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Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.59 | 67 ratings

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4 stars None More Blue, Er...Lavender

The Beatles have the White Album. Spinal Tap / Metallica have their black albums. Toby Driver couldn't let someone out-pretentious him so we get the blue-out album. A gamma knife is a kind of pinpoint radiation therapy where cancerous tumors are removed from areas often unreachable by conventional surgery. The brain is a common target, and as such Toby once again gives an album mean to slice our minds into pieces. Subtly, or maybe artistically. To that end, Driver's metal roots are back from hiatus. Distorted guitars and guttural vocals return, but with the same avant-jazz noise ethos that reached it's mind- numbing climax on BLUE LAMBENCY and its most depressively evocative on COYOTE.

GAMMA KNIFE certainly has ingredients we've heard before from Driver, but he's cooking something different this time. There's more energy, more tension, and more dangerous pathos than we've had for awhile. Mental illness still seems to be a driving force behind the music, but instead of the massive weight of depression, here we have the frenzied need for escape, the burning anger, acute rather than chronic pain. This isn't a lobotomy, this is a good old fashioned drawing and quartering.

Now I listen to a section of the song "Ocellated God" which reminds me quite a bit of my most hated work of all time (Naked City's LENG TCHE). But there's something strange here. Where LT eventually becomes laughably stupid, on this track there's enough texture, variation, and relative brevity that I actually get it. Maybe I even like it. Driver also has the artistic maturity to immediately contrast this distorted torture scene with the title track's clean piano and floating sad vocal. I once accused Driver of serving only himself and forgetting the listener. Not anymore. Similarly, Driver's brat-teen vocals are finally starting to acquire a bearable timbre and some of the singing on the title track is simultaneously as skilled and haunting as any I've heard from Toby.

The most remarkable thing about this album is the effective broad variation in sound. The title song "Lethe" is comprised of bells, strings, soft vocals in an almost classical feel. The second track is harsh and chaotic, with obvious death metal influence. But it really works, if you're into moody avant art music.

This is a 3.5 album that I'm rounding up as I listen more intently, the best rating I've given a Kayo Dot work yet. I've also been listening to MotW's BATH recently, and it clearly is another notch up entirely, though significantly less demanding.

I want a real new MotW album, Toby. But this will do nicely for now.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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