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Kandodo - Kandodo

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Artist: Kandodo

Album: Kandodo

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Jun. 11, 2012

These introspective guitar jams, hemmed by keyboard drone, are lucidly calm most of the time, yet occasionally injected with subtle, pulse-racing shots of adrenaline. Kandodo -- the name of the project, the record and a supermarket chain in Africa -- comes from Simon Price of the much woolier Bristol psych band The Heads. Here, alone, he finds a meditative center in home-recorded layerings of guitar, keyboards, a drum pedal and various field recordings.

Price says he was inspired by his childhood in Malawi and Zaire, but there is nothing stereotypically African in these compositions. Instead, you can hear the clear, penetrating harmonics of late Sonic Youth, the pensive lyricism of Loren Connors, and the slow-shifting, melodic repetitions of Neu! In a couple of the rougher, more rock-slanting tracks (“Dagga,” “Laud the Hyena”), you can also make a connection to the abrasive Krautisms of Wooden Shjips, a band that Price has toured with and made remixes for. (His “Ursus Martimus” on the 2012 limited release Remixes 12” was an extended mash-up of elements of West.)

Price’s quieter songs conjure an elegiac stillness. “Dawn Harmonix,” the album’s opener pits a clean, upward-surging guitar arpeggio against wavering currents of drone, the sound resolving like a polaroid as the track progresses, until the rooster crows and it’s over. “Yamadharma” is likewise serene, as a distant but thunder-y percussion rumbles and keyboard notes linger over multiple measures before shifting slightly and lingering again.

Yet perhaps the most interesting moments come when Price mergers meditation with adrenaline, as on the tense, pulsing “Laud the Hyena.” An insistent thump of eighth notes echoes and fades, as first one, then multiple guitars twine in rough melody over top. There’s a sense of forward motion, uncertainty and even danger in this track, as rougher sounds build and crest and finally subside. “Dagga” is even more grounded in rock, with a thick fuzzy ribbon of guitar that twists and winds through music box keyboards. “Witchdoctor” is classic bad guy movie sound-trackery, an ominous thump of approaching footsteps in tandem with sudden surges of anxiety-raising guitars.

Taken together, the album leads you through a series of moods, now at peace, now under threat, now full of clarity, now raw and distorted. Kandodo is always lovely and occasionally kind of exciting, and if there are no African drums or instruments, there is, at least, a sense of wide, uncharted territory.

By Jennifer Kelly

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