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Kayo Dot - Choirs Of The Eye CD (album) cover

CHOIRS OF THE EYE

Kayo Dot

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars At the time a friend told me about this album I was on the verge of losing faith that great music still exists. The music is simply amazing; the songs are epic and moving with wild instrumental breaks and intense vocals. A beautifully introspective album with poetic lyrics that can stir your mind, although if you are looking for a singer who hits every note don't look to these guys. Still each song is a masterpiece in itself. These guys manage to define the genre of orchestral hardcore.

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Send comments to jc schlist (BETA) | Report this review (#43116)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
MediokrityKil
5 stars This album has, and will be for some time, my favorite CD and artist. No song is restricted by chorus/verse structures, infact I don't recall any parts being repeated at all, showing the masterful composition. Both highly original and highly versatile, the genre of the album ranges from classical to metal to progressive to indy to many more. This can be seen very clearly in the third track: "The Manifold Curiosity."

Peaceful and climactic at first with a lengthy clarinet solo and backing orchestral instruments, the action slows down into sofl guitar strumming with spoken vocals and ambient effects. Smoothly, violins come in and take over with twin melodies, slowly adding the occasional non-diatonic note, until guitars replace them, escalating from beautiful caressing melodies into pure chaos. A few layers of screaming are added over the clashing guitars until everything flows in sync for a 40 second thrash metal breakdown, the finale of this 14 minute epic.

Tracks 2 and 4, "A Pitcher of Summer" and "Wayfarer" respectively, are very melodic, with beautiful falsetto vocals by the bands composer/guitarist Toby Driver. Tracks 1 and 5, "Marathon" and "The Antique" respectively, are both very dark and mostly metal, though very melodic at times; the finales to both songs are very soft and smooth, as is the french horn/flute duet in "Marathon."

Buy this album, and you will not be sorry.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#45177)
Posted Thursday, September 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars With their official debut album, Kayo Dot has managed to expand the boundaries of avant-garde metal, albeit with mixed results. Although they're obviously not the first band to mix soft melodic parts with explosions of hardcore fury in marathon-length compositions, they do so in an intelligent and listenable manner. Of course, combining light and extremely heavy approaches will inevitably call for comparisons to Opeth, who greatly perfected this style and have used it to it's fullest effect. The similarities end right there, however, as overall the two bands exhibit considerably different musical tendencies. As mentioned earlier, Kayo Dot's heavy sections often gravitate towards more of a noisy hardcore sound, with Toby Driver regularly screaming his head off (there's plenty of clean vocals on the album as well). Otherwise, when in the metal mode, the group opts for sluggish, plodding tempos more in line with doom metal.

On the whole, the group's style of composition is melodic and quite accessible - in fact, I was hoping for something more challenging given the fact that the band is "musically literate". Still, the album hosts a number of considerably complex (and generally satisfying) moments. However, a large portion of "Choirs of the Eye" is rather dull and repetitive (the normally slow pace of the album contributes to this). The band's sound quickly becomes formulaic as well, and halfway through the album you're already hoping for something fresh.

The strongest tracks here are the two longest ones, "The Manifold Curiosity" and "The Antique". The mostly laidback first half of "Curiosity" is monotonous, but things get more interesting with the arrival of a dissonant interlude driven by a growing violin maelstrom; the build-up predictably leads into full-on metal bombast, but at the very end the some creative riffing is thrown in, making the whole track quite worthwhile overall. The first several minutes of "The Antique" are a bit disheartening as well, although it picks up a bunch of cool riffs as it drags onwards lazily; eventually, a guitar solo leads into a dynamic metal onslaught, before the band eases into a soft outro section; despite it's optimistic appearance, the gentle vocals have a very haunting quality to them, making it a very effective way to end the album.

All in all, "Choirs of the Eye" is a decent effort. It doesn't really inspire me check out their new opus, and I won't recommend it to those seeking something particularly experimental, but it's worth a spin or two.

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Send comments to Pafnutij (BETA) | Report this review (#73657)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Kayo Dot was born out of the ashes of the now defunct Maudlin of the Well. The difference between Kayo Dot and Maudlin of the Well is that Kayo is a lot more experimental, a lot more avant-garde, and a lot more out there. The man behind the two projects is Toby Driver (guitar/vocals). His compositional skills are quite breathtaking and he can really make dissonance sound like brilliance. Not to say the rest of the band don't add to the atmosphere. There is swirling violins courtesy of Mia Matsumia, majestic trumpet from Benjie Messer and Adam Scott, to the sparse drumming of Sam Gutterman. Their debut album, Choirs of the Eye, is a very orchestrated and multi-layered effort, as opposed to the more earthly Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue. Regardless, though, Kayo Dot is making music that challenges the mind and keeps the listener on their proverbial toes, as you never know what direction they may take. Throughout the 55 minutes of music, the listener is taken through many different avenues of musical thought. From quiet, somber, and melodic sections to dissonant, heavy, and intense sections, this album has it all.

Marathon opens the album with some dissonant chords and some powerful drumming. A voice that sounds like it's coming from a loudspeaker plays over the chaos. A somber trumpet plays over some sullen guitar chords before increasingly heavy and dissonant guitars mold with some distorted screeching vocals, before turning into a claustrophobic screaming nightmare. That makes up for the first half of the song. The second half is a more somber section dominated by baritone guitars and wavy keyboard lines. A great way to open the album showing how dynamic the group can be. A Pitcher of Summer begins with some sharp guitar chords and a nice little single note motif. Gentle vocals from Driver meet with the gentle drumming and the steady bass line and the post rock feeling is enormous until the guitars increase in intensity while the vocals still maintain that gentle edge. Some great unison vocals between Driver and a female vocalist really finish the song off well.

