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Kayo Dot - Plastic House On Base Of Sky CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.83 | 111 ratings

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5 stars 4.9 Stars. All the synths in all the wide world

Kayo Dot are one of those few bands that you can never tell what they are going to do next. The only true connection between PHOBOS and the rest of their discovery is the desire to combine genres and styles to create something very unique and Avant-garde. PHOBOS uses many of the same building blocks as their previous album Coffins did i.e strong 80s synths, a heavy focus on rhythm and enough repetition in their songs to be highly rememerable. However unlike its predecessor the musical density is not only high, but though the roof in terms of complex layers which are pretty overwhelming on the first listen.

The main focus on this album is ultra-complex rhythms and a huge depth of musical layers, most of them synth and drum based. 4 of the 5 songs follow a similar pattern, where you are swamped with bright and flashy synths that keep going at a medium-fast pace and refuse to let you rest. It's only the final track that takes a darker and somber turn where you get some reprieve and a change in direction. Despite the similarity of the first 4 songs each one has a very unique and distinctive personality, with some being energy pumping rock and others deep voltages into the avant-garde world. PHOBOS is also a concept album, telling the story of the oracle Amalia set in a futuristic world. The first 4 songs deal with drugs, murder, prostitution and satellite observation/spying respectively, with the final track having a bleak doomsday direction for the world the band created.

"Amalia's Theme" starts the album off with the main rhythm for this song and gradually adds layers which is followed by Toby's "Bowie" vocals. The track weaves between different themes here and there, creating a labyrinth of complex rhythms and sounds. When I listened to this song the first time it was so overwhelming and uncomfortable to my ears that it was almost nauseating. It took many repeated listens to slowly adapt to what was being presented. But the breaking point into getting me to enjoy this was the subtle but infectious hooks that are hidden in the song and leave you humming the main musical themes afterwards. This is the most technical of the 5 tracks and has the greatest amount of changes in direction.

"All The Pain in All the Wide World" ranks as one of the most challenging, adventurous and brilliant songs the band has ever composed. The first 4 minutes are actually very melodic and instantly beautiful, which is a rarity for this album. This part has a synth-pop feel to it that gradually increases in intensity up to the 4 min mark.

However after 4 min the track becomes increasingly chaotic and anxious, with Toby chanting "I'm only talking, talking, but you're not listening" over and over. This seems to be a political remark about big governments and companies not paying attention to the poor, and others in general which results in mass confusion and misunderstanding. The song then descends into what appears to be absolute chaos. Toby is ranting incoherent vocals everywhere and the music has also gone completely wild. However despite this the music and vocals balance themselves to create a uniform level of weirdness and chaos that can only occur through a high level of composition hidden within it. The sound created here is so unique and out there that only listening to it will do any explanations justice. They then drag the track gradually to some sort of order before things end abruptly.

"All the Pain" is mindblowing in every sense of the world. In all my years of listening to Prog I have never heard such a intense unison of order and chaos. I'm still coming to terms with the magnitude of this song and how it has opened the floodgates of a new way to compose music. It has to rank as one of the greatest songs I have ever heard in my life and makes the album an essential listen in its own right (although everything else on PHOBOS is also brilliant).

"Magnetism" is the most instantly gratifying track on the album. Very strong and memorable rhythms and a much greater focus on the electric guitar means that this track rocks really well. There is a masterful build up in intensity and drama which erupts into a flowing 2 min of pure power and euphoria right at the end of the song. The drumming on this track is particularly inspired here and what gives the track its strength. This is my second favourite song on PHOBOS and it was a excellent choice to release this track first in order to get buyers.

"Rings of Earth" is a song of two halfs. The first uses extra 80s "spacy" synths that are bright and almost cheerful. Toby has some incredibly catchy vocals which combined with the synths gives a strong pop feel, if it were not for the subtle layers of texture in the background. There is a gritty guitar in the background which is gradually brought into the foreground as the second half of the song starts. Here there is a major contrast in mood where all the positivity is lost and you are surrounded by oppressive synths and distorted guitars. Almost as if to say how the positive intentions of the satellites have now backfired and are now a force for evil and manipulation. The song finishes with a wall of distortion and Toby's deep, doom-laden singing.

"Brittle Urchin" carries on this bleakness with 40 seconds of a single, deep layer of synth. This darkness and extreme musical simplicity is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, as if all the bright futuristic toys are gone and only hard reality remains. A simple bass line along with Toby's vocals enters and we are treated with the classic KD sound of old like that found on "Cartogram out of phase", "A pitcher of summer" etc. This "bass + wavering vocals" is ended with the return of synths, drums and guitars but this time the atmosphere is pure negativity and despair instead of flashiness. The song cuts off dramatically at the end and the album finishes almost instantly.

At the moment PHOBOS ranks as my third favourite KD album and is only slightly below the No 2 spot. However when you consider that my top KD record ("Choirs") is a top 2 album of all time and the other ("Hubardo") is a top 10 then you know that I think PHOBOS ranks with the best of the best. This album has everything you could ask of it. It has insane complexity and endless layers that requires many many listens to fully explore what is going on, let alone to get your head around the album and begin enjoying it! However despite this each song has a key strong hook that holds everything together and acts as the gateway into loving each track. Finally it has the originality, by taking 80s sounds and musical principles that no Prog band would dare touch and doing something completely different with it. It even has a excellent concept and lyrics that despite the futuristic feel and occult overtones is becoming increasingly relevant as we get well into the 21st century.

In summary PHOBOS is a virtually perfect record that needs to be heard by every forward-thinking Prog lover. It also must be listened to many times as it is very hard to get into initially. A good speaker or headphones is needed to hear every layer that is going on, as without the proper equipment for listening the music suffers immensely. Kayo Dot have now firmly taken the crown as the most progressive Prog act in the 21 century, and since the 70s if we are being honest. 100% essential music.

LakeGlade12 | 5/5 |


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