Tuesday, June 29, 2010

album of the day: Until We Felt Red

Kaki King is a brilliant guitarist who fuses several styles of guitar music and techniques to create her own stuff. What I most like about her is prominently represented on this 2006 album, her third.

In fact, it's prominently represented in one song on this album, "You Don't Have To Be Afraid." There is one line of lyrics: "You don't have to be afraid of the pain inside you." It is sung against a suite of music all developing the same basic theme, played with totally different tones, and even on different instruments, from ethereal space music to grungy rock with a side of psychedelia; with, in between, funk and jazz.

Many of the tracks are musically subtle, trancelike, sort of slow raga pieces, where tonalities slowly shift and don't particularly adhere to a typical song structure. But she'll puncture the mood of these, raking across the strings like Pete Townshend, or thumping bass notes out.

Two of my favorites on this are "First Brain," an instrumental, and "Second Brain," which again has a brief lyric:

Ten years, two-thousand stomach aches;
If I get one every other day,

Are we to have another century of guitar when the best instrument in the world is still the piano?

I have no idea what that means, really, except that it's followed by a lengthy and complex guitar solo that, again, features about 9 different ways you can play a guitar. My guess is that she's making a bit of a point about the guitar's musical flexibility - especially when you play it, as she often does, like a harp, or a hammer dulcimer, or a drum.

There is an overall mood to this, as to her other music that I'm aware of. It's... a bit unsettled, or maybe I mean unsettling. Much of it is very pretty, most of it is very slow-tempo, which makes it feel like it's easy to follow, but then, it's not easy to follow because it's not worked out in familiar chord progressions. (People who can hear what a lot of my stuff does can probably understand why I'd have affinity for her music.) And then a bend, a scrape, an unexpected slide, and you're not sure where you are, or where you were.

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