The Manifold Curiosity is next, and it carries on that feeling of post rock meets metal. Some great clarinet works frighteningly well with the distorted guitars. Some gentle acoustic guitars and vocals round out the next few minutes, and the song continues to expand and change in mood and feel. Going from nervous, intense, and hectic, to quiet, somber, and delicate, this song has it all within the 14 minute timeframe. Kudos to the trumpeters on this track, giving tremendous performances along with the clarinetist. Wayfarer begins with mellow acoustic guitars and more gentle vocals from Toby Driver. Some melodic violin plays melancholic lines while Driver whales away and gives a very emotional vocal performance (which reminds me a bit of Sigur Ros). The track maintains that mellowness for the entire 10 minutes. The Antique is the longest piece on the album, clocking in at 14:41, and it ends the album in a similar fashion to the rest of the album. A quiet intro gives way to a heavy middle section and a mixed ending of heavy and light to create a perfect closing section.

In the end, Kayo Dot's debut is a varied mixture of heavy and light sections. The thing that binds it all together is the incredible musicianship and the diversity between the elements of the band. The musicians are able to seamlessly switch from section to section with ease and make it sound logical and not forced. Unfortunately, the only thing that really brings the album down is that the songs follow a similar structure of quiet intros into heavy distorted sections of pure dissonance. Overall, though, there is enough to like about this album to give it a solid 4/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#81682)
Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
chamberry
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Kayo Dot. One of those new prog bands out there today, but alot more different... Out with the repetitions. Out with retro prog and thier clones and say hello to the unique world that is Avant-garde music. Strange, dark, beautiful, wierd and abstract are the words I mostly use when I talk about Kayo Dot and at times it isn't enough. It's kind of hard to explain in words, but that's why I'm here and that's what I'll be trying to do in the next few minutes.

First of all, let me start by saying that even if they are in the Prog metal genre they clearly are more Avant-garde than other prog metal bands. Led by some maudlin of the Well members and other more people along the way. Toby Driver has clearly becomed more matured in his songwritting since maudlin of the Well disbanded, but it still carries some resemblance to maudlin of the Well.

The first time I heard them I was left with my mouth open and very disoriented. I didn't knew what to think. Was it bad? was it good? Did they ever repeated a single rift? Man, this is hard stuff to swallow. The second time I heard them I became more interested in their music, but still didn't feel like I understood completly what they were trying to do and I still thought that they never repeated a single rift! After some more listens and getting more used to their sound I actually liked the abstract feel to their sound and the mix between metal and post-rock and yet not sounding clearly like both was a very interesting thing for me. I've heard previous Avant-garde bands and I appreciated them far more easily than this one even if we're talking about one of the hardest genres to get into.

Indeed this is an aquired taste and clearly not for casual prog listeners. This band can make dissonant sounds into art. They can go from ambient like post-rock to full blown distortion guitar, screaming vocals and just plain noisy and done with such a finess that its mindbogling. They use every instrument they play very well and it all makes part of the strange heavy, dark and gentle atmosphere. The vocal parts doesn't have chorus or hooks you can sing to. There are other parts that are poems and Toby Driver recites them in a very soft voice like in The Manifold Curiosity.

Overall, this is a masterpiece of progressive music from start to finish. Not ment to be for everyone for the complex and very difficult nature of the music, but if you're willing to give this album a try, be sure to pay a lot of attention to it and don't give up if the first, second or third listen is too much or too hard for you.

And thus I'll leave you with a frase that helped me alot in understanding Kayo Dots music, I'm sure it'll be helpful for others too: It's not about "getting it" ; it's more about "feeling it"

5/5 A masterpiece of progressive music

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Send comments to chamberry (BETA) | Report this review (#82256)
Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first read upon Kayo Dot I knew I was going to hear some odds things, some new things and some more odd things. But after I got my hands on this disc my expectations were blown away and scattered into ashes. This wasn't odd at all, this was goddamn bizarre. Kayo Dot managed to merge some styles in music which were rarely if never merged before. Prog / Death Metal / Grindcore / Post-Rock / Free Jazz / Classical Music are all merged into one, thus explaining the avant-garde tags this band often gets.

Kayo Dot is a 7-piece band that consists of 3 guitarists, a drummer, a bassist, a violin player and a trumpeter and most of these people play some other instruments on the albums as well! Toby Driver is the main man behind the band. So far as I know he is the main song-writer, one of the guitarists and the main vocalist. His vocals are very impressive, as they go from Jeff Buckley-esque notes to extreme napalm death-like grindcore screaming. The rest of the band is very impressive as well, everyone knows how to play their instruments and they are virtuosi by any means. They never really show it of though which is a plus point as well because the end product isn't some musical wankfest about overlong guitar solos and drum solos but a whole, where everyone is equal and all things fall in place. Another thing that I would like to tell about the band is that they are actually the same band as Maudlin of the Well. There are lot's of the same members but they changed their name and some members thus creating Kayo Dot. You can of course definitely hear the resemblance between the 2 bands but with Choirs of the eye the band went into a completely different direction. And although the 2 final Maudlin albums are some of the best albums I have ever heard and are both in my top 10 albums of all time this new direction is even better than the old.

