Brian Eno likened John Cage to an arctic explorer who “staked out some remote poles in music”. Katie Kim occupies the periphery. Her music is abstract from the concept of scenes, trends or conventions. This undefinable quality separates Kim from her peers, allowing the artist to deliver albums that contrast the mainstream. Hour Of The Ox continues this thread with music that bristles with longing, isolation and restlessness in a world of its own making.
‘Mona’ opens Hour Of The Ox with a bedrock of screeching, buzz-saw soundscapes. This repressive atmosphere resonates within the record throughout. ‘Mona’ establishes a claustrophobic, insular tone that melds into the pensive thread leading into the jolting, uneasy rhythm of ‘Eraser’. Indeed, like Katie Kim’s previous offerings, Hour Of The Ox is to be experienced as a complete piece with its peaks and troughs.
Adding to this experiential, long-form feel, the instrumental ‘Into Which The Worm Falls’ revels within the turbulent harmonic undercurrent of Hour Of The Ox. This blends into the scratching Steve Reichian strings of ‘Golden Circles’. Kim’s softly commanding vocal becomes one with a flowing musical backdrop, carrying the album’s lyrical and sonic restless nature. While ‘I See Old Joy’ allows the record to breathe with a comparatively intimate feel.
However, the mid-album epic ‘Gentle Bird’ captures the imagination most. Working as a meeting point for Hour Of The Ox’s over-arching themes and tones, the track sprawls across tense textures, bewitching vocals, searing strings and scattered beats. Incorporating myriad sounds, ‘Gentle Bird’ contains that foreboding yet engrossing quality that defines Katie Kim’s music and, indeed Hour Of The Ox.
And so it goes, Hour Of The Ox is a postcard from the edge. Once Katie Kim establishes herself as an artist dancing to a different beat, existing and thriving outside everything else. Much like Cage’s arctic sonic explorations, Kim’s journeys far from the crowd in Hour Of The Ox yields the same fascination, and are essential to the diverse tapestry of Irish music.