Bleaksploitation is NYC-based pianist/singer, Katie Von Schleicher’s second musical release. It is a compilation of 8 soggy distorted tracks that were recorded on a four-track which means these tracks belong on a cassette. Despite Katie being part of other musical projects like her other band, Wilder Maker, and having released music previously, this is her first truly liberating album. For the very first time, Katie took on the daunting but absolutely gratifying task of playing every instrument and being 100% in charge of every aspect of the final product.
I set out out to simply write a review for Bleaksploitation but wanted a bit of extra information from Katie herself. So, what started as a review turned into a chain of emails between the two of us where we actually covered a good deal of topics. I felt honored to get a deeper look into Katie and her music.
Katie said originally the goal was to use an old tape player/recorder she acquired to listen to some Mississippi Records cassette tape mixes to release 50 cassettes of her very own solo performances. Eventually she upgraded to a 424 4-track machine and with that, two Shure SM 58 vocal microphones and 5 guitar pedals (which according to Katie EVERYTHING went through the pedals), she created Bleaksploitation. That’s not to say she didn’t catch some worthy moments from her original recording sessions with the older school tape recorder. About recording Bleaksploitation in this manner Katie said:
“My songs are one thing on their own, in a solo piano environment. But in this setting I could play around with no timetable, I could play guitar until I got a line down correctly, and produce a song based on timbre. I think the process eliminated fear and loosened me up. I find so much about intention with my music to be incommunicable, so rooted in image and feeling, and this just allowed me to avoid all dialog.”
She made it clear she owed much of her creativity, motivation and thanks to her beau, Nick who was a key player in many ways on the writing, recording and supportive sides of the album-making process. In fact not only did he convince her that her first track “Baby Don’t Go” was well worth building upon and sharing with the world, he also played guitar, bass, drums and did back-up vocals on both “Baby Don’t Go” and “I’m Not the Money.” Besides that, Katie took care of all other vocals and instrumentation herself.
Growing up in Pasadena, MD, Katie began as a gal who loved music but sometimes had to put effort into understanding why and how other people loved certain kinds of music the way they did. She confesses a crush on an old teacher who she’d stay after class to chat with about music:
“ …he (the teacher from the past) said Wilco (was his favorite band). I drove to Best Buy in Annapolis, got Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, drove home listening to it three times and just going ‘What the fuck is this?’ It’s funny how it sounded like noise, like a jumble of semi-tones or something, I had no language for it! And then it fell into place on the, say, 10th listen, and became the greatest thing I’d ever heard.”
Bleaksploitation is a vessel of Katie’s creativity as a musician and human being in its purest form, named after a word her and a good buddy came up with. According to Katie, the word “bleaksploitation” is:
“…ubiquitous for me, it embodies the self-aware, almost comedic self-indulgence implicit in making something sad, dark and/or slow. And the word just makes me so happy.”
The album itself is her “bleaksploiation.” In this record she neatly packages her knack for rhythm and songwriting, natural ability to play multiple instruments,wit and sense of humor (which err on the darker side), and her radiant charm all together into a perfectly plump 8-song album.
My personal favorite is “Move Through.” The drunken piano chords are intoxicating and together with the messy guitar, they build upon each other, all the while Katie’s voice holds steady. I’m nearly equally as fond of “Joanna”, though, a lovely ballad Katie states is originally based on the Randy Newman song, “Marie.” Newman’s track took a good 15 listens for it to sink into Katie’s bones but it managed to nudge its way in, again in Katie’s words, “proof that music takes time.”
Now take the time for yourself and listen to Bleaksploitation. Katie Von Schleicher’s latest release takes a beautifully bold leap forward and there’s no looking back.