Guitarist Kelli Rudick incorporates unusual instruments into her complex compositions | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Guitarist Kelli Rudick incorporates unusual instruments into her complex compositions

click to enlarge Loopy: Kelli Rudick
Loopy: Kelli Rudick

When we last encountered Kelli Rudick here in Pittsburgh, this past spring, a burgeoning head cold and a crackly PA system conspired against her performance. Her set was ultimately cut slightly short, but circumstance couldn't stop Rudick from weaving gorgeous blankets of sound that often made one lose sight of the distractions at hand.

Born in the United States, raised in Tel Aviv, now living in Brooklyn, Rudick composes and performs on several instruments. Primarily a looping guitarist, she travels with a small arsenal of other instruments that help her to create her soundscapes, most notably the nail violin (a soundboard with nails that the player bows to create different tones) and the mbira, an African thumb piano. On rare occasions, vocals find their place in her work as well.

Rudick's pieces are compositions, not simply songs, and one doesn't so much listen to them as step into them. They defy traditional structures, but also do more: Rather than the classic repetitive build-and-washout, climax-and-denouement of the casual looping artist, Rudick's works deal in nuance and subtle alteration.

Comparisons abound between Rudick and Kaki King, the famous guitarist who introduced her to many fans as a tourmate and onetime partner. It could be said that the two artists are cut from the same cloth, but they diverge where King heads toward rock stardom and Rudick moves in the direction of emotional composition. Sonically, too, they contrast in ways: While King tends toward the percussive finger-tapping guitar, Rudick is instead wont to rely on the staccato of the mbira, the sustain of the nail violin and the illustrative in-betweens of the guitar to create her complex textures.

Rudick plays Garfield Artworks Wed., Oct. 14 (a show organized by frequent CP contributor Manny Theiner); she promises songs from her 2007 debut LP No One Knows You're Foreign and from her forthcoming second album. With any luck, the music gods will be smiling on her performance this time around -- unencumbered by sound issues and sickness, she promises a hypnotic performance. 


Kelli Rudick with Spider, Adam Rauf and The Glass Cube. 8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 14. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $7. All ages. 412-361-2262 or

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