Review & Track Premiere: Kandodo3, K3

kandodo k3

[Click play above to stream ‘Everything – Green’s – Gone” from Kandodo3’s K3. Album is out June 21 on Rooster Rock Records.]

Headphones at the ready for the third/fourth-ish full-length from Kandodo, this time incarnated as Kandodo3 and expertly delivering a packed 79 minutes of mostly minimalist psychedelic brainmelt. It’s been dubbed K3, simple enough, and its lengthy run plays out across seven tracks whose far-out sprawl is mitigated only by the distance the imagination of the listener is willing to follow them. At the nexus of all things Kandodo is guitarist Simon Price, also of garage-psych-fuzz scorchers The Heads, but Kandodo is a different bird altogether — not a bird at all, really; a supermarket in Malawi — and even as Price brings aboard The Heads bandmates Hugh Owen Morgan on bass and Wayne Maskell on drums to manifest the ‘3’ in Kandodo3, the identity of the project remains distinctly separate. It’s just something else, even if it’s some of the same people.

But what the three-piece construct, or anti-construct, in these tracks ranges from the 83-second guitar noise experiment of “Lapwinger” through the 39-minute final track “High on Planes/Drifter” that consumes sides C and D of the double-vinyl and finds Price re-teaming on the latter “Drifter” part with John McBain, as last heard in 2016’s dual-speed Lost Chants/Last Chance (review here), a record that itself was an experiment, intended for play at 33 or 45RPM depending on the listener’s preference and also presented as a 2CD with each version on its own disc. K3 doesn’t work with the same kind of meta-conceptual foundation, but its spaciousness in cuts like “Holy Debut,” the straightforward-in-comparison-to-what-follows opener “King Vulture” and of course the its-own-album finale, the record nonetheless weaves its narrative through open creativity and exploratory sensation. Its drone is droning and its layers are layered, but even in the lysergic music-box “Lounge Core” that closes side B and is just one of the two inclusions under six minutes long at 3:39, K3 basks in the unexpected and a vibe of weirdoist bliss that goes beyond “for art’s sake” and is headfirst into passion in the making.

And maybe that’s not immediately apparent in the 13-minute soundscape of “Everything – Green’s – Gone” at the close of side A after “King Vulture” and “Lapwinger,” but there is a joy in the creative process even in that piece’s moodier early stretch, where Price‘s buzzsaw guitar lead seems to be reminding of the forests lost to building empty shopping malls. The underlying low end — presumably that’s Morgan, but one never really knows and that’s part of the fun — gives that track its extra brood, and the drone would be enough to make Earth jealous, but the quiet key-like guitar (or keys), echoes “King Vulture” while foreshadowing “Lounge Core” to come, so even there, there’s some manner of intertwining “Everything – Green’s – Gone” to K3 as a whole. Similarly, “Holy Debut” feeds into “The Gaping Maw,” which is perhaps titled in honor of its spaciousness, in a way that highlights the overarching flow of the material. Not all transitions are so direct, but that change does make the point of how easily K3 has moved from one vibe to the next all along, doing so via long fades into and out of silence and the general open spirit of the material.

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That is, it sets up the audience so that expectation mirrors breadth. That’s no small feat — putting the listener where you want them, without the aid of catchy hooks or other immediately accessible fare — but neither is this Price‘s first time at this particular dance, and though he seems in places to be willfully giving up command of the songs in the name of aural adventure, whether that’s improv or just putting consciousness to the side for a moment and feeling out where a piece like “Lapwinger” does and doesn’t want to go during its brief run. That in itself is a joyful act, embracing that task of helping a thing make itself, and Kandodo3, despite the obvious shifts in atmosphere throughout, seem to have a sense of when to let go and when to steer the direction more actively — though relativity applies in that regard as much as in everything else.

It’s hard not to think of “High on Planes/Drifter” as a highlight, focal point, whatever you want to call it, and maybe that’s fair enough. At 39 minutes, it’s about half the total runtime, and its droned-out ambience is an achievement apart even from a song like “Everything – Green’s – Gone” or “The Gaping Maw,” oozing out with a fluidity distinct enough to be placed on its own LP and making its way from minimal to minimal-est as it moves toward what one assumes is the near-midpoint transition between its two parts, drums gradually fading in after the arrival of the 23rd minute with a building tension of tom hits, eBow-sounding drone and a rhythmic line floating atop. That thud holds almost maddeningly steady over the next 10-plus minutes, with the arrival of McBain (ex-Monster Magnet, Wellwater Conspiracy, etc.) announced via a fuzzy solo that only adds to the immersion of the track as a whole and helps carry it toward its quieter finish.

With the title reference to High Plains Drifter, there is perhaps unsurprisingly some spaghetti west in the atmosphere, but however it might use a repeating figure, “High on Planes/Drifter” never really fully adopts that specific kind of presentation. Like the rest of the album before it, it almost can’t help but be its own thing. And that thing won’t be for everybody — what’s that you say? experimentalist drone isn’t universally approachable? tell me more! — but whether those who take it on do so for the almost-80-minute blissout or to sit and wade through each subtle turn of Price‘s guitar the various obscure elements as they wade in and out of the mix, K3 nonetheless makes a personal connection with the listener via the intimacy at play beneath its surface and the honest creative whim at its core. So maybe it’s not for everybody. Fine. Those willing to make the connection, however, will find it delivers on engagement to a degree worthy of its vast sonic reach.

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