiming that there wouldn’t be such a large gap before her next release but I didn’t think much of it, instead focusing on looping the music video for ‘Stuck’ until I went mental. ‘Mydata’ feels like a perfect bridge between the chaotic energy of ‘Flood Network’ and the more vast, spaced-out sound of ‘Solipsisters’. There’s slightly more breathing room in this album and notes get to linger on for a little longer, creating an atmosphere that borders on being relatively ambient at times. The digital fog that defined Dey’s earlier releases has cleared – you can actually discern all of the instruments and lyrics on most of these tracks and that’s an interesting development, even if you’d sound insane explaining it to any normal human being. Dey’s songwriting skills are on full display with this album – what was initially hidden under a scary amount of free VSTs and glitchy synth patches is suddenly observable, opening up Dey’s world to those (heathens) who didn’t grow up religiously refreshing the Run For Cover Bandcamp page. Lockdown has ensured that we all relate to lyrics about the excitement of seeing some random person we’ve never seen face to face log into Discord, hopefully that means we can all admit that ‘Darkness’ objectively slaps.

I was expecting to get oddly emotional the first time I got to listen to this album, I just didn’t predict how it’d happen. ‘Hoping’ completely took me off-guard on my first listen, leading to me overthinking about the last four years in a way that’ll make me veer off-topic for a bit. This track is a rework of ‘hope reset’, a song that originally appeared on ‘Art Week 2016’, a Bandcamp compilation record I stumbled upon while waiting for Dey’s first full-length to drop (and any responses to my InterPals messages to arrive). It’s hard to explain how stacked this compilation was without resorting to just listing names of random musicians I’m vaguely nostalgic for – you got to hear one of the best Teen Suicide tracks of all time, the first American Pleasure Club track (ages before the ill-fated name change), and an Alex G track inexplicably released under the name of Alan J. The oddities of this mixtape gradually ingrained themselves into my psyche as that year dragged on – the weird piece Cat Be Damned contributed about a child who didn’t want to die suddenly became oddly calming and I started to associate memories to that Spencer Radcliffe song that didn’t end with me rewinding to the Teen Suicide track that preceded it. ‘Art Week’ essentially just soundtracked the beginning of an era that eventually lead to me falling down this path – I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t get obsessed with this random, largely niche compilation record and that’s really odd to think about (and pretty much impossible to explain). ‘Hope Reset’ felt oddly definitive to me in a way that eludes real description – I had zero idea what the line “I can fall in love with the thought of falling in love” actually meant but I wanted to somehow channel that energy, even if I’d only be able to do so in a highly juvenile way.

I spent most of January and February fantasizing about fundamentally changing my life this summer (when I wasn’t feeling bouts of deep dread) and now I’m dealing with the whiplash of realizing lockdown has essentially prevented that from actually happening. One of the worst aspects of being completely cut-off is how stunted you start to feel over time – all that’s tangibly changed in the past few years are the random people you constantly text to feel real and that naturally drives you crazy, even if you don’t want to admit as such. I’ve fallen back into habits I’d previously assumed to be completely behind me and these last few months resemble those of four years ago way more than I’m comfortable with – my weight has (presumably) ballooned since lockdown dread started to seep in and going outside to read is the main thing preventing me from completely regressing into some bed-ridden depressive stupor. I’m caught in the contradiction of realizing how stupid your thought processes were in the past while simultaneously having scarily similar ones – the dread I currently feel is akin to the dread that lead to me trying to talk to people on InterPals four years ago and that’s scary to admit, mainly as it implies that I’m locked into this bleak loop for way longer than I initially expected (or am capable of). ‘Hope Reset’ felt cathartic due to how oddly bombastic it was – it felt like Dey was admitting that her position in life was a bit shite but choosing to make something out of it, throwing layers of distortion and drum samples over her wails into a digital void. ‘Hoping’ nearly completely strips that – the creaks in her voice become harder to ignore and the lyrics that gave me a vague sense of aspiration a few years back suddenly feel devastating. ‘Hoping’ feels like realizing that this is the rest of your life, something I probably wasn’t prepared to do while catching up on an Alan Woods book and listening to the albums that’d just been released half an hour ago. But hey, it’s still objectively cool.