FAME Review: Kate Miller-Heidke - O Vertigo!
Kate Miller-Heidke - O Vertigo!

O Vertigo!

Kate Miller-Heidke

Available from Kate Miller-Heidke's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

With a literary reservation or two, I was quite captivated with Kate Miller-Heidke's Nightflight (here) in 2012, a delicious assemblage of post-pop musicsmithing that evinced a good deal of sophistication incorporating promise of yet more to come, very soon. Well, with O Vertigo!, that promise is delivered, wherein Ms. M-H shows Laurie Anderson a thing or two while re-knitting a heady constellation of modes into an avant-gardey but very listener-friendly whole. Over in Ozzyland, Kate's a very big deal indeed, her first two releases having done very well with Nightflight gone multi-platinum. This led to some interesting wrinkles: with such success, Katie told the cold-ass Sony machine, with whom she'd recorded those three CDs, to take a hike and started her own imprint.

She turned to Pledge Music fan-funding, a version of KickStarter, and set an Australian crowd-funding record, in just three days doubling what was needed to make O Vertigo!. As you'll hear, that was money extremely well spent on the part of her adoring fanbase. CD in hand, it's the liner shots that give the audio fare away: four avant-arty photo slices way reminiscent of a Man Ray quartet or somesuch…here gratis the clever Peter Salmon-Lomas (and, yo!, what's with all these hyphenated surnames…do I need to get one now too?). More, the near entirety of the CD was played and sung by Miller-Heidke and co-producer / engineer / musical allsorts John Castle, with a bit o' instrumental help from Keir Nuttall, Benjamin McCarthy, and Leigh Fisher. To that backbone, add vocalists Passenger, Megan Washington, and the Drapht.

Soooooo, what does the music come off as? That's a tad more difficult to delineate, but the emphasis on art has been ratcheted discernably up, another teensy little thingie I'm betting the Sony tightasses fretted over when it was suggested before Kate flew the coop. This is modern pop opera, not target practice at formulaic chart success, and it weaves together balladry, bouncy rhythms, cabaret, Expressionism, Weillian angst, heavenly larksong, and just about everything in between. I don't think it was intended as a concept album, but that's what it is, sonically anyway…and, yeah, thematically too (um, a prolonged beautiful downer is thematic, isn't it? Sure it is!)

Wanna see something hilarious? Here's the Vimeo she recorded, dressed like Alice in Aussieland, to ask the fen for the contributions they rushed to send her:

Clever girl! Oh, and her lyrics and the poesy that provoked my only criticism last time out? Lots better. In fact, here's a killer triad from Offer It Up: 'I had a dream / Then the dream had a dream / And then the dream had me'. Good as any koan I've come across, y'all. And of course, those of us scatalogically minded can't help but dig Lose My Shit and it's cynical stanzas dueted with rapper Drapht, 'Have some consideration / Where's your sense of proportion? / Rein it in a bit for fuck's sake', a choice section. I can just see how the rabbinate and priesthood in Sony took that: Scannersville, man, Scannersville. Yep, I definitely get the feeling the lyrics were the camel-breaking straw that sundered the ties with Sony. If so, good for her, and The Big S can go suck a big, giant, moldy donkey di………hey! waitaminnit! Does Sony underwrite FAME? It does?!?! Fuck!!! Now what's gonna happen when I ask Big Dave The Editor for a $400 million 10 year deal just like Rush Limbaugh's???

Track List:

  • Offer It Up (Kate Miller-Heidke)
  • Yours was the Body (Kate Miller-Heidke)
  • O Vertigo! (Miller-Heidke / Nuttall)
  • Share Your Air (Miller-Heidke / Nuttall / Cromack)
  • Rock this Baby to Sleep (Kate Miller-Heidke)
  • Jimmy (Miller-Heidke / Nuttall)
  • What was I to You? (Kate Miller-Heidke)
  • Sing to Me (Kate Miller-Heidke)
  • Drama (Nuttall / Drapht)
  • Lose my Shit (Kate Miller-Heidke)
  • Ghost (Heidke-Miller / Wiles / Washington)
  • Bliss (Kate Miller-Heidke)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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