Picking a new style

Posted on 06 Jul 2006 at 6:17pm

Lesbian guitar virtuoso Kaki King has 6 strings wrapped around her fingers



ALL HAIL THE KING: Move over, Stanley Jordan. Kaki King is the ingenue of modern guitar pyrotechnics.

Fads and sounds may come and go, but music has one dirty little secret: The art form isn’t that innovative.

Synthesizers may have augmented keyboard sounds, but the basic instrument hasn’t changed much since the days of Bach. The same holds true for the guitar, whose tunings and techniques were established long before rock “‘n’ roll discovered amplification. It’s in this arena where lesbian artist Kaki King proves such a godsend.

Creatively coaxing her guitar for every possible sound it can produce, King puts to rest the notion that new guitar sounds require new electronic effects. On her most recent album, ” Until We Felt Red,” the young New Yorker strums, plucks, slaps and slides her instrument with the passion of a master.

There’s nothing in King’s guitar style a combination of overhanded string hammers, skillful plucking and the occasional smack or two to the instrument itself that hasn’t been done before by jazz and classical guitarists from Stanley Jordan to Michael Hedges. But where those artists employed only a single technique at a time, King uses all her tricks in concert, often within the same song. The resulting sound is jaw-droppingly complex and defies clear explication.

King’s work on ” Until We Felt Red” is at its best when most structured. Good examples of this are the record opener, “Yellowcake,” the lesbian torch song “Jessica,” the cool jazz takeoff “I Never Said I Loved You” and the instrumental closer, “Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers.”

Given too much time to meander, King tends toward tracks that, while technically brilliant, feel noisy and disjointed. A sole exception to this rule is the eight-minute “You Don’t Have to Be Afraid,” whose slow build of electric guitars and brass is nothing short of thrilling.

Throughout, King’s thin reedy voice provides a sweet counterbalance to her busy guitar work. Although not every song on “Until We Felt Red” is a winner, the worth of the good tracks here far outweighs the less impressive ones. With “Until We Felt Red,” Kaki King proves to be not only one of the country’s most gifted guitarists, but also a tremendously talented songwriter.

APPLE OF OUR EYE


In the 10 years since she first popped up on the popular radar, Fiona Apple has matured from a precocious some would say petulant young pianist to an accomplished songwriter meriting serious critical acclaim.

As a younger woman, Apple may have ridden the heroin-chic wave with the Larry Clark-inspired video for her hit “Criminal.” The success of that video morphed her into a notorious pain: While accepting the 1997 MTV Video Music Award for best new artist, Apple bellowed: “This world is bullshit! And you shouldn’t model your life on what you think that we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying.”

But the quality of her work in the interim has kept her from being pigeonholed as a bratty girl-singer.

With the all-too-sensational spats and her label apparently behind her, the doe-eyed siren finally released her long-expected third album, “Extraordinary Machine,” in 2005.

Apple’s highest charting album, the album has revived interest in the mercurial artist’s obvious talents. Excellence will be in abundance at this Saturday night performance. No longer just another up-and-coming twentysomething, Apple has hung in there and proven to be the real deal.

Gilbert Garcia

Nokia Theatre, 1001 Performance Place. Grand Prairie. June 8 at 8 p.m. $35-$59. 214-373-8000.

METAL MADNESS


Gay bassist Mike DiQuinzio adds the thumpin’ and pumpin’ backbone to Proofed, the Dallas thrash-metal act that’s makes Judas Priest sound like slowpokes.

DiQuinzio is a newcomer having only signed on with Proofed in January. And the band has a busy lineup of gigs. On Saturday, Proofed rocks out the Arlington nightclub The Phoenix, playing a double bill with Status Hate.

The Phoenix, 3102 W. Division. Arlington. July 8 at 9 p.m. $5-$10. 817-226-7625.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 7, 2006.

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