By Blair Jackson
If you’ve been reading Acoustic Guitar for the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the work of Kate Koenig, who has contributed a wide variety of articles to the magazine, including album and gear reviews, as well as interview feature stories. But like so many of the folks who write for AG, the Queens-based Koenig is also a fine singer, songwriter, and musician (as well as an illustrator, graphic designer, and teacher of guitar and piano). Koenig describes Immortal Rhythm as “alternative folk” and that feels about right if we have to come up with some reductive genre label. There is a folk purity to the mostly crystalline vocals and much of Koenig’s fingerpicked and strummed acoustic guitar parts, played on a Taylor AD12e.
At the same time, though, there are a number of tunes that feature the sort of edgy, irregular rhythms and unexpected melodic twists one might associate with “alternative” music; not to mention the occasional grunge-y electric guitar or bass texture. Koenig played all the guitars, along with piano and synths, and Eliza Endless contributed the prominent bass parts and many of the layered backing vocals. There is also drums/percussion on many tracks, and cello on one.
Lyrically, this is a very dark work. I get the sense in making the journey through this collection of presumably autobiographical songs that Koenig is channeling the loneliness, hurt, and anger that can sometimes be the byproduct of relationships gone wrong. Or maybe, I’m reading too much into lines like “I am mostly empty space” and “When you find yourself numb/ Rip yourself open to see that you’re barren/ ’Cept for your hollowed-out lungs, your marrowless bones.” Perhaps I should instead latch onto more innocent pronouncements such as “I’ve always been adventurous/ Always comfortably uncomfortable.”
At any rate, it’s a fascinating and visceral album, full of striking lyric poetry and compelling vocal and instrumental performances. A couple of songs remind me a bit of Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter or Wild Things Run Fast–era Joni Mitchell, and “Siren Song” sounds like they’re channeling Grace Slick (most likely not an influence), but most of what’s here is personal, modern, and highly original.