IRELAND: Salt - Katie Kim
Updated: Mar 11
Haunting, minimalist, drone-folk may not sound like a barrel of laughs, but Kim's stunning voice and manipulation of sound makes the album worth pursuing
When reviewing music, it is important to recognise that we all have our musical predispositions and prejudices and as such it is fair to say that Katie Kim’s third solo album Salt is not the sort of music I would ordinarily chose to listen to. Yet, it is very much in spite of this fact, that I think the record proves itself to be a barnstorming success. It is not an easy listen, by a long chalk, but once one adjusts to her fairly unique style there is something utterly mesmerising to be gained from it.
“ It provides a musically optimistic antidote to the rest of the album, but lyrically it speaks of a doomed relationship which creates a stunning paradox.”
The record has a real ‘soundtrack’ feel to it, due to the intensely atmospheric nature of Kim’s music. Described as drone-folk, this type of music is characterised by its sustained minimalism. Comparisons can be made to some of our Scandinavian artists we have previously reviewed on the site. Singers like Faroese songstress Eivør and Norwegian popstar AURORA implement a similar icy sound which Kim takes to another level. Though less joyful than the aforementioned Scandi stars, Kim’s music remains just as engaging as she hooks the listener on every note she produces, and keeps them absorbed by the way in which each one lingers.
The album kicks off with the haunting opener Ghosts. The track features a monotonous pounding percussion, allowing her voice to totally dictate the melody. This ominous type of dreary drumbeat features again on the fuzzy, slow motion I Make Sparks. The intensity of the two tracks is surpassed even by Life Or Living, which despite the sense of oncoming eternal damnation, there is something rather mesmeric about the march to the slaughterhouse ambience that is created.
Another piano-led number, of particular note, is Someday. Though there is limited variation in the keys played, which are always held onto for one second more than would be comfortable, there is rich melody in this song, once again sparked to life by her reverberating voice on this track. The song is really minimalistic and stripped back, serving in great contrast to the song which precedes it - Day Is Coming. By far and away my favourite song on the album, Day Is Coming, is the only track guided by a guitar. It provides a musically optimistic antidote to the rest of the album, but lyrically it speaks of a doomed relationship which creates a stunning paradox. The lyric which touched me most “I am carrying a torch with the light I cannot see”, I find to be so profound as it described the incongruent feeling of having the resources to achieve one’s goals but feeling incapable of accomplishing them, a sense of stuntedness I am sure that we can all resonate with at one point or another in our lives.
The final few tracks on the album present another point of comparison to much of the music to come out of Scandinavia that I have listened. Two key aspects that Ireland, from which Kim hails, has in common with countries like Iceland and Sweden, that prove to be wholly relevant on this record, is their rich folkloric story telling traditions as well as stunning sparse landscapes. This is mirrored in Kim’s music in a way that is most prominent on the softer final tracks. Beautiful Human encourages the listener to visualise a brutally empty landscape, and as far as I am concerned to be able to connect the audience to nature in such a vivid manner is a real mark of achievement. Thieves and Wide Hand continue this sense of immersion on one’s mental journey, though both do so in a softer way. Caressing the listener with the dreamy piano, the very fact it is difficult to hear what she is signing about due to the intense reverb, gently places the listener’s attention on the intricate wispy piano that she performs with such a deft touch.