By Eamonn Keyes
On the surface Orkney is a fairly normal place, where people go about their business each day by going to work, farming, or even enjoying their retirement.
The onset of winter brings an end to tourism, and folk fall back on the more traditional Orkney pursuits- organising raffles, taking part in The Quiz League and, according to my favourite page in The Orcadian, enjoying the occasional fight outside the Torvhaug before deciding which ex-partner to threaten. All fairly humdrum stuff.
But below all this normality something darker and more gothic stirs.
In the thriving metropolis of Quoyloo meek and mild-mannered Mrs Kathie Brown lives with her husband Graham and dog Roscoe, teaching piano by day to her pupils and hopefully inspiring some of them towards a future love of music and all its potential.
But by night something alters, and Kathie Brown dons her rock boots and costume to become Kathie Touin, composer, performer, producer, sound engineer and singer of songs.
As a member of a shadowy group of similar musicians living on Orkney she has outfitted her own Starling Recording Studio, and like other cabal members Kathie uses both instruments and the latest computer technology to bring her musical vision to the world, fighting against the dark ages of music.
Some 50 years Queen’s catchphrase, found on the back of their albums, trumpeted the now anachronistic phrase ‘no synthesisers’. These days Kathie’s could be ‘mainly synthesisers’. However in complete contravention of established Orkney regulations there are ‘no fiddles’. As yet.
Kathie has just released her new EP, ‘People Keep Dancing Here’ consisting of 4 tracks of varying styles which both showcase her earlier work and indicate a more modern, darker direction.
Kathie is originally from California but spending over 20 years in the UK and 13 years in Orkney itself has meant that Kathie is a million miles away from the more traditionally weird Californian I have encountered in the wild and during my visits there. Kathie readily admits to being a Gary Numan fanatic, having just returned from seeing him live several times, and also loves Progressive Rock music from bands such as Rush and Emerson Lake and Palmer.
Numan, perhaps along with bands like Nine Inch Nails, comes across unsurprisingly as an influence for some of the songs on this EP, with the signature sound of drums being mangled and distorted to produce an ominous, pounding soundscape.
Kathie’s vocals sit on top. They are distinctive and bring a softer and more melodic human edge to the more industrial feel of the tracks.
The opener, All I Am Is Here, really impressed me when I first heard it earlier this year, and it announces a change in musical direction.
The lyrics hint at isolation, and with the distorted rhythms, breathy vocal samples and a hint of the Middle East in the melody of the synthesised string accompaniment it would sit very comfortably on a soundtrack for a future movie in the Terminator franchise.
The Falling Keep Falling is a more fragile piano based melody in complete contrast to the previous track. For me it is reminiscent of something off Kate Bush’s ‘Lionheart’ or ‘Never for Ever’, which for me is a Very Good Thing. The arrangement is unpredictable, ever shifting and with a dramatic, imposing chorus which helps develop the song.
It’s set off by a very good lead vocal and supporting harmonies, all by Kathie. Nice one.
Edge Dancing is the most strident track on the EP. The intro reminds me of Pink Floyd’s ‘Welcome to the Machine’, as some infernal sonic machine sets up the rhythm that defines the track.
Ostensibly, to me it seems to correlate the journey of Life itself with a tangential dance involving an evasive partner. That last sentence alone should get me a mention in Pseud’s Corner in Private Eye.
‘Out of the desert you walked, and everything changed’ is a lyric I really like, and again there are hints of eastern-style melody in the 1970s-style mono synth lines. Another sci-fi soundtrack contender to my ears.
These People was co-written with husband Graham who provided lyrics and I am certainly impressed, as the man does the job admirably. It’s a wistful tale that will be familiar to people of a certain vintage, looking back on life with the bitter-sweet feelings of nostalgia and loss, familiar people gone, and past lives lived. Lyrically it’s in the same vein as the Beatle’s ‘In My Life’, a song I love to sing, and which has always resonated with me.
It’s basically a piano and voice song, with the piano style again reminding me of Kate Bush.
I think I’m correct in saying Kathie also plays electric guitar on this and even does a short solo. It’s a pleasant and well-performed song, and perhaps Graham may even be a source to be mined for future lyrics.
The bonus track is the previously released This Time (Save The World?) which to my mind is certainly one of Kathie’s best songs, so I’m glad she has given it a second bite of the cherry.
We all have our Covid Lockdown Project songs, and this song is Kathie’s, and a very good one it is.
It was a time few of us will forget and this composition captures the atmosphere well.
It was featured in an Orkney News piece in May 2021 which you can read at: This Time (Save The World?): A New Song by Kathie Touin
The accompanying video for the song can also be found at the link above.
The EP’s title came about when we were playing around with the song titles, taking a word from each to come up with a combination that would work for the overall title of the project. People Keep Dancing Here seemed to click”.
This EP is a good demonstration of how music has changed since the beginning of the 21st century. The use of computer technology has enabled the domestic creation of a high-quality audio product, with time taken to develop soundscapes, manipulate sounds and balance them together instead of watching the clock in a commercial studio, where every hour adds tens of pounds to an ever-rising bill. Creativity gets free rein and priority and enables the artist to step outside the previous confines of the recording process.
The fact that a release of this quality can be produced at home within Orkney is heartening, and as others here also beaver away, largely unknown, music production has become a cottage industry with the only problems being promotion and distribution.
This release is a step forward in terms of process and content and will enable others to realise that they too can turn their musical vision into a tangible product.
From this EP, the talent is already here, and growing in terms of originality and style.
Kathie has previously released four albums, three of her own songs – Butterfly Bones, Dark Moons & Nightingales and Facing the Falling Sky – and a classical piano collection, Soliloquy Deluxe.
A physical CD copy of the EP can be obtained from Kathie’s Buy Page on her website at
and the tracks can be streamed or downloaded from all the usual streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Bandcamp, Tidal etc.