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Kayo Dot - Coyote CD (album) cover

COYOTE

Kayo Dot

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.84 | 147 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Kayo Dot: Coyote [2010]

Rating: 9/10

Coyote is the fourth album from American avant-garde group Kayo Dot. I have found that many great bands tend to change and grow throughout the course of their careers. Although some artists are able to stick to a specific style for decades without sounding stale, most respectable musicians find themselves evolving and adapting their sound to fit new artistic goals. Toby Driver's music has undergone numerous transitions throughout his relatively young career, both within Kayo Dot and with his other projects. Kayo Dot began as an experimental rock group focused on combining metal, chamber-music, and ambient to create a unique take on rock/metal music. However, 2008's Blue Lambency Downward showed the band almost completely eschewing the metal elements of their sound. Coyote takes this approach even further. All metal influences have been completely eliminated in favor of mercilessly dark avant-garde jazz-fusion.

I tend to roll my eyes when the word "dark" is used to describe music. Artists that deliberately try to make their music dark often fall into needless melodrama and unnecessary disharmony. Kayo Dot take this approach on Coyote; the lyrics were based on a story from a dying friend of the band. This is one of the most unrelentingly bleak records that I have ever encountered, but the darkness sounds natural and genuine throughout. The music here has been described as "goth fusion", and I cannot conjure up a more apt term. Coyote combines the experimental jazz-fusion sounds of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock with a dark and brooding atmosphere that would not be out of place on an industrial-rock album. Guitar has been almost completely eliminated; trumpet, violin, and saxophone are the primary melodic instruments here. These are backed up by a stunning rhythm section that brings a strong sense of groove to this pitch-black madness. All of this is complimented by Toby Driver's vocals. Toby's voice can be either pretty of horrifying, and his vocal work on this album trends towards the latter. His singing on this album is horribly tortured and emotional.

"Calonyction Girl" has to be one of the most emotionally harrowing and stunningly atmospheric pieces of music that I have ever heard. Toby's tortured vocals stay with me long after the track has ended, and the instrumental interplay is perfectly seamless and fascinating. "Whisper Ineffable" is probably the most disquieting piece on the album, which is certainly saying something. Toby sounds like an unhinged lunatic, spewing sounds that one would not normally consider musical. However, it all sounds cohesive, and even the most discordant sections are driven by a sense of musical purpose. "Abyss Hinge 1: Sleeping Birds Sighing in Roscolux" is a darkly groovy instrumental with insane electronic effects. The impressive drumming contrasts well with the madness. "Abyss Hinge 2: The Shrinking Armature" is, simply put, one of the greatest pieces of jazz-fusion that I have ever heard. Each and every musician is in total prime form here. The instrumental interplay is nothing short of astounding; the groove is irresistible and the melodies are disturbingly compelling. "Cartogram Out of Phase" is a short concluding piece. Oddly enough, this track manages to sound both pretty and disturbing at the same time. Toby's voice is fragile and the instrumentation is darkly lush.

On Coyote, Kayo Dot managed to do what so many bands cannot. They created a melodramatic piece of darkness that doesn't even come close to sounding forced or artificial. This is no emo snoozefest; it is a bleak desert of disquieting insanity and complex pain. Such things sound unpleasant, and they are. But must all art merely reflect the positive and simpler side of things? Kayo Dot have created a rewardingly dense piece of work here, full of fascinating musicianship and intricate emotions. However, do not expect music without a significant degree of challenge. It took me several listens before I even began to understand all of this album's intricacies. Such challenges should not deter; in fact, they should encourage. Any open-minded music fan who is willing to spend a lot of time with an album should find a plethora of things to appreciate on the masterpiece that is Coyote.

Anthony H. | 5/5 |

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