To the everyday man, the name Katharina Tunicata on the spine of an album might evoke the image of an Italian songstress inhabiting a coffeehouse near you. Katharina Tunicata is actually the name of a bizarre little mollusk resembling a stone with a set of diamond-shaped plates acting as a sort of exoskeleton. It’s a magnificent little thing, looking more like toy jewelry or a trash gemstone littering a palm reader’s den. The strange, alluring qualities of the pseudonym (I’m assuming) and the animal parallel this Katharina’s gypsy-like tunes.
At times, Tunicata evokes Mark Robinson’s unmistakable spur-of-the-moment projects and bold(/stubborn?) pop experiments. “Volcano” and “Influence You” are two tracks in particular that match Teen Beat’s curious enthusiasm and unique charm. Much like Grenadine or Cotton Candy, Tunicata’s allure comes from a vibe that the artist is politely and steadfastly giving a “Fuck You” to their scene, and beating it at its own game. It also helps that the minimalist deadpan in her voice carries many of the verses on the album. Untrained vocals in the style of Calvin Johnson or Phil Elverum give a rustic vibe and let the melodies fall naturally around Tunicata’s voice rather than forcing it.
Tunicata’s instrumentation and arrangement is sparse but economical, and gives the songs a refined quality. Like Julia Holter’s Ekstasis‘ kid sister. The harmonium features heavily in these songs and even carries an entire instrument bit or two, as do a cheap Casio drum machine and a pawn shop horn section. I’m surprised K Records hasn’t jumped on Katharina Tunicata yet. Definitely worth checking out.