The album contains 5 songs and spans for almost 60 minutes. There are 2 extreme songs with hardly any understandable structure at all, 2 songs that are a little shorter and mellower and 1 completing masterpiece which sums up this entire album in one song. The music is very free and is never bound to any conventions. Although they never use the same riffs and almost never repeat a part they manage to completely combine everything into 1 piece of music with quite some spectacular build-ups throughout the songs.

I'll take the album's masterpiece "The Manifold Curiosity" as an example. The song starts of with some great melodies. There are a lot of different instruments playing at the same time and they make some of the most beautiful sounds ever, seriously ever! The melodies are completely interwoven and compliment each other perfectly. 1,5 minutes into the song comes this acoustic guitar riff which sounds a lot like something Maudlin would do. A sound comes that looks like Toby just grabbed a piece of paper and reads you the title. Then the vocals enter the song; they are much distorted and they are many effects on them so you can barely hear what he's saying. Almost 5 minutes into the song it burst into a wave of never-ending melodies and a solo that sounds like a flute. It's probably the most beautiful thing on the entire disc. The melodies are somewhat similar to the opening ones yet fuller and better. A good 7 minutes into the song the vocals come in again yet now it's a spoken word section. The effects on the vocals are again so powerful that he is hardly understandable. After a couple of minutes the melodies return and this time even more interwoven as before. 10:30 into the song the metal riff enters and the soloing starts. They weird thing is that it can't even be called a solo since every instrument is soloing at the same time. It's more like a septet all doing stuff at once that doesn't really make sense but makes sense all at once. This controlled chaos eventually turns into some extreme grind where Toby screams his lungs off going at immense speed. A weird bass line takes the entire chaos by force and the death metal riff comes in ending the song all of a sudden at 14:30.

Weird stuff like that constantly happens on this album, and they are never predictable as each section sounds very different. Every song has is own feel and you can listen to it over and over again. A few days ago and after listening to it way over 50 times I declared this masterpiece as my number 1 album of all time beating Tool's opus Lateralus. Highly recommended for very open-minded people.

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Send comments to Jochem (BETA) | Report this review (#93063)
Posted Monday, October 02, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye,

First, I must say that I bought maudlin of the Well - Bath, Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye, Kayo Dot - Dowsing Anemone With a Copper Tongue recently and decided to review all these three albums at the same time. I bought Bath a week earlier than the Kayo Dots. I will compare the three albums during the review a lot, so try not to let that bother too much. I’m trying to figure out the key for this amazingly evolving music. For these three reviews I got an idea to write down my thoughts and opinions about the albums during the time I listen these albums and section my experiences into parts. So, I decided to give four weeks of listening time hoping it would be enough. I will start this review with a section, where I comment about the albums in four parts. So a week of listening and some thoughts about that experience written in that particular week. I hope I made it clear enough. This paragraph can be found in all the three reviews.

The experience table,

--- First week:

I actually took a step into Kayo Dot’s world some time ago before owning this album. I listened the three songs offered in their official home page: ’Marathon’, ’The Manifold Curiosity’, and ’Wayfarer’. The songs are very good, and the two remaining songs seem to be good as well. The step from maudlin to this record is quite big. The psychedelic feeling can be found in this piece, but much stronger than in Bath. The songs are very hard to listen, but I really enjoy the relaxing moment when this CD starts to roll. The first week brought new insights to the pre-heard triplet, and introduced me rather well into the remaining two. I really like this album.

Second Week:

I enjoy the songs, though they are rather hard to listen. I find it much easier to start listening this album than ’Dowsing...’. The difference between the Kayo Dots isn’t that large than between Bath and this record. I really have an desire to listen the maudlin album in the between. The songs are opening to me slowly, I’ve listened the album quite much during this second week. I have high hopes for the upcoming third week.

Third week:

In the beginning of the week I listened the album much, but then I took a little break. The three weeks of listening mainly the three albums has been very nice to this point. ’Marathon’, ’The Manifold Curiosity’ and ’Wayfarer’ are great songs. ’A Pitcher of Summer’ is good, and ’The Antique’ is marvellous. Not even one song that is bad. Though, if there was, it would mean that 20% of the album is bad. There are some parts that can sound rather boring, but the songs need attention and they must be listened with thought. Hard, but marvellous music.

Fourth week:

My listening period is over, and for this record, the four weeks was enough to make a firm decision. All the songs are the best songs in the album. Really, they are all great. Three masterpieces: ’The Manifold Curiosity’, ’Wayfarer’ and ’The Antique’. Unbelievable stuff, just marvellous. It is hard to say something else. ---

Five songs, five really strong songs make this album a masterpiece. Sensational beginning with ’Marathon’ and the psychic speaking voice. Continuing to ’A Pitcher of Summer’, the shortest track, but not the worst. There is no worst song in the album, they all are the best. Still, the three kings awaits, the last three songs really are brilliant music with excellent spices from all around the world. This album has everything: Death-metal, jazz, psychedelic stuff, prog, some classical influences, and I even found a connection to Japanese traditional music. Long, or short meditational pauses, breaks are important in Japanese music. The thinking, the meditation, the feeling is very important. This album has that kind of spirit in it with a psychedelic flavour. I really can’t describe the album the way that would cover all of its brilliancy. You must get this album to yourself and listen the masterpiece. The music is tough, but rewarding to listen. I give a five out of five, a masterpiece of progressive music.

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Send comments to The Squirrel (BETA) | Report this review (#94618)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Wizard
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Choirs of the Eye is an album that will be regarded as a masterpiece of experimental rock in years to come. This are more than just another post rock or prog metal album. It transcends any real musical genre other than the open ended experimental or progressive. Song structures, because of their abstract nature and unpredictability, make this a very difficult album. But that is part of the beauty of this album. You never know where each song is going to take you, except you know it's going to be one strange trip.

