Kaki King: ...Until We Felt Red

Acoustic guitar virtuoso breaks out with help from Tortoise's John McEntire.

Kaki King

...Until We Felt Red

Label: Velour
US Release Date: 2006-08-08
UK Release Date: 2006-08-08

I don’t know if Kaki King timed the release of ...Until We Felt Red just so, but the guitar virtuoso’s third release sounds perfect to my ears as I sit here and type at the onset of August, my fingers working not nearly hard enough to justify the amount of sweat on my brow. Apart from incredible command of her instrument, King’s greatest strength is that her songs are worthy of the pyrotechnics. In the tradition of forebears Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, John Fahey and further back and beyond, she is clearly committed to more than dropping your jaw with preternatural technique -- though that’s a hell of a lot of fun, too. From the start, on 2003’s Everybody Loves You, solo guitar compositions like “Night After Sidewalk” and “Happy As a Dead Pig in the Sunshine” weren’t mere exercises in scale climbing and alternate tuning, they were songs. So they are on Red, with King pushing even further toward her original voice as a musician.

The first thing fans of Everybody and 2004’s Legs To Make Us Longer, will notice is the singing. While those first two albums were not completely without the human voice, Red features King’s delicate cooing (think Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki) much more prominently. But that’s not all that’s different. Opener “Yellowcake” wraps folky fingerstyle around pedal steel and light drum work, while King whisper-sings “It appears Unavoidable / Glittering stars... Will come to you”, befitting the song’s breezy, nocturnal feel. The vocals multiply and layer over one another; even though her singing gifts aren’t nearly as abundant as her guitar-playing, King knows how to use them efficiently as another instrument/texture in her work. Similarly, “Jessica” is voice-driven without demanding too much melodically. The heavy lifting is reserved for the swirling, atmospheric full band arrangement, belying a giant infatuation with My Bloody Valentine and other shoegazing titans.

The abrupt departure from the fret-slapping heroics of her first two records helps explain a little of the backlash King has received from so-called guitar purists, who might have suspected her ambitions weren’t the same as theirs. ...Until We Felt Red is an album of unabashed curiosity, leaping from post-rock cacophony on the title track (aided in no small way by producer John McEntire of Tortoise et al) to the gentle, shimmering suite “You Don’t Have to Be Afraid” to weird jazz of “First Brain” in the span of a few tracks. King is unafraid to dabble, to indulge, and to go in several directions at once. This development is extremely promising, as Legs To Make Us Longer followed the patterns of her debut a little too closely. ...Until We Felt Red feels a bit like the musical equivalent of Italo Calvino’s celebrated experimental novel If on a winter’s night a traveler, where each successive chapter sought to maintain the anticipatory nature and freshness of the first. This might come across as disorienting, or even messy, but it’s anything but boring.

Even the slow, slightly underwhelming middle pairing of “I Never Said I Love You” and “Ahuvati” seems to serve the purpose of musical diversity, setting the table for the playful dynamics of “These Are the Armies of the Tyrannized”. “Second Brain” follows with a deeply zooming bass and a xylophone waterfall. McEntire’s production reveals him to be the perfect mentor/compatriot for King. Both enjoy the tug-of-war between proficiency and balls-out experimentation. Regardless if they choose to work together again, their collaboration on Red is sure to be artistically fruitful for King. The closing track is the excellently titled “Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers”, a seamless, groove-filled, even danceable song with cowboyish slide guitar that points to a red sun setting on a horizon one feels compelled to move toward.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.