Album Review

Kaïa Kater - Strange Medicine

As one of folk music’s most intriguing stars, Kater creates not just a riveting body of emotional work, but a fierce statement of unbridled independence.

Album - Kaïa Kater - Strange Medicine
May 16, 2024 5:16 pm GMT

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Kaïa Kater - Strange Medicine

Label: Free Dirt Records

Producers: Kaïa Kater & Joe Grass

Release Date: May 17, 2024

Tracklisting:

1. The Witch feat. Aoife O'Donovan
2. Maker Taker
3. Mechanics of the Mind
4. In Montreal feat. Allison Russell
5. The Internet
6. Fédon feat. Taj Mahal
7. Floodlights
8. Often as the Autumn
9. History in Motion
10. Tigers

Herbie Hancock once discussed an experience he had when playing with Miles Davis. He perceived a wrong note on his part to be a mistake, yet Davis used it as an opportunity to create something remarkable. Hancock believed this to be not just an integral lesson in his life, but for all artists, noting that the job of an artist is “to turn poison into medicine, take whatever situation you have and make something constructive with it.”

This frame of mind serves as the guiding force for Kaïa Kater’s unearthly new album, Strange Medicine. Like a seasoned archeologist, she excavates with meticulous care to bring visceral stories to light that confront colonialism, racism and misogyny. Digging to the depths with each carefully crafted song, she exposes centuries of exploitation, transforming these tragedies into something all the more hopeful: reclaimed power.

With transfixing production, ‘The Witch’ unfurls an unnerving tale of a branded woman's survival against wrongful accusations. A striking feature from Aoife O’Donovan adds to the sheer intensity of Kater’s ethereal vocals that pierce through the dense mist to relentlessly hover around the listener’s ear. On the fiercely meditative ‘Maker Taker,’ she harmoniously cries out “Who’s the maker? / Who’s the taker?,” to confront a critic’s consumption of her art and perceived control of her. Similarly, on ‘Floodlights’ she bravely chooses to “face the feeling” by returning to memories of a lecherous snake that coiled her. The sweeping orchestration builds, growing more menacing by the minute until it reaches the triumphant conclusion where Kater takes back her power in full. This force radiates on bewitching ‘Often as the Autumn’ where she completely reimagines a West Virginian ghost story, now told from a feminist perspective. The chilling results showcase an artist unwilling to compromise any longer as she forges her own path.

As one of folk music’s most intriguing stars, Kater continues to expand and explore her prenatural craft throughout Strange Medicine. In choosing to heed Hancock’s sage advice, she creates not just a riveting body of emotional work, but a fierce statement of unbridled independence.

8/10

Kaïa Kater’s 2024 project, Strange Medicine, is available May 17 via Free Dirt Records.

Written by Soda Canter
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