You can compare her to maybe Michael Hedges meets Les Claypool and Adrian Legg. So, you have no idea who I’m talking about? OK, let me just say Kaki King is probably the most original and incredible instrumental guitarist I have come across in a long, long time. She can play really fun and funky stuff to slow and beautiful melodies. Not to mention that she can change her style from song to song. You’ll get hints of classical, Spanish, slide, and hard rock – all on this CD. That’s pretty impressive for a young girl with a ring in her lip.
Since I haven’t done a music review in a long time, I thought I’d go track by track. What better way to communicate Kaki King’s diversity? In fact, if you like what I’m describing here, I can’t even tell you where to find this CD. It could be under anything from rock to easy listening to new age to jazz. You can, however, hear samples on her website: www.kakiking.com.
Frame: A kind of slow, lightly strummed piece. Pretty, but a little bland. Nothing really exciting going on here. Ends with nice harmonics.
Playing With Pink Noise: This is where she starts getting funky. It starts out with a permutation of her left hand tapping on the low-end strings and the frame of the guitar for percussion. She strums a little and taps around with harmonics, then slides a chord around while tapping harmonics in odd places. Back to the funky banging on the body of the guitar with a few open strings hit singly for a little depth. I swear she sounds like two guitarists for a bit here. She moves on to some pretty fingerpicking, then back to the beginning, and an abrupt end. This is certainly one of the highlights of the CD.
Ingots: This is another song where Kaki may be using the guitar for percussion, but I think it’s a foot stomp. She slides chord around and picks, and some cymbals join to give this tune a slightly more rich quality. I certainly wouldn’t pass this song up when listening to this CD – it’s a great example of the complete control she has over the guitar, from subtle volume control to making her fingers jump around the fret board.
Doing the Wrong Thing: Kaki starts off very slowly on this song, similar to Frame. Then a jazzy little subtle beat comes in, and she’s all over the fret board, finger picking and jumping around like Bela Fleck. She again throws in some pretty harmonics before reverting back to the intro of the song, and then she goes back to the jazzy guitar accompanied by strings.
Solipsist: On this song, she’s showing off her strong fingers and ability to hammer-on and pull-off, making it sound like two guitars. This song has a strong Adrian Legg influence.
Neanderthal: Don’t let the title fool you; this is a very pretty song. Soft finger picking, followed with a slight increase in intensity with some hammer-ons and pull-offs, but then she goes back to the pretty stuff! A beautiful four minutes.
Can The Gwot Save Us?: I’m still trying to figure out if she’s using a slide bar. It could be that, or a fretless guitar. Either way, this slow tune has a slight country influence – even reminds me of Michael Lee Firkins, the best thing to come out of Omaha since Godfather’s Pizza. I just think there is too much going on for her to be simply using a slide bar, but you can tell how strong her fingers are on this song.
Lies: A little blues to start, with a 50’s jazz guitar feel. Maybe a hint of Al DiMeola? Then, she goes on a Crazy on You inro-esque picking fest. A slight dark bend is quickly rebounded with almost a giddy, happy surge. Ah, she’s just showing off now! She slows down for just a minute, but returns to the quick picking to end the song.
All the Landslides Birds Have Seen Since the Beginning of the World: This song title really explains what you will hear. It has a slow, pretty beginning with a dark feel, turning to quick chaotic and nervous picking. You can picture the birds scattering.
Magazine: This is my favorite song on the disc. It starts very slowly with a bit of a dark theme, but you need to hang with it for about a minute and a half. Everything kinda stops with harmonics and an odd bass line. Then she goes into a freaking frenzy of hammering-on and pulling-off. On to a really cool base line mixed with strumming, back to the frenzy. This is just damn cool – a great song to crank and sit back wondering how the hell she is pulling this off! She strums for a bit, moves it up an octave and stops. But she’s not done – we’re back in the frenzy and to a speedy end. I’m telling you, this tune will wear you out! Simply amazing!
My Insect Life: After Magazine, you need this slow and simple song to relax again. This is the only song on the CD with vocals, although they are faint and are simple words. But hang on for an Orient inspired hidden track that ends the CD.
Honestly, I feel very lucky to have discovered this CD. I was fortunate enough to catch the beginning of a Letterman rerun and heard him mention she was coming on the show. He described her music, so I set the DVR to record the rest of the show. 3 weeks later I finally watched in amazement as she performed Playing With Pink Noise – I instantly went out to find the CD. You will probably have to go to an independent store to find it. Believe me, it’s worth the search!
5 out of 5!!!