Though it loses some of its spectacle charm in the process, the audio adaptation of Kaki King's guitar showcase still bursts with masterclass talent.
Ever since her debut in 2001, Georgian instrumentalist Katherine Elizabeth King (stage name Kaki King) has made leaps and bounds in defining what it is to play a guitar. Essentially taking the role of a one-woman band by the horns, King has defined herself not only as simply one of the best guitarists that the world may have ever come to know, but one of the most interestingly ingenious innovators of music at large. Previously described as an “ontological tabula rasa” in representing a story of creation, King’s latest project, The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body, accentuates the guitar as a shape-shifter, gliding across genres such as jazz, shoegazing, Latin roots, and heavy alternative rock across about an hour’s worth of a spectacle unlike any other.
Starting out as a grassroots project on Kickstarter, support for King ended up blowing through the roof, with $43,091 ultimately being raised to fund it, hatching a visual and musical experience across multiple forms of media, including a live showing. Without the chromatic shell casing of the actual visual experience, a partial amount of the charm is lost in King’s audio release of The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body, but ultimately her skillful and thought-provoking compositions still shine through just as well as they would have over a video and audio setup.
The ominous and appropriately titled “In the Beginning” sets the scene for The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body on an almost uncharacteristically discreet tone for King, given the bombastic nature of her previous release Glow's opener, “Great Round Burn”. But The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body is a completely different piece of artwork altogether, and King is a masterful virtuoso of the musical persuasion, being capable of letting the pieces fall where they may in a futuristic, avant-garde, and almost electronic arrangement such as “In the Beginning” and letting it transition effortlessly into the experimental jazz track “Thoughts Are Born”. There is a bit of an admitted downfall in only hearing the expert picking and unconventionally magisterial beats and scratches that make up the latter track given the mesmerizing visual experience that King had also prepared for her audience, but it’s a “better than nothing” scenario of the highest caliber.
King then brings listeners through an aural dreamscape with a light Spanish flair in the retrospective “Notes and Colours” before transitioning into the more sequestrated “Oobleck”. It is meant to be said that it’s only sequestrated in name, since oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid that’s both liquid and solid to the touch depending on how you approach it. Give it a good punch and the fluid appears solid, but slide your hand gently into it, and it’s totally liquid. The same applies to King’s composition, which accentuates the hefty nature of the bassy ethereal backing instrumentation to the methodical and elegant airiness of her fingerpicking. Things really reach their height on the two-piece composition “Trying to Speak”, featuring New York string quartet ETHEL (also featured in Glow) before calming down in the everything-falls-into-place retrospective and album closer, “We Did Not Make the Instrument, the Instrument Made Us”.
Splash image of Kaki King by Shervin Laniez, from artist's official website.