I’m not a huge fan of instrumental music. I can listen to it now and again but after a while it gets on my nerves. For me, the voice is the greatest of all instruments. That’s why I can listen to music in foreign languages that I don’t know — I can still appreciate a voice and the emotions it conveys even if I don’t understand the words. Suffice to say that I’d rather listen to music in foreign languages than listen to instrumentals. And the instrumentals I like least are guitar instrumentals. I know Santana, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and many other ax slingers are very talented guys and I can respect that. I can even appreciate their instrumentals in small doses. But after a while guitar driven instrumentals tend to make me feel like I’m listening to someone jerk off. It’s like the guitarist is playing with himself, really. They’re less concerned with how people will interpret their music and more concerned with entertaining themselves as they make it. (Or that’s how it seems to me. In reality, this probably only applies to a small number of guitarists.) Then again, I suppose all artists are entertaining themselves when they make music. In any case, I might be struggling to explain myself, but here’s the thing you need to know about Kaki King: she makes instrumental music for people who don’t like instrumentals. What I mean is this: she composes songs that truly are actual songs, fully fleshed out with cool beats, ambient sounds, electronic flourishes, etc. She’s a guitar goddess, yes, but she definitely doesn’t act like it. She could easily make albums full of long solos but she’s less concerned with showing off than crafting solid songs. Take “Oobleck” from her new album, The Neck is a Bridge to the Body. The guitars there are sparse, airy and wonderful. They have plenty of breathing room, creating a nice, chill vibe. But the main reason you might like the song could be the smooth electronic beats (and other percussion) or the somewhat ominous sounding synth that exists way off in the background. Yes, the guitars are wonderful, but I don’t think Kaki cares if that’s the reason you love the song. She’s just happy you love it. It doesn’t have to be because she’s such a talented guitarist and does some impressive work there. And, speaking of the other sounds that exist on her albums, Kaki must be applauded for crafting songs: writing, arranging, programming and producing them. Every sound on this album has her fingerprint on it. So, playing the guitars is just one of the many things she does when she creates songs.
The main thing that makes this album different from Kaki’s previous work is that she mostly — maybe even entirely — uses acoustic guitars. But she’s just as skillful at that as she is with electric. In fact, I happen to think this is her best album. There are so many amazing songs. “Anthropomorph,” for example, is a very lush song with all sorts of sounds that somehow manages to sound electronic *and* organic all at once. You’ve got finger snapping, a slick electronic pulse, sweeping strings, glorious layers of synth, etc. So many details, of which the guitars are just one. So, if you usually steer clear of instrumental music, do yourself a favor and go stream this and give it a chance. You just might find a new favorite artist. (Notice I say artist and not guitarist.)