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Kandodo - k2o

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Artist: Kandodo

Album: k2o

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Sep. 5, 2013

Kandodo - "July 28"

Kandodo’s self-titled album conjured wide, treeless plains, a large scale landscape given drama not by its features but by the expanse of space without them. k2o, coming a year later, is similarly vast, but this time oceanic. You can hear the waves, literally, on brief sound-sampling “Waves” and on lengthy, droning “Swim into the Sun.” You can sense the pitch and roll of currents on nearly all these tracks. It’s no accident that the sprawling second side’s “Swim into the Sun” evokes passage through water. There’s a slippery liquid envelopment in Kandodo’s sound, now amniotic and warm, later chilly and bracing, but always washing over in long waves.

For k2o, Simon Price brought his long-time Heads collaborator Wayne Maskell in on drums. His partner doesn’t transform as much as underline Price’s ideas. He adds subtle exclamation points to “Slowah”’s yo-yoing oscillations. He pins the slow-blooming drone of “July 28” to linear time and space. When he’s out of earshot, as on the lovely, lyrical “Grace And,” Price’s work becomes more atmospheric and freeform, less of a song and more of a dream he’s been having. Maskell grounds Price without tying him down.

k2o is also different from the debut in its use of sampled human voice, incidentally in “Waves,” but in long-form in the intriguing “Grace And.” This cut (very Come On Die Young-era Mogwai-ish) layers languid, wavering curtains of guitar over a taped tour of Graceland. The voice, which emerges from and submerges into guitar tone, tells us nothing about Elvis or his house or his music. No, it concentrates on the mechanics of listening to the tour, how to use the recorder, when to move from one place to another, which buttons to press. There is something infinitely melancholy about this vocal sample, which gives us a minimal knowledge of where we are, yet offers no advice on how we ought to think or feel about it.

“Swim into the Sun” is the obvious focal point, the full-side, 22-minute exploration of tone and distortion and repetition. It starts out in free flight, a descending howl of feedback, the noise of lapping water, the gradual build of rock structure and rhythm – Maskell sounds very much like Klaus Dinger here – in a primal soup of sensation. The piece evolves from a nature study into something distorted and urgent, all fuzz-crusted guitar strokes and chugging, churning rhythms. And yet even at its most heated, “Swim into the Sun” evokes the ocean in the way guitar riffs build and crash, their lingering tones sucked in like a backwash and marshaled into another heaving wave.

k2o, the title, is most likely a play on the band’s name and the fact that this is the second album. But it is also surely meant to suggest H20 -- the ordinary, workaday liquid that when massed together, turns to seas, storms and impenetrable depths. You don’t so much listen to this album as dive into it, immerse yourself, let it flow past you. Bring a towel.

By Jennifer Kelly

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