The music of Kayo Dot often jumps from atmospheric, classical influenced ambient pieces to intense trash metal attacks, with vocalist Toby Diver screaming violently but with an exotic atmosphere still maintained. Mind that there is no 'soft/loud, soft/loud' pattern being followed, something that many post-rock bands are guilty of. Kayo Dot somehow make their heavy assault part of the bizarre ambiance. Not a single note it wasted though, every noise and guitar strum adds something to the music.

Instruments like trumpets, french horns, violins, and cellos, as well as minimalistic guitar strumming and bizarre electronic noises are used to create ambiance. Often there are large spaces in the music but it never gets boring. Comparisons to Godspeed You! Black Emperor will often pop up and it makes sense. They are very similar bands, but I feel that Kayo do what GY!BE do much more effective. Kayo Dot depends less on pure atmosphere and more on the intricate musical interplay. Often the music takes on a very dark and even apocalyptic feel also, but Kayo Dot do this more effectively too.

Toby Diver's vocal style is very bizarre, varying from mumbling to spoken word poetry to screaming bloody murder at the top of his lungs. Sometimes it sounds like he's chanting in some satanic tongue. He is anything but a conventional vocalist, with influences from Mike Patton very apparent. Sam Gutterman, drummer, does an amazing job at holding the music together. At one point he will be simply tapping the cymbal and at another he will be bashing it is with chaotic power, powering a violent noise assault on the listener.

To respect the masterpiece that is Choirs of the Eye you have to be very open minded not only to metal but to post rock, ambient music, and experimental music in general. At times the music will be too intense and dangerous for the average ambient fan, and too experimental for the average metal fan. There is no doubt that this is an inaccessible album that will take more than one listen to click. It's nothing like the prog music that made the charts in the 70's either, but it's definitely progressive music in the true sense of the word. I pretty much urge any music fans looking for an interesting and intense musical journey to check this album out. There's is no doubt that it's a masterpiece of experimental music.

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Send comments to The Wizard (BETA) | Report this review (#115398)
Posted Friday, March 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Kayo Dot's Choirs of the Eye is proving to be one of the most difficult albums to rate. At times this is childish chaotic nonsense with very little substance and revolting screaming vocals. At other times, it is brilliantly composed classical ambient music that moves the listening and buries him deep in swampy atmospheres. It was a long time before I realized that the chaotic segments of this album were all parts of the puzzle, and when assembled, the picture is obscure and dark, but the pieces fit surprisingly.

Musicianship is not a high point on this album, but neither is it a low one. It's not a point at all. The compositions are so dramatically unique that it hardly requires any musicianship to be played - and the result is not at all disappointing. The result is a post-rock album, with very little traces of metal.

Kayo Dot unleashes their stunningly large arsenal of instruments (and abstract sounds), each creating its own layer. The sum of these layers is a gloomy, foreboding, thundering, sinister, and (in all honesty) moving album. Chaos can be turned into something genuinely unique, and this album is proof. It's touching, yet scary. Kayo Dot managed to invent an emotion.

One of the few problems I have with this album is the vocals. I've already mentioned that the screaming vocals are only a layer in the brief chaotic segments (and don't appear elsewhere), but there are some vocals that are simply spoken word. They work well on Marathon until the instruments drop out. The way the words are said is very, dare I say, emo. I hate the word, I recognize that it is not being used in proper context, but there is no other way I can describe them with an attached meaning. (You can see what I mean by listening to the sample track "The Manifold of Curiosity" on progarchives.) Thankfully, this form of vocals only appear on Marathon and (very briefly) on The Manifold of Curiosity.

A Pitcher of Summer is a very nice song, but not devoid of chaos. It's the closest thing that Choirs of the Eye comes to being pop or rock. And it's very good pop/rock, and still does have the Kayo Dot touch: odd layers, ambient soundscapes, and a pinch of chaos. Wayfarer, my personal favourite track, is the song that flows smoothest from meditative, contemplative classical music, to chaotic instrumental dissonance. All the tracks are distinguishable - which is something not too common with music like this. This is just more evidence of why this album is fantastic.

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Send comments to Shakespeare (BETA) | Report this review (#123420)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars

This is a very good example of an abstract experimental/post-rock music and maybe some progressive metal influences sometime. For sure they cannot be blame of copying some other bands because their sound is very original and transcendent. However I would like to point out King Crimson as their main influence especially when talking about the way they approach the composition style. The music is very weird, strange and dark but also atmospheric or jazzy. I'm not really sure that this album should be considered as progressive metal. I think the music from this album is more or on experimental/post-rock genre mostly. They recorded this one under Tzadik label which produces more experimental and avant-garde bands/artists.

This is that kind of music which needs attention and maybe several spins to get into it. Four out of five songs are longer than 10 minutes and two of them are even longer than 14 minutes. I cannot mention one good song or a bad one because when talking about this kind of music is really hard to think and split the album in songs in a traditional way. The focus is more on instrumental part and less on the classical album structure I would say. Maybe the length of the songs is a little bit too long if I'm thinking about the amount of musical information transferred.

I don't think that this one will be easily swallowed by everybody but fans of experimental genre will be delighted almost sure. Let's say 3.5 stars but think about 4 if you like the above mentioned musical genre.

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Send comments to petrica (BETA) | Report this review (#124360)
Posted Saturday, June 02, 2007 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Pleasantly chaotic.

