Six years ago, a personal singing visit from CALLmeKAT’s Katherine Ottosen would have the been the perfect cure for a neurotic person’s insomnia. Her delicate and dreamy lullabies provided an effortless entrance to a sparkling utopian paradise with limitless magic and guided into the adventure by the retro robot Johnny No.5 from the Short Circuit movies.
Like in the album cover for Fall Down, the Copenhagen conjurer turned musical conventions upside down with her digital explorations and fanaticism with The Cure. In 2015 though, she is more likely to be present in a Sunday morning Pentecostal church service, with a transition into gospel-folk-blues jazz with psychedelic pop tendencies on the cards, heard on new EP Hidden Waters. Although fans of her antecedent nostalgic experimental synth pop from her first album shouldn’t be too surprised or disheartened.
Her love for the electric organ and optigan sounds has always been present in her creations including, in her seductive covers of “Toxic” and “Love Cats”, as well as subtle elements of electric guitar and brass on “Sweet You” but in those cases, it was dominated by unpredictable and experimental quirks of sparkly keyboard effects (including appropriate imitations of cat squeals) from her beloved old casio keyboard collection, improvisational D-I-Y kitchen instruments, the occasional atmospheric noise of birds (“Bug In A Web”) and a trip-hop bass. She also seems to have misplaced the unique charm of adding monophonic fuzziness that made it sound not only unpretentious and personal but nostalgic like an AK Momo record and as if it was discovered in the cobwebbed corner of a basement during a cleaning day.
The title track of the new EP “Hidden Waters” is intriguing for it’s a multiple set of musical directions. In some ways, it loses the home-made quality and introduces a more commercial side to her music which could propel her from Wikipedia absentee to a UK playlister. This is due to its over-simplistic and bubbly chorus which is reminiscent of compatriot MO’s “I Don’t Wanna Dance” and contains a contemporary indie rock drum beat. Yet the basis of the song is commanded by her old-fashioned electric organ and common CALLmeKAT instruments such as the xylophone and shaking percussion.
What’s all the more intriguing is that it opens the door to a new jollier side to her compositions and a sophisticated lean towards heady progressive psychedelic pop. The latter observation is exemplified more completely by the free-spirited jamming of “Rolling Interlude”, which keeps with Ottosen’s love and accuracy of authentic pastimes and sounds as if it’s borrowed from a Yes, Pink Floyd or early Genesis album. The stumping blues and happier spirit on “Rolling” sounds like a Black Keys record made by the hedonistic Swede Miss Li, whilst also potentially attracting a new whisky-drenched audience.
Many fans and critics admired the broken, introspective and tender beauty of her voice on her debut which nodded towards Hanne Hukkelberg, Anja Garbarek and Suzanne Vega and occasionally become disorientated and haunted. Unfortunately, that side to her personality is now lost as now it’s grown into a stronger and more confident pitch a kin to Imelda May and an Americanized-Susanne Sundfor to accompany her new direction.
The closest hope we have to hearing the old voice is in “Cold Summer” which reintroduces her soft, paper-thin, soul-searching and breezy tone in a consistent pitch and also feels like she is speaking introspectively on an epic journey through an empty desert with a Jazz pianist. Yet it’s still a tad over-produced and displays a folk-flavoured accent. The EP is complete with a religious folk ballad called “Stranger” that included the lyrics, “holy man, holy priest“, which confirms that she is born again in her new genre.
Purchase CALLmeKAT’s Hidden Waters EP on iTunes here.
Words by Matt Hobbs