Friday, April 5, 2013

“Playing with Pink Noise” – Kaki King

Hello, friends! What do Acoustic Guitar magazine & the Robert Frost’s Banjo blog have in common? Easy: we’re both featuring the music of Kaki King this month. Now I know that for quite some time banjo music has held sway on Fridays, but at least for this month I’m giving that series a rest in order to feature a performer whose music is, to my mind, as exciting as anyone on the scene today.

As is the case with so many exceptional musical performers, Kaki King showed an inclination toward music at a young age, & was first introduced to the guitar around age five. She also played bass & drums starting in adolescence, & one can hear & see this background in her approach to the guitar both as a player & as a composer. As Kaki grew up, her musical tastes broadened, & she notes that performers like Nick Drake, the Red House Painters & some of the Windham Hill artists were early influences.

Kaki King signed her first record contract, with Velour in 2002. Her debut album, Everybody Loves You, which was released in 2003. From this album on, much of the basics of King’s style already became clear: a percussive technique with both the right & left hand, as she employs fretboard tapping as well as flamenco type soundboard percussion; in addition, King employs altered & open tunings to great effect.

Kaki King followed her first release with Legs to Make Us Longer on Sony in 2004, which was also a solo effort but one that involved more looping & multi-tracking with other instruments. After this, Kaki King moved into a band setting with a more electric sound for Until We Felt Red (on which she returned to Velour.) King has produced a string of high quality recordings in the past few years, with Dreaming of Revenge, the EP Black Pear Tree (both 08), the Mexican Teenagers EP in 2009, Junior in 2010, & Glow—which is an amazing record at so many levels—last year. In fact, King is currently on tour in support of Glow, in the wake of the successful Traveling Guitar Freak Show (which I stupidly missed here in Portland
—still kicking myself for that.)

“Playing with Pink Noise” comes from the Legs to Make Us Longer record. King is playing her customary Ovation Adamas guitar—she has a signature model, the 1581-KK model, tuned CGCGAD (as I understand; I haven't tested this, & it's not from an official source), which is almost like the guitar simply being taken down a whole step from drop-D tuning, except that the 3rd string remains at concert pitch. For those of you who are inclined to take a shot at playing this tune (hint—you need a guitar with low action to do all the slap style & hammer-ons!), you can listen to Kaki King explaining the tune here on YouTube. I should also mention that King played this song as her contribution to Guitar Art Show at the Littlefield  in Brooklyn with her hands covered in pink paint. That 2009 performance can be seen at this link.

This is truly exciting music from an important contemporary performer & composer! Hope you enjoy it.

Image of Kaki King at TED 2008 connects to its source on Wiki Commons. The photographic image was produced by Steve Jurvetson of Menlo Park, California & has generously been made available & published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

1 comment:

  1. Nice! I can definitely hear the Windham Hill influence, especially Michael Hedges. It'll be interesting to hear more in the coming month.


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