Local Music Review: Hudson K

Hudson K
Ouroboros and the Black Dove

Hudson K's new album, Ouroboros and the Black Dove, marks a new turn for Knoxville's most unusual duo. (Why, they don't even have a guitar!) Keyboardist (and, to be fair, sometimes, lately, keytarist) Christina Horn and percussionist Nate Barrett always sound like more than just two people, and this latest iteration of their ongoing experiment is a polished, professional album, independently financed via crowdsourcing and produced by Jason Rubal of Pennsylvania's Seventh Wave Studio, the wizard behind some of the work of several daring pop artists, including Amanda Palmer.

The title might sound like an exercise in obscurantism—the ouroboros is the ancient circular symbol of the snake eating its own tail—and a lot of these lyrics are indeed dreamlike, sometimes leaning toward the crypto-mythological. If you have a concordance about what they mean, I'd be interested to read it. But the music itself is mostly good pop, catchy enough to appeal even to those of us who turned off Game of Thrones after 20 minutes of annoyed bewilderment. As always, Horn's adeptness with computer-assisted synthesizers takes her music to interesting places, from serious minimalism to techno-goth, occasionally with the urgent chill of the best New Wave-era synth-pop. But it's not all of one piece. One cut, "Frenetic Fecundity," is purely instrumental, basically a lush piano etude of a sort that might have caused a riot in Moscow a century ago.

A few, like "Pick a Place to Play" and "Crush" would suggest radio potential, but the cut most likely to bounce nightclubbers out of their chairs after midnight is "Stuck on Repeat," which was the subject of a pretty fun video shot on the second floor of Preservation Pub.

It all seems mysterious and urgent. In her hands, the synthesizer is always the star, but overall on this album we notice Horn's mature voice more. At times, her singing (and I'm pretty sure that's her accompanying herself, in loops) offers some of the ballad sincerity of Natalie Merchant, perhaps with a little of the sharper edges of Kate Bush. Her voice carries hints that she might do more with it than she does. Maybe she will. But for now, Ouroboros and the Black Dove provides a pretty interesting musical landscape.