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Devin Townsend - Devin Townsend Project: Ki CD (album) cover

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT: KI

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.85 | 296 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This might just be the Devin Townsend album for people who otherwise don't like his style. Known for very loud music that ranges from extreme metal to hyper-infused heavy screamo-pop, Heavy Devy is not to everyone's taste. However, Ki puts aside much of what Devin fans like or love and takes a very different approach for the most part.

Ki was the first album of an initially four-album project that attempted to explore the four sides to Devin's music. Other albums were to feature heavy pop rock, intense metal, and meditative, relaxing music. I like that idea of a four-album project, but the project has since turned more into a heavy pop project as two follow-ups, "Epicloud" and "Sky Blue" (one of the two discs in the "Zed Squared" release) have delved further into the wall-of-sound, ultra-heavy, catchy-melody-driven, bombastic pop.

What makes Ki unique in Devin's catalogue is that it avoids the heavy compression and multi-layering that Devin typically employs, earning him the titles of the new Frank Zappa and the new Phil Spector. At it's base, this album consists of a clean guitar with a warm and rich sound, bass, some keyboards including piano, and drums. A few tracks bring on the distortion but the sound is more like a single overdrive pedal rather than full on metal mayhem. Devin's vocals are mostly clean and often soft and non-aggressive. Guest vocalist Ché Dorval adds some country/bluesy vocals on three tracks. Come to think of it, I haven't heard "Casualties of Cool" yet but Ché sings on that one too and the music is said to be more country/blues styled. As for Ki, probably one of the best comparisons to make is the Canadian band Cowboy Junkies. I know Devin likes them so it's no surprise to find their style emulated in some tracks here.

The album begins with a simple mellow clean electric guitar instrumental. "Coast", the second track, is a very un-Devy-like song with a rolling bass line that sounds like Pink Floyd sped up. Soft, low vocals that border on operatic at times carry the lyrics. The mood darkens slightly at times and near the end things seem like they are building up to a chaotic release. But then it's all over.

"Disruptr" is one song where the music intensity climaxes. Brooding and heavy, Devin lets things get heavy but without sounding like modern metal. This would be more like some doom metal from the early seventies almost, save for the roaring vocals. "Gato" and "Heaven's End" also feature some more intense music, but the rest of the album stays pretty mellow and moody most of the time. "Terminal" and "Lady Helen" are really soft and beautiful songs in the Cowboy Junkies vein. "Ain't Never Gonna Win..." is a studio jam with soft seventies guitar, a bit of a funky grove to it, and some spacey keyboard effects. Sometimes on the album you can hear between songs a bit of studio banter. I imagine many songs had very few overdubs except to add extra heavy guitar or extra vocal layers. At times I think Devin is almost going for a male counterpart to Enya.

The title track is one of the interesting highlights of the album. There's such a beautiful and rich guitar part near the beginning, which sadly never returns. The middle part is so slow and mellow. Then the final stretch of the song begins with a rising-falling arpeggio of clean guitar notes onto which layers of Enyan vocals are laid and extreme metal guitar/bass/drum music builds behind it all without ever allowing the music to become metal. Then Devin comes in like an opera singer. Perhaps this is one of his more "progressive" songs that I have heard so far.

I find the first half of the album includes more heavy music than the second half, which features more slower- paced, mellow and pretty songs. The sound is really beautiful. Certainly if you have been turned off by Devin Townsend because of his heavily layered, very loud, metal/hard rock/pop then this album might at least win over your ears. As for fans of Devin's heavy side, this might be an album to broaden your perspective.

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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