Kate Simko: Lights Out (Hello? Repeat)
Chicago tech house producer Kate Simko is an old acquaintance/friend of mine from my time there years ago, and it’s been satisfying to hear her evolve as an artist since we met in 2004. Lights Out is probably her most refined excursion into the space between techno and house yet, all with a decidedly minimal slant. But Kate has always explored the finer details and more nuanced side of minimalism in dance music, even in her project Detalles which is far less slavish to the beat. Many of the tracks on Lights Out are staid but deceivingly complex; what sounds repetitive at first is quite mannered and meticulous, with effects, timbre and treatments varying by the beat or by the bar on isolated instances of sounds. One of my personal favorites is the opener, “Beneath,” with its simple oscillating chords and delicately treated drum patterns. She pulls things in a much more house direction on the next several tracks, with “Flight Into BA” even including a falsetto male soul vocal. To be honest, the vocal tracks aren’t my favorite, but others that walk the line between techno and house like “Mira Vos” are strong and infectious. The second half of the album is much less overtly house in sound, with a deep groove to each track that makes it no less seductive but with sounds that have an air of mystery, particularly on “Cairo” which has a really nice, dark, undulating groove. It’s nice that she included a couple beatless tracks as well, particularly “Monochrome” as a nice division between the lighter house tracks and the deeper ones. It’s a well-balanced album that pairs the “tech” with “house” in a really fluid sort of way.