Simon Price may have a specific destination in mind with k2o, but there’s no guessing it from the perpetually oscillating tides of six-string dissolution he engineers on his second album as kandodo. For all its ceaseless fluidity and movement, its teetering washes of melted Fender Mustang, there’s a palpably distinct anti-teleology to the album, a paradoxically purposeful denial of direction and culmination that somehow manages to graft itself with stress and gravity, despite its lightness of obvious breakthroughs and objectives. Each of the six gestations play out as their own endpoints, amassing, subsiding, and eddying without ever repudiating their own liquefied borders, and even if Price could occasionally be charged with the crime of hypnagogic navel-gazing, there’s still a pull and a drag to k2o that lends it a watery persuasiveness.
This overture may be a trifle heavy on the tidal imagery, but regardless, there’s a definite sway and undulation to Price’s sculptures that figuratively replicate littoral rhythms. This comes to the fore on “grace and” (yes, all these lowercase names and titles are intentional), where a lonely, reverb’d pair of chords are strummed into the arrival of a sun-baked, fuzz-boxed diptych that seethingly pendulates in the contemplation of something that either never emerges or has already long passed into extinction. Most of the record inheres in similar form and affect, unfurling as the seemingly endless inauguration or inception of an indefinitely deferred event or as a cryptic vocalization that repeatedly fails in providing itself with an answer.
On paper, this unresolved ebbing and flowing might not sound especially momentous, but Price is enough of a veteran to know how to embellish his constructs in a way that sustains absorption, ramping up the volume at just the right time or layering a track’s binary undertow with the quavering spume of a processed guitar lead or two. For example, during “kandy rock mountain,” the gossamer echo of a delay-ridden melody surreptitiously infiltrates the decelerated, detemporalized splashes of abstraction that form the track’s wavering skeleton, endowing the incremental fluctuations with a serene, imperturbable counterpoint.
The recurrent insertion of extra-dimensional figures and phrases, of elemental touches that deepen the music without ever fundamentally shifting it, alludes to what is arguably the didactic center of k2o. For every piece like “july 28th,” with its phase-shifted swirls and anticipatory palpitations that feed into each other interminably, there’s the sense that kandodo (like many other practitioners of psychedelic ambience) is moving towards the idea that repose and fulfillment is not to be found in the external, in the procession of history and the mundane liturgy of events that comprises it. Instead, Price’s self-recycling and inert intensification would be an affirmation that answers can be found only from within, from whatever atom of cognizance that hasn’t been adulterated by the march of socialization and employee/consumer breeding.
This Buddhistic notion reaches its apotheosis with closer “swim into the sun,” which could be perceived as an attempt to coax an internal nugget of awareness into a full-blown efflorescence. Over the course of its 22 minutes, the stirrings of a recorded shoreline give birth to waves of charged guitar, all of which are treated through the gamut of trippy pedals. By far and away the most transportative cut on the album, its diffuse power benefits from the inclusion of unshowy but galvanic drums, as well as what effectively amounts to an intermittent modulation from the palpitating bass line. These elements coalesce every couple of minutes to lift themselves into higher reaches, the leads in particular screeching through with fervor and enlightened violence, despite the underlying pulse hardly ever stepping out of its duo-tonal hermetic seal.
It’s with the phosphorescent surges of “swim into the sun” that k2o’s apparent anti-teleologism is finally revealed for what it is, namely an alternative or possibly “true” teleologism that, in faithfully adhering to a single engorging point in space-time, transcends those “false” versions that are little else besides constant negations of all that they move through in the search for some fantastical end. And while it’s uncontroversially/irrelevantly true that the album lacks the velocity and brunt purveyed by The Heads (Price’s day job), and also true that it sporadically lulls if the listener isn’t in an opportune frame of mind, there’s a nearly intangible richness to its swells and sprays that raises it beyond the mere sum of its parts. Admittedly, it may not furnish any musical diagrams of how to move from A to B, but in its own illogical way, it succeeds in submerging us deeper into A.