(post experimental folk rock album)
(guitar track on incredible comp)
(experimental / noise / improv tape)
Out September 6, 2019 on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records
by Jesse Jarnow
A sweeping introduction to an artist deep into their practice, Kendra Amalie’s Intuition is a star map to a new and developing sound space. An exploratory and (sometimes) shredding finger-style 12-string guitarist (both acoustic and electric), band leader, synthesist, new media creator, and experimental producer, the Wisconsin-based musician is also a songwriter occupying an ethereal zone between galaxy-brain cosmic transmissions and deep, personal expression.
There’s a concept and narrative arc to Intuition, too, the action moving from underwater locales to boat to city to global consciousness to farmland to the etheric plane and back to water. But the movements are equally a guide through the world(s) of Kendra Amalie and a culmination/transition/next step following a decade-and-change of cassettes and ambitious projects including Names Divine, 11:11, and a range of directions in collaborative improvised music and solo sound work. Shifting her music-making energies over the past several years, Intuition is the sound of a powerful new voice in focus.
The opener (and first single) “Breathe Underwater” is both an invocation and a headbanger, and–like every track on Intuition–almost nothing like any other track. Both rigorous and open-formed, Intuition contains multitudes, from the hypno-noise/freak-out/grace of “Become the Light” to the 12-string meditation “Improvisation For Mark Hollis,” from the psychedelic realizations of “Facets of a Holy Diamond” to the pedal steel-touched “Stay Low.”
Recorded with friends in her shed in Saint Francis, Intuition’s band included a core rhythm section of drummer Victoria Robison and bassist Sam Cook, with remote support from Taralie Peterson (cello), Al Moss (pedal steel), Peter McLaughlin (drums) and Jayve Montgomery (oboe), alongside the mixing effort of long-time collaborator Brian J. Sulpizio in Chicago. The live iteration of the album is more shape-shifting, encompassing solo performances accompanied by motion-controlled synths as well as more fully supported by a corporeal rock band. Intuition is a sound-based cross-section of a larger body of work. An arrival and a destination, Intuition is also surely a stopover, too. Meet Kendra Amalie.
by Brian J. Sulpizio / Health&Beauty
For ten years I've been telling people that the music Kendra makes is my favorite music. I don't think I've been lying to myself, and after getting over some initial shock at why the world seemed to disagree with me I resigned to being lonely in my opinion. I once played her song "White Balloons" for a nice singer-songwriter man who was considering making a record with me and he immediately vomited and left and I never saw him again.
But Kendra has lived her life admirably (I'm sure stories will begin to emerge as more of us catch on to what she is doing) and has continued to make music, and when a “true head” has given it a spin they’ve been enthralled. While still verymuch hers, it gets better and better. This is what happens when artists keep working and refuse to compromise. I've been fortunate to participate in some way in most of the music she has made over the last decade and it's always thrilling to me when I get to hear and work on new Kendra music. Here supported by her friends Victoria Robison, Sam Cook, Taralie Peterson (Spires that in the Sunset Rise), Jayve Montgomery (El Is a Sound of Joy), and Peter McLaughlin (Lina Tullgren), she's made her best record yet.
Some time ago I noticed that most of the music I liked could be described as "damaged." It could be just "damaged" or it could be a damaged form like "damaged blues," "damaged country," etc. The common thread is a sense that the artist has recognized that something has happened to them that has not killed them but has made them somehow weaker. There is a congruence of content and execution that rejects perfection, not only in terms of assessment of the problem but in the approach to its solution and beyond that even the targeting of that possibly flawed solution to that possibly inaccurately-identified problem. The artist does not "harden their heart" but seeks a path back to trust and softness.
It is enriching to experience music like this as it reminds us that the relentlessly recommended pursuit of "positive vibes" is a strenuous activity from which one requires a rest. We might realize that the search for human connection is still worth it, though something in us fears it and regards it as ultimately less fulfilling than we've been told. We know that striving for comfort can leave us less comfortable than just forgetting about comfort. These are personal decisions and there is no right or wrong. We are one with the universe, regardless.
I think there's a tradition here, including (off the dome) Sonny Sharrock, Nina Simone, Steve Lacy, The Grifters, Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground, Royal Trucks, Townes van Zandt, Laura Nyro, JJ Cale, Les Rallizes Denudes, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Ornette Coleman, Bird Names, Archie Shepp, that kind of stuff. Kendra fits nicely in this pantheon. She has a strange fascination with Tool that is noticeable in her music for the first time on Intuition and I'm sure she has her reasons. Once she shared with me a bottle of Maynard's red wine that she had waited for hours to have him sign, and that was a very nice experience.