Dark keyboards, dark singers

The Casio SK-1 was launched in 1985 and sold for less than $100. It became popular with musicians in later years, I’m convinced, because the sounds on it are just downright spooky. There’s an evil-sounding flute, a dark synth sound, and a human-voice-echoing sample that sounds like someone is yelling for help while plummeting into the Grand Canyon.

I actually found an SK-1 one in a rainstorm in a trash can in Boston in the late 90’s. When I got it back to my apartment and put six AA batteries in it I was amazed that it still worked.

If Call Me Kat was a keyboard she would be a Casio SK-1. That’s why the Danish singer-songwriter plays the instrument live. You’re not sure where her voice leaves off and the keyboard begins.

She’s mysterious and spooky, like if the ghost of Billie Holiday came into your bedroom at 3am and started whispering in your ear. Similar artists like Feist and Regina Specktor bring a bit of bounce and playfulness to the female singer-songwriter thing. Call Me Kat keeps it dark, even paranoid, on her debut album, “Fall Down”.

From “Bug in a Web”

I would walk a million miles
If it could change this into being just a bad dream

From “Do your Trick”

Where are your feelings warm and tender
Where are your kisses sweet and wild
You act as if you had a hidden agenda
I’m all at sea I’m all beguiled

From “My Sea”

On a night like this my head is spinning
Demons crawling on the inside of my chest
Everything in green looks rather yellow
I wish some of these thoughts would take a rest

…Then she closes the record by covering a band that is from the same time period as her SK-1 and known for writing some dark songs of their own…The Cure.

Her version of “Lovecats” is so original and dark that even Robert Smith, once called “pop culture’s unkempt poster child of doom and gloom”, would surely find it acceptable. It ends with what sounds like distorted low notes on piano, a music box and a satanic-sounding voice exclaiming “lovecats!”

And the instrumentation is equally moody. Analog synthesizers…glockenspiel… melodica….thumping percussion…what sounds like sampled horns and digital trombones that have been pitched down…creepy guitars playing minor chords…

Call Me Kat could be to music what Marlene Dietrich was to film noir. I know I’m tired of Nora Jones…



One Response to “Dark keyboards, dark singers”

  1. Audrey Schaefer Says:

    Love this review!

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