I often find myself assimilating this album to the mid 70's King Crimson work, when the band operated with a system of controlled chaos. Much of the same can be found in the ebbs and flows of Choirs of the Eye. This is quite a jump for the band, moving from MotW material to a much more finer and artistic purpose with Kayo Dot. Some of the rough spots found in MotW material has been replaced here by a keen understanding of structure, without being structured.

A disclaimer before listening to this album would be to be open-minded. There is little in terms of building melodies except for spots here and there, and the vocal work is a bit unusual, but it fits perfectly with the mood and feeling of the music. I am often amazed at how in touch Toby Driver is with the music, especially at such a young age, to gain as much understanding of composition as he already possesses.

Personal favorites here are the long tracks, The Manifold Curiosity and The Antique. To date, The Manifold Curiosity is my favorite piece by Driver/Matsumiya, an absolutely gorgeous piece of music that shows the many changes the band has made in their shift of sound out of the MotW era. It reminds me quite a bit of Starless by KC, but with an extra, even more chaotic ending here. I would recommend that any serious listener of prog music give this specific track a try, as you will find yourself learning new things on your journey through the track again and again.

In summation, if you are looking for a challenging album that will test your nerves, soothe you with calm passages, and shock you with waves of riffs, you can be sure that Choirs of the Eye will deliver. A band that has few equals and a gathering crowd of followers and believers.

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Send comments to OpethGuitarist (BETA) | Report this review (#125859)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars GOOD AVANT/POST-ROCK

I find this, the 1st release of the band, more enjoyable than their second output Dowsing Anemone...Although Choirs Of The Eye is a very odd album i think is a bit more accesible and flows nicely in an obvious Post-Rock feeling, with, as i said before, a few chaotic moments in their already stablished style with former act Maudlin Of The Well, but less metal oriented.

For those unfamiliar with these bands, i can tell you that the Prog Metal tag could be a little tricky, don´t expect anything like DT or Symphony X, instead try to imagine Sigur Ros with a bit of King Crimson´s crazy jamming and a jazzy touch with the use of many unusual instruments in Prog metal genre like clarinet, trumpet, sax, flute, violin, etc.,and of course some heavy riffs, but just a few.

The result is a intresting 'Avant/Post Rock' hybrid, very original,yes, but challenging to the ear at times and very pleasant and atmospheric at some moments. I have to tell you that i had difficult times the first listenings, specially with the screaming sections, but now i can say that i enjoy it, not like my fave albums, but when i´m in the mood i can have good moments with it.

The tracks i like the most are "A Pitcher Of Summer",the shortest but very nice song, "Wayfarer" and "The Antique" which closes the album in an extreme way, with heavyness and smoothness. After all a good CD that could fasinate fans of odd music, but at the same time, will be very hard to please the average Proghead, for that reason i´m giving it 3 stars.

Viva el Prog!

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Send comments to FranMuzak (BETA) | Report this review (#130740)
Posted Sunday, July 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like the sound you hear before the plane crashes.

Like floating through a dark thunderstorm cloud, or surfing waves of grey ash. Pure hell. Pure beauty. I've read reviews calling this noisy, aimless drudgery. I've read reviews calling it absolutely sonic beauty. Yes. And Yes.

"Choirs of the Eye" is an album to experience after years of more conventional listening when you really crave something unique and different. The next step of Toby Driver's evolution (after Maudlin of the Well) Kayo is so many things and must be allowed many plays over a period of months to be absorbed properly. It will require patience and perseverance for some. It is at times harsh, abrasive, obnoxious, and disturbing. Other times it is distant, calm, and meditative. I need to be in a certain mood to enjoy listening to it but when I am, it is exhilarating.

"Marathon" We begin with something that sounds more like avant space rock than metal with our grey ambient landscape being laid out before us. Occasionally we are hit with the sound sledge hammer, the wall of distorted guitars and other instruments which Driver uses with complete effectiveness. This song is almost preparation work for the journey that will soon follow. The majority of the track is calming as he tries to get you to open your mind and really listen, though the threat of the aural violence is never far away. Electronics and spoken words augment the hypnotic cloud and by the end you are ready for the roller coaster to follow.

"A Pitcher of Summer" The shortest track begins just like an old Cat Power song with a fragile lilting vocal against clean guitar in search of a melody. The bus eventually hits us as we're crushed by the big guitars and brass and the vocal builds to a desperate end scream.

"The Manifold Curiosity" Layered electric guitars see-saw back and forth in conversation with a clarinet in the lovely first section. Then an acoustic begins strumming with mumbled vocals and spacey electronics in the background. It builds until the perfect moment when a hint of feedback signals the wave crashing down again into a wall of distortion. Eventually you can hear the Sax trying to swim through the rough waters. And all of this in just the first half! The second half begins with moody guitar that recalls Durutti Column. Strange spoken word voices come in along with gorgeous violin floating to the fore. Finally all succumb again to a most furious climax.

"Wayfarer" Gentle acoustic guitar and strings begin to pull you under the water until Driver's naked falsetto begins around 2 minutes in. Around 4 minutes there is a crescendo and things get very chaotic and loud briefly. It ends as it began with the simple acoustic.

"The Antique" Discordant alien guitar chords strummed casually for a few minutes until bass and drums step in. Slowly the chords begin to find form as they crawl out of the shadows and gain power. Growls and screams. Soundtrack of a nightmare. Finally a guitar solo tries and fails to cut through. Then, near the 10 minute mark the clouds part and the sun (piano) breaks through. A stoic trumpet appears. Fragile, unpleasant vocalizations lead to a rather unremarkable ending. But I agree with OpethGuitarist that this track and TMC are the two masterpiece songs and together they encompass more than half the album.

