Kaki King has never been one for convention. Her third album (following 2003's "Everybody Loves You" on Velour and 2004's "Legs To Make Us Longer" on Epic) is certainly no exception. Over the last few years, she's enjoyed ... more »well-earned status as the zeit-girl of instrumental acoustic guitar. Here she bests herself and defies expectation again, ditching her acoustic for an electric, lap steel, and perhaps the most unexpected instrument of all: her own voice; disarmingly winsome and sweet for a woman with so much attitude. The haunting melodies are sadder, the lush orchestrations are fuller, and the sharp edges can cut.« less
Kaki King has never been one for convention. Her third album (following 2003's "Everybody Loves You" on Velour and 2004's "Legs To Make Us Longer" on Epic) is certainly no exception. Over the last few years, she's enjoyed well-earned status as the zeit-girl of instrumental acoustic guitar. Here she bests herself and defies expectation again, ditching her acoustic for an electric, lap steel, and perhaps the most unexpected instrument of all: her own voice; disarmingly winsome and sweet for a woman with so much attitude. The haunting melodies are sadder, the lush orchestrations are fuller, and the sharp edges can cut.
The multi-talented guitarist Kaki King is back with a new album that is completely different from anything she has ever done in the past. If you know Kaki, you probably know her best for her fret-tapping guitar styles, and unique style of acoustic-based song writing. But this album is really a complete change of sound and style for her. Edgy, diverse and dynamic, Until We Felt Red could very well be her best endeavor to date. In fact, as her previous albums were mainly solo instrumental projects, she now seemingly has a full band, and has moved beyond songs that are entirely guitar-centric. There are vocals--and lots of them; very good I might add--and many other instruments that make for a splendid show of Kaki's compositional skill and innovation. This album ranges in style from loungy jazz to haphazard (in a good way) post-rock.
"Yellowcake" starts the album out beautifully: Kaki, as it turns out, has a very pleasant, ethereal voice, and she harmonizes so elegantly it's a wonder that she never sang (much) on her previous albums. The title track brings back instrumentation, but it is at this point where you realize that things are a bit different: slide guitar accompanied by slow, heavy, fuzzy, electric guitars. When first listening to this album, and this track in particular, it became apparent that King was making an attempted reach into the realm of post-rock, whether she knew it or not. And it turns out, her attempt is rather successful. "You Don't Have To Be Afraid" features more pristine vocals, and a full array of amazing instrumentalization from organs to chimes all overlain over an acoustic guitar passage in an amazingly delicate sunshower of musical beauty. Later in the song (which clocks in over eight minutes, as opposed to the other songs on the album most of which are under five), the rest of the band starts in with drums, fuzz bass, and even a flugelhorn! Things just keep getting more and more interesting. "Goby" has a more jazz vibe to it, as does "I Never Said I Love You." "Jessica" is another vocal triumph for Kaki, with a background of multi-layered music. "First Brain" is a very organic instrumental piece featuring a trio of guitar, flute and flugelhorn blended to make a wonderful mystical soundscape. "Ahuvati" starts as a trademark King guitar work, but then is invaded by a string section--a welcome intruder that starts off as an abrasive hum and progresses to an ambient companion melody. The album just continues to progress. You almost forget that the songs are so short (relatively), because each one is truly a unique entity that paints a different picture when you hear it, and though each one is summed up perfectly in the time allotted, you can't help but wish it would go on longer. One thing becomes clear throughout the album though: Kaki's voice is an instrument, and she plays it well. Truly a colorful orchestra is displayed on this album.
Barring some edits, I wrote this review upon my first listen of the album, because I just had to describe the virginal experience, so I apologize if it is a bit helter skelter...and long. But this album came as a total surprise to me, and is really a pleasant and welcome change for Kaki King. Not that I don't like her previous material (I do), but this is such an interesting alteration of style, and an indication that King has no intention of stagnating herself by sticking to just one style of music. There really is no all-encompassing "label" for the style of music on this album, but more than anything, I get a experimental/post-rock vibe from it, at times almost reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky with vocals. It is a triumphant success to say the least, and I hope she continues on in this wise now that we know of what she is truly capable. I highly recommend this album."
