Kaki King


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On Glow, guitarist Kaki King finally returns to the all-instrumental format that brought her notice and acclaim in the first place. This set, produced and engineered by D. James Goodwin, collects a dozen compositions for guitar and a colorful assortment of sidepersons that includes bagpipes and the ETHEL string trio, with violinist Patti Kilroy balancing them as a quartet. That said, most of the sounds here were created by King and Goodwin. The sound on these pieces is crystalline, they are structured as brief, tightly constructed songs, with catchy, often ethereal melodies of varying tempo. They are woven through with colorful textures that include ambience, synths, keyboards, and loads of percussion -- most of it organic. The set kicks off with "Great Round Burn," one of the tracks in which she aggressively goes head to head with ETHEL and Goodwin's sonic treatments. King readily experiments with changing the basic structure of the guitar. On "Bowen Island" she plays one such altered instrument. It contains a small, notched block of wood inserted under the 16th fret, resulting in a perfect fifth on either side of it. The natural reverb inherent in this adjustment is accented by adding a touch more via pedals. It adds a haunting dimension to a pair of complementary melodies achieved by her uncanny, guitar-on-lap method of double fingerpicking. "Kelvinator, Kelvinator" creates its lyric line with an investigation of chord voicings juxtaposed against the guitar's natural harmonics. The backing strings by ETHEL add an eerie texture which stands in sharp contrast to the tune's structural cheeriness. A trilogy of ballads that kick off the last third of the album -- "No True Masterpiece Will Ever Be Complete," "Holding the Severed Self," and Skimming the Fractured Surface to a Place of Endless Light" -- all take airy approaches in offering open-ended, creative possibilities inherent in the form. "The Fire Eater" is the set's longest cut at just under six minutes. Its skeletal, halting intro is a contrapuntal engagement with ETHEL that eventually opens wide, enabling a dramatic sprint full of intense flourishes from both parties with numerous athletic twists and turns. To its credit and detriment, Glow is a very polished record. The pristine sound is easy on the ear and easily appreciated. That said, it can sometimes detract from more organic surprises inherently written into these songs. But it's a small complaint given how much there is to enjoy here.

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