Building connections and standing together as an equal unit has been a reactive message positively spread across the globe following the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris recently. An appropriate soundtrack to this defiance, fighting spirit and bond for peace would be the long-awaited debut album from Stockholm-dwelling Kate Boy. Intelligently titled One, it displays the quartet’s masterful passion for empowering cohesion.
Firstly, through the balance of the group’s roles; Australian vocalist Kate Akburst and Swedes Hampus Nordgren Hemlin, Oskar Sikow Engstrom and Markus Dextegen all share song-writing, production and performance responsibilities. Wearing unified black outfits and lacking an egocentric leader, they pass the governing role to metaphorical commander-in-chief Kate Boy – an amalgamation of Akburst’s Christian name and her Swedish friends’ project name Rocket Boy – who acts as their musical guidance and can be seen on their artwork. An unsurprising choice for a nation that stubbornly rejects self-importance.
Secondly, the electronic instrumentation that forcibly penetrates their compositions is consistent, creating an incomparable cohesive style that’s become synonymous with the collective. The hard-hitting rhythmic punch of their electric drum pads, energetic gadgetry and Akburst’s confident preaching – adopting a quasi Karin Dreijer Andersson strength – continuously combine to form an exclusive progressive-electro sound. Yet the real magic is how addictive and infectious their anthems are without compromising in innovative quality and the bizarre nature of them being oddly recognizable and familiar even at first listen. Irresistibly exciting during their EP phase and still maintain that excitement with the LP’s additional tracks such as “Lion For A Real“.
Unlike The Knife, textures seem both cold & metallic – putative of Scandinavian wisdom – and simultaneously warm & welcoming. The former symbolizes the landscapes of their environment but the latter demonstrates their wish to repeat the instantaneous bond the band formed – they recorded “Northern Lights” on the first evening they met – now with their growing allegiance of fans. Observing the early reaction to their pulsating and dramatically tribal gigs shows the feeling is mutual. Their admirers had to show faith and patience though due to the delay of an LP – a mix of admirable perfectionism, intuition and touting conflicts – but have been rewarded with a set of tracks that maps their three-year-journey. Wisely kept in their original loved condition, as opposed to the trigger-happy tampering that Grimes’ “Realiti” from Art Angels succumbed to.
Thirdly, Kate Boy’s sermons are convincingly motivational and persuasive, promoting utopian unison. They believe in their causes, rather than formulating pretentious sensationalism. “Higher” tackles sexual inequality and platforms for success with army-marching rebellion, again a Swedish principle. The line: “I dream of the day that we say that we changed us”, urges this generation to make a positive difference and correct the faults of anchestors.
“The Way We Are” and “Open Fire” are celebrating odes to being human – contrasting with their inorganic sound – and living stress-free in the moment. “Self Control” could apply to a manner of suffocating situations but is topical for its association with musical freedom, something which is optimistically changing rapidly. Whether it’s financial wars from record labels, streaming services or just artistic independence: “So free ourselves, don’t let nobody take control”, it can be chanted with a raised fist.
“Northern Lights” is about integrating into a new society as a happy experience, unlike the disappointing tales on Laura Marling’s Short Movie and personally narrates Kate Akburst’s immediate connection with Sweden after migrating from Australia. Especially uplifting with the powerful lyric: “Reaching up to the neon sky, now our stars align”. With what’s been happening this month, the idea of stars aligning feels more relevant than ever before. Kate Boy’s One is out now on Fiction Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Matt Hobbs