CEL | 01/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
Unfortunately, it's painfully obvious that most of the (negative) reviewers on this page are falling into the time tested art of ridiculing an artist for expanding their art form and trying something new. Like Elliott Smith and Bob Dylan, Kaki King is being subjected to judgment for moving from a stripped down, solo acoustic singer songwriter format, into a more fully fleshed out (and ultimately better) art form. It never ceases to amaze me how certain fans will turn against the artist they admire for trying doing something different instead of repeatedly releasing the same style of material.
This is the first record where Kaki King has had vocals over more than one track. For me, this is a very welcome change. Her previous records are wonderful in their own right, but tend to become background music after a few tracks of instrumental acoustic guitars.
Until We Felt Red is much more attention grabbing. Songs are punctuated with interesting, experimental instrumentals. Kaki's vocals are beautiful, delicately sung, almost whispered. From "Jessica" - a touching track about Kaki's sister's relationships to "First Brain", Until We Felt Red maintains a wonderful quirky narrative, one that is unafraid to be unique. Her technical live track looping is absolutely incredible. I highly recommend any aspiring guitar player go see her play!
I have to address some of the complaints made about this record: To say that it is not catchy is to state the obvious. THIS IS NOT A POP RECORD. Its melodies are structured with a bluesy, jazzy progression. However, If you are looking for a delicate opera- rife with emotive, intricate guitar playing- please tune in. You will not regret it.
I was happy with everything about this record. I saw Kaki on tour in 2006, shortly before Until We Felt Red was released- and I must say that her reputation for "doing for the acoustic guitar what Hendrix did for the electric" is well deserved. She is an extremely talented musician, and I believe this is her peak record to date.
I cannot wait to see where she goes next.
kt | Troy, NY | 01/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I came across Kaki King quite randomly as I was browsing reviews on emusic. A longtime fan of "alternative" music in its myriad forms, I had never heard of her before. Thankfully, I know her now after being blown away by this album. The production by John McEntire is outstanding--and, yes, I do happen to love Tortoise and The Sea and Cake--but King's sound is uniquely hers. The album is mostly instrumental punctuated by delicate vocals, masterful guitar work, and lush soundscapes. As other reviewers have noted, each song creates its own, singular world and yet manages to fit seamlessly into the whole. Listening to this album from beginning to end is a rare treat--the songs are complete and they flow beautifully. If you have not heard of Kaki King before, do yourself a favor and discover her now!"
Progressive and refreshing--ignore the 1-star hater below
Danny T. | LA, CA, USA | 08/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Please, oh please, Kaki, can't you just keep repeating the "sound" of your first two records over and over and over? GIVE ME A BREAK. ...and she did just that! Don't buy this record if you're going to be disappointed when you find out it is almost completely removed from the soundscapes of her first two records. Buy this record because you enjoy progressive art, you like Sufjan Stevens, you like Sleater-Kinney, you like CHANGE! Kaki is one hell of a guitar player, but she's more importantly and less well-known as one hell of a MUSICIAN! She can pick up just about any instrument and learn to play it almost immediately. I watched her first pick up the lap steel when she was on tour with Robert Randolph, and two years later, she has made it a major staple on her latest record. Same with the baritone electric guitar. This record has a great flow from beginning to end, and I can't say there is a single track that I have been skipping, even after a dozen listens now. The first review below is excellent at summing up this latest record from Kaki King. I agree that this record will be praised across the musical board, from jazz critics to indie critics, to acoustic guitar critics. She's not just a flash in the pan; she is one of the most important new original artists to emerge in the last 20 years, and will continue garnering critical acclaim as time passes. Just watch...and just buy this record. If you don't like it, you might consider getting into movies or theater."
A Rare And Special Gift
L. Joe Sullivan | Kansas City, Mo | 08/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kaki King has shown herself to be a very eclectic artist. From her first release, to her most recent."Until We Felt Red" Such artistry,such creative energy....Every cut is rich with imagination, and heart and soul... From someone so young...it's truely amazing the rare and special gift this recording offers, to the listener who dares to open up and let the music take them to nirvana... Don't pass up this beautiful music...Kaki King is the REAL THING."