Love or hate Driver's vision, "Choirs" is another triumph for the adventurous listener. Just don't judge this album until you've spun it at least a dozen times in different situations. It requires thought and consideration. It is not entertainment fluff to bob your head to, it is music that wants to challenge you and change your perceptions.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#139045)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I really don't know what to say about this record, other than that it is one of the most beautiful, intense, visceral and creative albums I've ever heard. Appealing to both the mind and the soul, Choirs of the Eye is a must for listeners of all backgrounds. It features avant-garde arrangements, symphonic instrumentation, death metal outburts, and lush post-rock/metal atmospheres & dynamics. Everything just comes together so perfectly on this disc that it's simply mesmerizing and ineffable. "The Manifold Curiosity" has got to be one of the best pieces of music to be realized in the history of music, but that's not to say that the other tracks aren't close behind. "Marathon" is a tense opener, heavy, gripping first half, soft, enveloping second half; "A Pitcher of Summer" is a beautiful piece that gradually and almost unnoticeably slips into a bone-crushing close; "Wayfarer" is another beautiful one, very textural; "The Antique" closes the album with a little bit of everything, and man is it beautiful. I'm using the word "beautiful" to describe this one a lot. Frankly, I can't think of a better word to describe it. It's not your typical beauty, though. Again, very hard to describe - you must expereince it yourself to understand - but it can be nothing other than beauty. Despite prominent abstraction and dissonance, there is never a lack of feeling involved. Make no mistake, the root of this material is not cerebral, but emotional. Man, I can't get over how powerful this album is!

Choirs of the Eye is a musical landmark that must be heard by everyone. Some may not connect with it, but no one should miss the chance to try. The brilliance is unarguable. Thought and feeling is put into every note. It's simply amazing.

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Send comments to Moatilliatta (BETA) | Report this review (#150883)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hooray for Kayo Dot. I have been struggling to come to grips with this album for almost two years now and, well thats an obnoxiously long time. However, i think the complexity and depth of the music is, as the music is, so intense and ever changing that it took that long to fully understand what i was hearing. And what do i hear? Jazz, folk, the violent explosion of metal, electronics . . . all present. But above all is beauty. Majesty. The ebb and flow of musical tides. Dangerously violent cacophonies of sound threaten to drown us, threaten to pull you under and give up. Untill driver pulls the plug, allows the music to flow down, ebb away, and float into gorgeous sonic atmospheres. Delicate guitars, ethereal horns and brass, spoken word. Toby Driver has created the musical equivalent of a Jackson Pollack painting. People call it "pointless drudgery", "aimless", "childish" and they are all right at times. The music can be close to painful in the noise it creates, and some of the compositions are aimless and noisy. but people are also right in saying that Kayo Dot is visionary, brilliant, and exhilarating. Driver aims the groups musical cannon at the canvas and out explodes horns, guitar, voice, the jaggedness of metal and all those elements mentioned earlier; out this cannon comes crafted layers of sonic paint. Choirs is truly an adventure. please dont give up before you've had the chance to properly explore the sound scape. it may take 2 years, it make take less, it may take a lifetime (i wouldnt suggest that, its clearly not a healthy choice) but given time this album grows lush and beautiful. Its challenging music, and almost the masterpiece it intends to be.

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Send comments to keiser willhelm (BETA) | Report this review (#155128)
Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Those people who appreciate Toby Driver's talent can be divided into two main groups: motW fans and KD aficionados. I must confess, I like maudlin of the Well much more and I miss those days and their fantastic music. KAYO DOT takes me somewhere beyond, it's definitely far more experimental, avantgarde, progressive, challenging, bla-bla-bla, but with these experimentations Toby sometimes misses the very thing essential in Music: the Music itself. Art for Art's sake had never been a good and enjoyable thing but rather an experiment with audience or a desire to shock. Five long tracks, atmospheric, nervous, heavy, worrying, emotional and sometimes simply sick, ranging from acoustic guitar ballad to drone noise, but with these details (for proggers to admire and proclaim Toby as the new avant messiah) the whole thing is still missing. So, KAYO DOT is hard to recommend; I've grown to LIKE this album (to some extent), but still find it to be less superior to 'Dowsing...'. Some tracks are good, some parts are amazing, but some aren't, and this is natural to have such opinion about the thing which is SO eclectic. 3.5 stars and...yes, recommended. But beware and don't expect ANYTHING before you listen to it with your own ears

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#157298)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Kayo Dot's not got a lot of what a lot thought they were taught all music has got

Kayo Dot's first album was released in 2003, the band arising from the remains of Maudlin of the Well. It should be said up-front that this is not an album, or indeed a band, for the feint of heart. Kayo Dot do not offer catchy melodies, virtuoso soloing, or memorable passages as such. The band's music is rooted firmly in such styles as jazz and ambient, with the occasional hint of post rock and metal.

Marathon, which opens the album, delivers pretty much all these styles within the first few minutes, the crashing guitars and growled vocals quickly alternating with ambient mood sounds and mumbled spoken word. At a shade over 10 minutes, this turns out to be one of the shorter tracks, the following A Pitcher of Summer being the shortest, and indeed the most accessible (relatively speaking).

