NEM #54: Kaki King’s Guitar Progression

Kaki KingKaki is a guitar virtuoso who has recorded eight albums and three EPs of largely instrumental work since 2003.

We discuss “Close Your Eyes & You’ll Burst into Flame,” from Everybody Loves You (2003), “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be a Bad Person?” from Dreaming of Revenge (2008), and “Trying to Speak II” (feat. Ethel), from The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body (2015). We conclude by listening to “Cargo Cult” from Glow (2012). Opening music: “Pull Me Out Alive” from Dreaming of Revenge (2008).

Here she is demonstrating and talking about her tapping technique on CNN. Here’s part of her “light and color” performance with projection, published as a TED Talk. Here’s an earlier TED talk that includes talking and “Pink Noise” (more rhythm-intensive playing with a lot of hitting the guitar). Her making-of videos (starting here) for the Dreaming of Revenge album, showing how she worked with producer Malcolm Burn, are revelatory. There’s also some video about the making of Glow. Here she is playing harp-guitar covering Michael Hedges.

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  1. I really tried to get into her music, but, having been fortunate enough to have seen Michael Hedges in his heyday, I find it difficult to do.
    The way I see it, Kaki is to Metallica as Michael is to Bartok; which is to say that, to me, her music feels like paternoster-like sequences of riffs and “cool” licks rather than compositions. There’s a certain sense of motivic coherence or motivic development, or nuance that I feel is lacking in her approach. It all seems very accidental and fretboard-inspired (i.e. visual rather than melodic–which her admission that she “only taps on TV because it looks cool” reinforces for me).

    I think it was Shostakovich who said that he preferred to be touched than impressed.
    She certainly is impressive, I will say.

    That said … I love this podcast. Thank you for keeping it going.

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