Kate Simko might not yet be a familiar name to most, but the Chicago native has quietly become one of the best minimal producers in the business. The stunning 2009 EP Lost In Time contributed to XLR8R naming her one of the Top 10 DJs in Chicago, her intricate brand of tech house proving popular with critics and fans alike. This brings us to 2011 and the much anticipated full-length solo debut, Lights Out. As tracks like Flight Into BA and Bikini Atoll prove, Kate has much more in her locker than just a penchant for icily refined minimalism.
Upon listening to the first track of Lights Out, you could be forgiven for disagreeing with the previous statement, for “icily refined minimalism” is exactly what’s on offer. Don’t panic; as soon as the pure funk of Flight into BA’s bassline kicks in, the feeling will pass. That bass, when coupled with soulful wails, beautiful synth washes and humming strings, adds up to a real triumph of a track, oozing with moody, groovy elegance. The vocals on Flight into BA are used to great effect, but generally speaking Kate is at her best when she lets the production do the talking. Mira Vos is one of the strongest tracks on the album while being inarguably one of the simplest. A playful, wandering beat provides the backdrop for an inquisitive bass, studded only with occasional pad flourishes. These fundamental elements create a track dynamic enough for headphones and hard enough for the dancefloor. Bikini Atoll showcases the darker side to Kate’s music, all driving rhythms and seasick melodies with an undercurrent of guttural squelches.
Criticized by some for being too minimal and stripped back, Kate has answered those critics with a collection of tracks that demonstrate the full breadth of her ability. It is a fantastic first release of 2011 for Hello?Repeat, and sits right up there alongside fellow minimalist Bruno Pronsato’s work as the best the label has ever put out.