Manifold curiosity features what appears to be poorly balanced vocals and acoustic guitar. As it turns out the vocals are deliberately distorted, but for me the sound is irritating rather than appealing. This is quickly addressed though, as the slow pounding guitars of a post rock sound take over. This is overlaid by what sounds like a plethora of other instruments adding random layers. Later, the track features some almost symphonic violin and further mumblings.

Wayfarer begins as a melancholy violin and vocal duet, still devoid of any great melody, but aligning with some of Peter Hammill's more delicate moments. The track as a whole remains understated, and for me is the most enjoyable piece here.

The album closes with the longest track, The antique, which reverts to the crashing post rock and metal sounds. The atmosphere here is by far the loosest on the album, although I hesitate to describe the style as remotely jazz. Once again we have violin, but this time accompanying some uncontrolled grunts and screams. Hence we have the two ends of the spectrum in consecutive positions, as this is by far the least enjoyable number.

While this album contains music which is not of the type I would normally enjoy, there is plenty to appreciate. There is no doubt that the music is immensely challenging, and that some tracks work better than others. On balance though, there is enough here to make this a worthwhile listen, even for non-devotees like myself.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#160124)
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rating: A+ (10.0)

There are always people willing to, at whatever point, give up on music, saying there's nothing new to be done. Thankfully, they are wrong, gloriously, rapturously wrong. To such people, a band like Kayo Dot must come as a real slap in the face, such is the depth of their innovation. Whereas Toby Driver's previous band, Maudlin of the Well, had made waves for their mix of post-rock and death metal, finding a niche that was neither post-rock nor death metal, nor even post-metal, but something that lay somewhere between the three, Kayo Dot is making waves for loose songs that are nevertheless very compositionally tight. They mix jazz, metal, classical, post-rock, and avant-garde (and more, I'm sure) effortlessly into a single mixture that doesn't really sound like any of them.

So what does it sound like? Well, it sounds like beauty. At least, it does on Choirs of the Eye (Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue is a far uglier CD, though still beautiful in its own right). It's hard to put into words what I mean by "it sounds like beauty" - all I can really say is everything on the CD, whatever musical style it may encompass, seems to be working towards the goal of creating beauty. Suffice it to say, it succeeds. Flawlessly. While not necessarily always conventionally beautiful, even the heaviest moments are beautiful (such as the closing thirty seconds of "The Manifold Curiousity," which is an abstractly heavy and dirty metal riff). Then, of course, there are the conventionally beautiful moments, such as the opening four minutes of both "The Manifold Curiosity" and "Wayfarer," which make my jaw drop every time. There's really nothing quite like them (bringing us back around to the point that Kayo Dot are true innovators in the modern musical landscape).

Despite the abstract nature of my description of Kayo Dot's sound, there are some recognizable aspects that should help the listener wrap his (or her) mind around this monumental CD. While the actual genres played vary, most of the songs can somewhat be associated to post-rock in that they build to one or more climaxes over their (generally long) durations. Take, for example, "The Manifold Curiosity" (my favorite from Choirs of the Eye), which starts out softly, builds a ways, then seems to let up before finally exploding in a mind-boggling climax where it seems that everything happens at once and yet does not sound cluttered in the slightest. After that, it's time to work our way back up to the closing riff, which truly puts the final touch on what was already a masterpiece of a song. Of course, the songs are not formulaic; "Marathon" actually opens the CD loudly, then slowly deconstructs until we are left only with a spoken poem. "The Antique," the most consistently heavy on the CD, spends seven minutes building to a climax, then spends the remaining time winding down Choirs of the Eye, taking it out on a calm, relaxing, and - you guess it - beautiful note.

All that's left to discuss is the often-overlooked "A Pitcher of Summer." Clocking in at just under six minutes, it's barely half as a long as the next shortest track, but it packs just as much of a punch as its four compatriots. With its beautiful (in the traditional sense) beginning, it slowly builds tension, then resolves it with the heavy but still traditionally beautiful close. Despite its length, it is not a conventional song; it is a full composition like the rest of the tracks. And, now that I've started going into detail about individual tracks, I cannot help but discuss the absolute masterpiece that is "The Manifold Curiosity." A piece like this comes about once in a lifetime. With soft acoustic guitar, swirling electronics, crazed vocals (especially at the end), and piercing violin, "The Manifold Curiosity" might well be my single favorite piece of music.

And, on that note, it must be said that Choirs of the Eye might well be my single favorite CD, at least for now. Whether it is or not, it is definitely many things. It is a masterpiece, it is the greatest CD of 2003, and it is absolutely flawless. Not many CDs can truly be called flawless, and most masterpieces have slight flaws at the very least, but not Choirs of the Eye. It is incredible from start to finish. While it may take a few months to "get" (as it did for me), once it clicks, it should quickly become a favorite, as it has for me. Essential by every criterion.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#161734)
Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Let me start off by saying that Choirs Of The Eye is unquestionably one of the 5 greatest albums i've ever heard. From the extreme dissonance halfway through Marathon to the spoken word poetry to end it. to the jazz/groove post rock song A Pitcher Of Summer A La Sigur Ros. it is perfect in every way. taking influence without being a direct rip off of anyone. pure brilliance.

