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STAINED GLASS

Kayo Dot

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars Kayo Dot's new EP Stained Glass is a single, nearly 20 minute composition with few varying atmospheres. Very interesting soundscapes, enjoyable timbre, but the middle dissonant section is way too prolonged. Kayo Dot has been hit or miss with me. I love love love Blue Lambency Downward but I do not like Choirs of the Eye at all. This EP is most similar to Blue Lambency Downward. The guitar took a break from Coyote and is returning, along with vibraphone, various orchestral percussion, (fuzz) bass, saxophone, synth, and my favorite addition, electric piano. The first 7 minutes of Stained Glass is incredible. It offers everything a large orchestral piece would, only in a small chamber rock setting. Toby's writing is very harmonically and rhythmically adventurous. But everything melds into dark ambient experimentation ... and stays there. For maybe 9 minutes. This was disappointing, personally. It is dark ambient but not in the same ways as previous Kayo Dot drones (thankfully?). There are no dense, loud guitar chords that are sustained for minutes. It is mostly sound effects (maybe provided by guitar?), synth chords, and electric piano/vibraphone doodlings. There is very minimal percussion (excluding vibraphone) in this section and won't be fully utilized until the final minute of the piece. Things finally begin to take form at 18 minutes. The vibraphone and electric piano begin playing a sinister, bubbling theme that is pure bliss. Drums join in and the piece ends loosely. I'm not sure the $13 is worth the 9 minutes of good music and the rest bland.

****4-STAR REVISION: After many more listenings, I've found that this piece has beauty even in the "dark ambient experimentation" section. Structures within it are formed and slowly enter new ones. And it is gorgeous. I especially enjoy the variety of tuplet formations. So I am bumping my 3 star to a 4 star. Thank you Toby!

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Send comments to Tengent (BETA) | Report this review (#336598)
Posted Saturday, November 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The name of Kayo Dot is brought up one more time in the account of 2010 prog releases worldwide: the ensemble of Toby Driver, Mia Matsumiya & co. has just released an excellent EP by the end of this year - "Stained Glass". With almost the same line-up that recorded "Coyote", the 'Stained Glass' piece is a lovely example of how well the eerie introspectiveness of "Blue Lambency Downward" and the grayish chamber-rock machinations of "Coyote" fuse together when the mind is lucidly aware of texture and environment. The opus opens with a languid sequence of drum kit, bass and vibraphone, with the sax and violin not taking too long before completing the orchestral whole and Driver's reflective singing developing the remaining aspects of the concept's dark spirituality. In the beginning, this is post-rock mixed with soft minimalistic jazz, but soon the clouds of doom emerge and ultimately fill the sonic spectrum, which is when Kayo Dot enter pure Univers Zero territory. Driver's singing for the second sung section displays a Wyatt-like falsetto, while the keyboard interventions and slow rhythmic pace that develop a bit later remind us of Tortoise. Surreal yet candidly intense, you can tell that the band's maturity achieved in the previous two albums still remains a constant rule of creativity: enfolding moods and subtly developing colors delivered in KD fashion. From the 17'30" mark onward, the final climax is built up on a reflective note that properly enhances the current obscure emotions as if drawing a disturbing daydream with sounds. A great year for KD means a great year for all us listeners and seekers of magical sound.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#366653)
Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Stained Glass opens very gently and melodiously with a beautiful vocal line by Toby accompanied by nice sax, violin, and vibraphone reminiscent of motW's Part The Second. You're enjoying motW and the world is perfectly content. Then a distorted organ rips through the music like a tear in the space-time continuum.

It slowly begins to force you away from the terrestrial world. The sounds of motW begin to fade away, replaced by the violent ebb and flow of a wormhole. You're David Bowman. You've just passed Jupiter. Soon you exit the cosmic shortcut. You're floating, isolated, alone in out space. Toby's voice returns strange and distorted announcing your arrival.

The music takes over at this point. It's psychedelic. It's wonderful. It's a trance. You stop being a listener of the music. Instead you're like a statue unable to act as wave after wave of sound hits you and immerses you. The sound reflects the nature of outer space. It drifts without purpose or meaning. It just is. The music isn't there to entertain you, or teach you, or to even go anywhere. It's a perfect existence without meaning like a quartet from John Cage.

