Kandodo is a budget supermarket on Kumuzo Procession in Lilongwe, Malawi, named, one suspects, after a former Malawian finance minister who went by Kandodo. However, kandodo, with the lowercase “k,” is the solo name of Simon Price, who was in fact a frequent customer at the supermarket back in the 1980s when he was a Lilongwe resident. Price has since decided to pay tribute to his time there by not only naming his latest project after that supermarket, but also crafting an album brimming with nostalgic themes, styles, and influences reminiscent of his spell in “The Warm Heart of Africa.”
Price is better known as a founding member of The Heads, a stoner rock outfit from Bristol that has issued a solid outpouring of material over the last 20 years — think Kyuss’ Blues for the Red Sun intertwined with Boris circa あくまのうた. kandodo, on the other hand, is very much a personal project; it’s an outlet that Price has used to reflect on his past experiences in faraway lands, where animist religions, hyenas, sharks, and dusty drives play more of a role in everyday life than perhaps they might in the giddying normality of Bristol.
The album comprises nine instrumental guitar-heavy tracks laden with the ambiance and energy one might expect from a release founded upon the ideas, recollections, and memories of a life led on a distant continent. A sense of longing and even displacement can be felt, as each track builds upon its opening notes and fragments in order to create an embodiment of how Price must have felt back in Malawi and how he feels now when contemplating his experiences. Anyone who has traveled as a tourist in Sub-Saharan Africa will be familiar with the trepidation and foreboding that come when tackling densely populated and unfamiliar environments single-handedly. These aspects of exploration are amplified on “witchdoctor” and “shangri last” in particular; while the former glazes gorgeous guitar reverb and cautious melody over faint, jangling percussion, the latter builds on loops and feedback fed daintily through effects units. Elsewhere, these aspects of uncertainty are squared by humble and inviting tracks such as “ceramy,” a warm and delicate piece that brings to mind Neu!’s “Weissensee” (the 1970’s Krautrockers are mentioned as an influence more than anything else).
The mature and evocative sound that Price masters on kandodo is accomplished with a 1965 Magnatone Typhoon, which he uses to harness repetition in creating a degree of comfort that reflects the familiarity he must have felt for Lilongwe after acclimating to the city’s idiosyncrasies. Having said that, there are still very deep and dark areas of the album that are difficult to place in Price’s musings, and perhaps they are better left unwrapped; this is most apparent in the moody air of “laud the hyena,” which retains a delicious pace and trajectory throughout while bringing to mind the “dusty drives” that the artist refers to. This vibe is then echoed in the somewhat slower and creepier “lord hyena, 3am,” which sounds more like the soundtrack of a sinking pebble in Lake Nayasa than a drive through the arenaceous wilderness.
In the majority of cases, this is not an album that tucks away the experiences of the individual that it embodies, hiding them away all insulated and private. On the contrary, kandodo beckons its audience to explore Price’s personal moments through balancing the calm and the tranquil with the gigantean and the uncertain. This is a feat that travel writers and backpacking bloggers are rarely able to accomplish on a visual platform, even with tools of text and image integration at their disposal, yet Price manages to encapsulate his tales, his tribulations, and his memories of a distant time and place in a strictly instrumental fashion, and with remarkable ingenuity and poise.