I walked away from my first listen of Kendra Amalie’s Intuition with the same dazed and overwhelmed feeling that I had after I first saw St. Vincent perform during her pre-fame days; this is the future of music unfolding in front of my very eyes.
Amalie’s solo debut LP takes a fresh stab at elements of American Primitivism and folk rock, as well as psychedelic and ambient music. She then twists each of them apart and mutates them all together into a wholly unique beast. Amalie proves again and again across the record that she and her craft cannot be pigeonholed. Whatever expectations or preconceptions the listener may have will be completely—and wonderfully—demolished.
Firstly, it must be stated that Amalie is quite simply one of the most fascinating guitar players of our era. She plays the acoustic 12-string both with an intensity that is rarely seen outside of the realm of metal, and possesses a Basho-like attention to tone and space. Meanwhile, her slashing electric work seems to focus heavily on texture and kinetic energy.
A great example of this is the thrilling “Boat Ride II.” She rips on the acoustic, alternating between precise fingerpicking and aggressive shredding, all while sculpting tidal waves of howling electric guitar. What’s more is that the track, much like many of the other songs, features a tightly stacked production, with multiple layers of guitars heaped upon themselves, creating dense rumbling walls that the drums have to forcibly punch through with an audible CRUNCH.
Another fine moment of guitar is the stripped-down and jaw-dropping “Improvisation for Mark Hollis.” The piece is a dazzling display of dexterity, as Amalie zips all over her fretboard. She cleaves notes in half and bends others to nearly impossible lengths, making the track sound almost like a Stockhausen manipulation of a Fahey tape.
Elsewhere on the record, sonic storms build and erupt into climaxes of emotional catharsis, like the revelatory “Become The Light.” In fact, if there’s any kind of thread that could be running throughout the entire album, it might be one of reaching a moment of spiritual or mental release.
Take for instance the closing track, “Look at the Light (Source).” Prior to this track, a pent up atmosphere has been slowly rising, haunting constantly in the background. This brooding mood culminates in the sprawling ten-minute landscape of drones, shambling percussion and other distortions. Towards the end of piece, the eerie noise gives way to the unexpected sound of quiet thundershowers. After a few moments of this natural clarity, a heavenly coda of joyful pedal steel guitar brings the album to a pleasant close. It feels as though the record has returned back to a primordial place. It has found harmony in the simplicity of the natural world, in the wetness of the falling rain.
However you may interpret it, Kendra Amalie’s album is a bright beacon that shines a captivatingly new path where modern music can go. You can purchase it from Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records today.