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Kandodo - Kandodo [Thrill Jockey - 2012]

Kandodo is the first solo undertaking of Simon Price, the guitarist/vocalist from Bristol’s psychedelic experimentalists The Heads.

From the clashing bucks imagery of the cover to the name of the project and the titles of its songs, Price would have you think he’s abandoned guitar noise in favor of the sort of world music soundtracking that usually accompanies National Geographic features about Earth’s last frontiers. In fact, Price was raised in Zambia and Malawi and has named the project after a grocery store he frequented as a child. But while the mood is very much in line with the edgy, wild, and naturalistic atmospheres usually conjured up in association with the dark continent, the musical approach is only somewhat predictable. The overall results clearly convey a gorgeous and compelling emotional truth, even if half the tracks don’t stand up to close scrutiny.

“Dawn Harmonix” establishes expectations immediately with a variety of guitar textures: a ringing, repeated melody, some underlying drones, and, late in the piece, a taste of fuzz. It’s thoroughly ambient but doesn’t stand still, as its main riff progresses through each texture but ultimately goes nowhere. A sampling of “nature” field recordings in the background, including a rooster, feels tacked on as an afterthought. Thankfully, this piece sets the bar low and is only representative of the worst parts of the album. “Laud the Hyena” is fairly similar, repeating one lick through a kaleidoscope of treatments, although this one—to its merit—feels less comfortable and gets notably spacier. The sound and structure of these initial tracks is reprised in the concluding “Lord Hyena, 3am,” which is especially dependent on the kind of guitar harmonics explored by the numerous Brian Eno-Robert Fripp collaborations over the decades.

Eno is but one of Price’s chief influences, and while the third track introduces a gentleness that recalls his ‘80s work with Daniel Lanois and U2, there’s also a Kraftwerkian attention to minute headphone detail that is worth mentioning. Price certainly knows his way around both a guitar and a studio. Price also cites Spacemen 3 and Stooges as other strong influences, and while this is much more evident on his work with The Heads, a brief squalling lullaby called “Dagga” could be equal measures of both. The best track is also the most distinctive; “Yamadharma” is a tightly constructed tour de force with subtle sound design worthy of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume 2. From muffled percussive booms to a two-chord keyboard crescendo that is gradually matched with a pulse, it continues the album’s departure from straightforward guitar textures into something much more scintillating. Its lingering oscillating tones almost hint at retro sci-fi jazz, a welcome departure for a guitar album.

Kandodo is rounded out by a trio of pieces that illustrate the continental migration patterns of various species of guitar. “Witchdoctor” showcases the most predatory kind, as it intends darkness rather than happening across it. Though tribal in its death march, it doesn’t develop much beyond the initial menace. “Shangri Last” is more environmental, its descending tones and windy buzzing suggesting birds rather than beasts. And the title track is the most active of the bunch, a fuzzy stampede that borders on classic psychedelia with a lost-in-time loopiness that recedes into fragility. If these descriptions are vague, it’s because Kandodo effectively conjures up images of an Africa that only Price has seen

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Richard T Williams
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