Then the music regroups. It suddenly begins progressing somewhere, slowly, like being caught in the gravitational field of some far off stellar mass. The object makes itself known. It's Trey Spruance's guitar solo. It demands your attention. It hits you viscerally. It sounds like bursts of static on some lonely interstellar traveler's radio caused by jets of radiation being emitted from some supermassive black hole.

All of a sudden it stops. Shortly after Bodie reenters with a simple beat. Like a tribal shaman in some ancient ceremony, it announces the end of your astral projection and marks your return to Earth. You return to your room and sounds of motW before fading to silence.

That's Stained Glass. I haven't given you any idea of what it sounds like, if you'll like it, etc. I'm not sure what it sounds like. I know what it feels like though. That's more important. If you want to experience this, buy it, listen to it. It sounded like garbage pretty much my first two times through. Then it clicked. Once again this band as completely amazed me.

This composition is 19:55 long. During that time, light would have traveled 222 million miles. After listening to this, you will feel like you have also.

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Send comments to Equality 7-2521 (BETA) | Report this review (#379060)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This EP is a return to the kind of chamber sounds available on KAYO DOT's first album. They had elements of these sounds recur on all of their albums, but CHOIRS OF THE EYE is closest to the sonic voice of this album. While this may be viewed as retreading old ground, they really come at it from a good place; only 20 minutes of music, so no big return to something they've done, and they spruce it up with new tricks they've learned that make sense. That is a big thing to emphasize here: While this sounds a lot like older Kayo Dot, there are some rather different bits, like Gregorian chanting, that fit perfectly. It doesn't call upon the black metal influences present on "The Manifold Curiosity" or any of their death metal elements, sticking to a kind of chamber, near-orchestral approach to rock. This offers a great comment and revision on their earlier sound, offering enough subtle tweaks to say essentially, "This is how our first album should have sounded to be more like Kayo Dot and less like MAUDLIN OF THE WELL," without denigrating what they were commenting on.

My only complaint is one that is similar to my complaints of BLUE LAMBENCY DOWNWARD, and that is the meandering nature of the track. Sometimes when they do this, it works perfectly and sweeps me away, but this time it felt a little bit like underdevelopment at times. It wasn't a huge detraction, and it's not like the music stops being compelling for any huge portion of time, but it did affect things enough to make this not exactly perfect. It is still very, very good, though, and it must be said that, like all Kayo Dot albums, the production is wonderful. There are a lot of instruments here, but they all breathe and have their own space. We've all heard what the original mixes of LIXARD by KING CRIMSON were like, so we know what it sounds like when too many instruments crowd a mix, but despite the near-pit orchestra level of instruments going on here, the sound never gets overwhelmed. This is more amazing than you probably think it is.

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Send comments to Gorloche (BETA) | Report this review (#409047)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Kayo Dot: Stained Glass [2010]

Rating: 8/10

Stained Glass is an EP from American experimental music group Kayo Dot; it is the band's fifth release overall and their second from 2010. Coyote, the group's first release from that year, is an unflinchingly harrowing piece of dark dissonance and gothic melodrama. That album forged a new path for Toby Driver and his band; it took the RIO stylings first introduced on Blue Lambency Downward and pushed in the most extreme direction possible. I consider that album a masterpiece, but I also think that it would have been a grave mistake for Kayo Dot to try anything like it a second time. Thus, Stained Glass impressed me in multiple ways.

This single 20-minute track serves as a perfect complement to the depressive madness that was Coyote. Although this piece is equally experimental and avant-garde, it approaches experimentation in an entirely different way. It is difficult for me to categorize this EP with any sort of generic label. Although Stained Glass is not the strangest piece of work that Toby has ever done, it is the toughest to describe. This momentous composition is a semi-ambient voyage into minimalistic chamber music and shimmering vibraphone-laden jazz. The music lapses in and out of understated vocal passages, minimalistic tuned-percussion odysseys, and warbling electronic soundscapes. All of this is held together by a gorgeous sense of melancholy. While this certainly isn't a happy piece of music, it approaches darkness differently than Coyote did. That album focused on the brutal and gritty elements of sadness; Stained Glass centers on the pretty and poetic aspects of it. The result is a hauntingly beautiful 20 minutes of music.

