Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Kaki King “…Until We Felt Red” Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

In preparation for a new album, it becomes fitting to revisit an artists older work, and in doing so various thoughts and memories are too revisited. Re-experiencing Kaki King’s live performances revealed a longing for her music that was unbeknownst to me at the time. While refreshing memories, a number of videos became suitable preparation before delving into her new work. To define her style, as performed in various late night television performances, renders her music uncompensated in the process. It’s aurally stunning, but a certain appeal stems from the musician behind the flowing harmonies that adds an undeniable essence to the music. To steal a thought from myself that I had in a post from a few months ago, her history in busking allows her to demonstrate her new sound, as much part percussion as it is guitar. While overpowering guitar plucking and hammering is alarmingly apparent in her earlier work, …Until We Felt Red is equally stunning, but for entirely different reasons.

The album takes an electric presence, and unthinkably adds something so simple, so beautiful, that it the listener is left questioning why it was not previously included; a voice. Often heard as a gentle whisper, King’s echo is completely proportioned to the dim, haunting guitar accompaniment in a variety of songs on the album. How fitting that the scale of her sounds match the graceful and charming cast set by the performer. The title track adds yet another layer to King’s majestic presence, a pedal steel guitar which allows for the introduction of distortion to an already artistically centered landscape.

My father, when watching an older performance of King’s, asked me if I knew where she learned to play guitar like that. I thought of course I did, as I had done my homework and had previously read that her style was refined playing in New York subways, and I told him so. He responded that he likened it to a Hawaiian guitar, “that’s how they play them,” he said. Unknowingly I was listening to world music performed as something domestic. Fitting when you consider that Kaki King viscerally concerns herself with such deep tones, tones that seemingly result from the summation of countless influences and experiences.

…Until We Felt Red is a unique experience that glows in the day’s background before passing without a trace. It is a fluid process from start to finish that explores the development of an artist who looks to examine unearthed sounds and methods. And even if you look at it as Hawaiian music, it’s really good Hawaiian music.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]