As the guiding force behind her band Names Divine, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kendra Amalie leaned into dark textures and sprawling experimentalism. In the context of that band, her songs were pained and explosive rock, like an early Velvet Underground at their most tortured meeting the cosmic expanse of working-class underground drifters like Major Stars or Bardo Pond. With her first proper solo album, Intuition, Amalie branches out in several different directions while sharpening her sounds at every turn. The album begins with the tense, nearly gothic rocker "Breathe Underwater." Composed of spindly guitars, gigantic drums, and dour vocal harmonies, the overpowering presence of the song buries more subtle details like soft synth countermelodies and glimmering guitar textures. The next tune, "Boat Ride II," switches gears to an almost jarring degree. The completely instrumental track is one of several where Amalie shows off her chops on 12-string acoustic guitar, styled in the rural traditions of American primitive artists like Robbie Basho and John Fahey. The song is lively and celebratory, offsetting the pained energy that directly preceded it. Amalie drifts between moods in this way throughout the album, with shifty folk moments like "Stay Low" and the eruptively dynamic "Become the Light" occupying space beside droning experiments, solitary improvisations, and the nearly ten-minute album closer, "Look at the Light (Source)," an experimental collage of ambient textures and free playing. Amalie's multifaceted sonic personality lands well because of her focused vision. Whether she's dazzling on fingerstyle guitar, singing a sinister pop song, or experimenting with synths and droning feedback, all the elements carry her distinctive stamp and fit together in the strange but welcoming landscape of Intuition.
by Fred Thomas