Stained Glass is a triumphant EP that even further illustrates the depth and diversity of Toby Driver's compositional personality. Parts of this piece are absolutely masterful; the first three minutes constitute some of the greatest music that I have ever heard. Unfortunately, some of the other sections fail to live up to others. Because of this slight inconsistency, I am unable to give this the masterpiece rating that it would have otherwise deserved. Still, this is one of the best and most unique EPs that I have ever heard. Avant-garde aficionados will adore this, and those unacquainted with the style should also be able to find a rewarding experience here.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#614835)
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It took me far too long to pick this EP up, especially given the legendary status I tend to assign to anything Toby Driver is attached to. On that note, Stained Glass certainly does not disappoint. This single track, 20 minute long EP blends together a huge variety of styles that have appeared on previous maudlin of the Well/Kayo Dot/Toby Driver projects to create a final product that, if not quite at the level of Bath or Choirs of the Eye, is still tremendously satisfying.

"Stained Glass" begins with a section that I think is heavily reminiscent of maudlin of the Well's quieter moments; it has that same kind of gorgeous texturing and (for now at least) lacks a bit of the harshness that is prevalent in Kayo Dot's music. There's even some very laid back vocals. However, this introductory section is short lived, and the motif quickly switches to a more ominous feel. This persists for a little while before distorted guitar enters, but almost as quickly as it arrives it falls away, leaving a variety of what sounds like wind chimes at the forefront of the track. The wonderful thing about this music is how well- arranged it sounds despite its often chaotic nature. No instrument is present unless it has a purpose.

The next section of the track strips back on the instrumentation a little bit and lets some high- pitched, haunting vocals take the forefront. The bells or windchimes or whatever they are continue to play a prominent role, though some distorted string sounds enter during this section as well, giving the main instruments a howling backtrack against which to play. This persists for quite a while before subtly transitioning to add bass and winds. This middle section of the track is definitely very experimental and avant-sounding, but it's also very beautiful music if you're in the right mindset. As the track comes to an end it increases in intensity, building up and then dropping down until it finally falls away to nothing.

It's always hard to assign EPs a star rating because there's such a tendency to want to compare the rating against the ratings given to complete albums. Nonetheless, this single track accomplishes everything it sets out to do with flying colors, and while I don't think it's the absolute best thing Kayo Dot or Toby Driver has ever released, it's pretty gosh-darn good.

4/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#618547)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Vibraphone and loose drumming with hushed vocals and light brass provide a light but gloomy atmosphere before a darker synthesizer lead comes to the fore. The vocals are light and dreamy. This being a twenty-minute piece, things thankfully don't remain stagnant; unfortunately, not everything Toby Driver and company present is wonderful. The screeching, distorted noises are rather unpleasant and distracting. Six minutes in, it becomes a more twisted rendition of Gentle Giant's "An Inmates Lullaby." After that, it is a drowsy affair full of experimental sounds and somnolent expressions. The depth of instrumentation is, as usual for a Toby Driver project, generally brilliant. The composition is, as usual for a Toby Driver project, generally suspect.Vibraphone and loose drumming with hushed vocals and light brass provide a light but gloomy atmosphere before a darker synthesizer lead comes to the fore. The vocals are light and dreamy. This being a twenty-minute piece, things thankfully don't remain stagnant; unfortunately, not everything Toby Driver and company present is wonderful. The screeching, distorted noises are rather unpleasant and distracting. Six minutes in, it becomes a more twisted rendition of Gentle Giant's "An Inmates Lullaby." After that, it is a drowsy affair full of experimental sounds and somnolent expressions. The depth of instrumentation is, as usual for a Toby Driver project, generally brilliant. The composition is, as usual for a Toby Driver project, generally suspect.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#721441)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | Review Permalink

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