Review: KENDRA AMALIE/RYLEY WALKER – Papaya in a Hound’s Tooth
National Music Reviews
KENDRA AMALIE/RYLEY WALKER
Papaya In A Hound’s Tooth
Kendra Amalie/Ryley Walker = William Tyler + Mute Duo
Listening to Kendra Amalie/Ryley Walker’s Papaya In A Hound’s Tooth is like stumbling through a Hollywood warehouse filled with active sound stages. For a moment, you’re in a city street, where muffled hip-hop blaring from passing cars mixes with the pounding rhythms of a road crew jackhammering relentlessly. Suddenly, you bust through a wall into a fresh scene, where the sound of a low-hovering helicopter cuts the air, forcibly vibrating your eardrums. Next, you cross over into a dark and boundless space, where you’ll swear you’re floating through a warm and gooey medium while ghostly whispers pass by in the ether. Yes, Papaya in a Hound’s Tooth is disorienting, but even more so, it is downright invigorating. The variation that Kendra Amalie and Ryley Walker manifest with their guitars is a testament to the versatility of the instrument—and also to the gusto of the two respective players.
Kendra Amalie’s 2019 release, Intuition, showcased the wide array of available guitar techniques in her quiver. However, the folky fingerpicking that was prominently featured there is mostly absent from her collaboration with Walker, who has also dabbled in other assorted genres (jazz!) along the path of his discography. As a pair, they have unlocked a set of shared floodgates—Hound’s Tooth is new ground for all involved. On top of a fine layer of MIDI beats, these tracks are a tag-team display of explosive and innovative guitar sounds. Distortion reigns; convention be damned.
“Thini Dust” recalls the Hendrix rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” but with a contemporary spin thanks to a sprinkling of electronic beeps and boops. It’s the kind of track that welcomes an unshackled but harmless form of chaos, like a mass pillow fight or spontaneous pancakes at 2 a.m. “Rang Dizzy,” the album’s closer, features wispy vocals from Amalie that are spatial and percussive amidst hypnotizing waves of synth.
For all its unhinged energy, Hound’s Tooth possesses pensive moments that feel soothing between bouts of the guitars’ recoiling temper. “Drooling In” has a beckoning quality, like a shadowy figure reaching out a helping hand as exhaustion draws near. With gentle strumming and a David Bowie–like divinity, the track is a rejuvenating oasis in a harsh soundscape.
Hound’s Tooth, which arrives on Walker’s recently-founded Husky Pants record label, is a distinct addition to the pool of guitar music. For the right listener—which for this album is a person who is curious of mind and comfortable with sonic surrender—these tracks just might pull the pin of a bombshell filled with feeling and insight. Amalie and Walker clearly have the ability to coax out wondrous and unusual expressions from each other, and the swirling outcome of these performances is unsettling in the most wonderful way. –Austin Beck-Doss