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Kayo Dot - Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.71 | 192 ratings

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4 stars 4.5 Stars. The greatest 4 star album of all time!

Kayo Dot are one of those bands that can take many years to appreciate, let alone enjoy, which has been the case for most of their albums. This is due to the band's constant desire to push the boundaries of music to the maximum and to reinvent their sound with every album. Dowsing is the follow up to their most highly acclaimed album "Choirs of the eye" which has gradually positioned itself as one of my top 3 all-time favourite records.

Dowsing can be seen as a continuation of Choirs due to the similar instrumentalisation and quiet-Load flow of the album. However Dowsing has a far greater range of atmospheres compared to the former record, to the point that each of the 5 tracks are so diverse that each one could have come from a completely different album. A track by track review is needed to enforce my point:

"Gemini Becoming The Tripod" starts the album off in a very similar vein to what was found in Choirs. You are firstly given a instrumental maelstrom along with background screams that swirl around you in organised chaos. This settles down into the main section of the song, which is a incredibly slow 5 min build up with sporadic drums and blasting bass happening every few seconds. But what is distinctive to the song is Toby's vocals. They start as a deep groaning which develop into 10-15 second long screams, over and over to the point where you expect Toby's voice to shatter from the amount of strain on his voice-box. Its drone-black metal at its most extreme and for people not used to the genre will probably alienate 80% of people in this site simply due to that voice-shattering primal screaming and wailing.

...and "Immortelle And Paper Caravelle" is the 100% opposite to the album opener. This is 9 min of beautiful bliss and to date (2016's PHOBOS included) the most chilled out song KD have ever written. The opening and closing sections of the song can be described best as abstract and dreamlike, which could send you easily off to sleep, while the middle part of the song sounds like a gloriously instrumented pop song.

"Aura On An Asylum Wall" can be seen as the half-way house between the violent extremes of the opening two tracks. After a few tense start-stop vocal moments the song goes into a Crimson-inspired instrumental which is full of energy and ideas. The intensity slowly builds up until it climaxes into black-metal screams and instrumental chaos. Honestly this is one of the most impressive Prog instrumentals out there and is the most accessible of the 5 songs. Its also the only song on Dowsing that can be considered fast-paced.

The first 4 minutes of "___ On Limpid Form" continue the KC Prog from the last track and make for a nice, self contained track in its own right. But instead of finishing the final sparks of the song refuse to die and gradually morph into a monster 12 min drone-metal marathon. All the momentum of the last song + 4 min is gone completely and the listener's patience is truly tested. The dynamics of the song is also challenging as it pulses from too quiet to ear-bleedingly load in a space of seconds. The track slowly goes from one theme to another until it finishes with Godspeed you! post-rock noise. A very challenging 18 minutes.

"Amaranth The Peddler" however can be seen as a more abstract and inaccessible cousin to track two, with the opening and closing sections being very challenging avant-garde soundscapes and the middle being a oddball avant-prog track. The closest comparison I can make is KC's Moonchild, i.e. you need to be in the right headspace for it otherwise its just random noise.

You may have noticed I've not given my personal opinion on most of these songs. Well to me each song is a clear 5 stars in their own right, and each one makes huge strides in expanding the boundaries of established music. However the major problem with Dowsing is that the musical canvass is so overwhelmingly wide that there is little to no coherency between any of the songs. I never listen to this album from start to finish, in fact in my head I treat Dowsing as 5 mini albums in their own right (Like that seen on "Don't touch dead animals"). How on earth does Toby and co expect me to go from the brutal 10 second screams of Gemini, to the pure tranquility of Immortelle, to the epic Prog instrumental of Aura, followed by the glacial and brutal Limpid and finally to the pure avant soundscapes of Amaranth over the space of 1 hour and not lose my mind!? When each song is so different to the others and three of the five tracks are incredibly challenging the band are asking far too much for the listener to be able to handle.

So in summary this is a masterpiece of avant-garde music, but it does not function at all within the traditional album context. For this reason I just cannot give it 5 stars, because I never have and probably never will play Dowsing from start to finish. Treat it as a 5 separate KD albums.

LakeGlade12 | 4/5 |


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