10.0/10.0

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Send comments to shentile (BETA) | Report this review (#165540)
Posted Wednesday, April 02, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye

Kayo Dot: An intriguing band name which leads way to even more intriguing music, founded by ex-maudlin of the Well front man Toby Driver, Kayo Dot is--in their basest form--the evolution of this band. For the record, and before I go on, I will say that Kayo Dot's music is not exactly easy--if fact they are one of the most progressive modern bands I can think of--in terms of forward thinking as well as in terms of scope, writing, and evolution in sound (listen back to some Maudlin, then give this album a test and you should hear some pretty effective differences). Kayo Dot is, on this album at the very least, an Avant-Garde metal act comprised of many members, and their music shines with layers of intensity in different aspects--lots of experimentation, and more atmosphere than the galaxy itself can hold; this album has effectively become one of my favorite of all time. Call it what you will, and whether you like it, love it, or despise it; their unique style of music is one that I have heard little of anywhere else, and is also one that will undoubtedly define them as a band.

Now, the music:

Choirs of the Eye is comprised of only 5 long tracks--and when I say long, I mean long, with all but one clocking in at over 10 minutes; however, there is nothing within them that is not to be loved and absorbed. The album opener, "Marathon", catches your attention immediately with it's apocalyptic sounds and dissonant chords. This then builds into epic, heavy cacophony that leaves off with the first instance of amazing atmospheric sojourns on this album. It all works incredibly well and establishes a wonderful mood that's used throughout the album. That's basically their style on this release, truthfully--and while it may sound overly simplistic and not at all progressive, rest assured that it is. It just all pulls together cohesively, and their chord uses and songwriting choices are far from the norm. Indeed, Kayo Dot may be the most inventive users of dissonance I've ever heard...their chords are thick, and always sound dense and fully layered--likely because there are something near three people playing the chord simultaneously at any given time.

Each song is it's own minimal masterpiece, and when combined we are left with nothing but a gaping face thinking: this is what music is. We live for moments like the climax in A Pitcher of Summer or the spacey sounds used in The Manifold Curiosity. It all just clicked on this release--and it's something that you won't tire of as quickly as with other bands--it is music that develops inside of you, slowly planting its roots, just as it tangibly does.

In the end, Choirs of the Eye is, hands down--in my book, a masterpiece. The wide array of sounds present here keep me occupied and emotionally absorbed throughout--a huge feat, considering this album's slow pace and hour-long length.

So, in conclusion, I will say: anyone on this site who likes post-rock, apocalyptic, and extremely heavy metal such as Isis and Pelican--you should find something to love here. If you're more into spacey noodling of any sort, the avant-garde, or just has a desire to hear something new and peculiar--you are also at home here. Every living person deserves to give this album a chance, for it embodies what music is all about: a visceral, soulful, emotionally draining experience--all in a climatic and resounding way. You may not get into them on first listen or even the second third fourth....etc. But give them a chance, for it is well worth it, and there is lots to love in Kayo Dot, if only proper time is involved. After all, art can/should (at times) be challenging correct?

Hands down, 5 stars.

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Send comments to Figglesnout (BETA) | Report this review (#170939)
Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
sleeper
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars By 2003 it had become clear to Toby Driver that the premise of maudlin of the Well, creating music through Astral Projection, had been pushed as far as it could go and further albums would only serve to cover the same musical ground. So maudlin of the Well was dissolved and Toby Driver lead half the band on to form this group, Kayo Dot. Some people have said that Kayo Dot is a logical progression of maudlin of the Well's music but I don't see that as the case, maudlin of the Well were a metal band with avant guard tendencies, but still primarily rooted in metal, but here on Choirs of the Eye a large leap of faith has been made by the band to produce an avant guard album that blends metal with jazz, classical and the odd hint of post-rock (though nowhere near as much as some people would have you believe) and incorporated that into a framework that's both composed but also feels part improvised, dissonant but making plentiful use of harmony.

The opening song, Marathon, demonstrates this perfectly, with a crashing, dissonant intro that signals the beginning of something special in no uncertain terms. This assaults you for a few minuets before dissolving back into a much more gentle tune that leads out the song. A Pitcher of Summer seems to work in the opposite way, starting off very quite with just the acoustic guitars and Toby's singing before quickly building into a musical crash of brilliant proportions. Its amazing how much can be shoe-horned into such a short song and have it all work so very well. The centre piece of the album, The Manifold Curiosity, ranks as one of my all time favourite compositions from any band, and still holds as my favourite Kayo Dot piece. The reason? It flows magnificently reaching three climaxes in its 14:30 through different routs, first having all the band playing a very melodic, fairly heavy tune that grows in strength before its culmination and falling away to become a sole acoustic guitar, this time building up much slower and adding a touch of the dissonance that has been very prominent so far on the album. After this second climax the violin of Mia Matsumiya leads the final build, joined by the as usual excellent guitar work (cant work out whether its Toby Driver or Greg Massi here, but they're both excellent anyway), and the band works to just increase the raw power exponentially creating an almighty ending. It actually reminds me of King Crimsons Starless with the way it just builds up for 4-5 minutes but with a far more effective explosion at the end, and the last time the Death metal semblance will come into Kayo Dot (so far).

By now, more than half way through the album, it has become clear that their is another distinction between maudlin of the Well and Kayo Dot, the complete lack of the characteristic jaw dropping solo's of Greg Massi, though that's not to say this album is devoid of solo's, their just more subtle than before. This will come as a big surprise to anyone finding Kayo Dot after maudlin of the Well, as I did, but you quickly get over it in finding that the band use their technical expertise in a different way, to build textures and harmonies similar to the post-rock/metal bands but coming at it from a very different angle. I could go on rambling about the last two songs on here but I don't want to add another 1000 words to this review so I'll just say that Wayfarer and The Antique use the first techniques and styles as the first three songs but arrange them unique ways, to create five unique compositions that have helped to build up an amazing album. This is at once compositionally more complex and experimental than Bath/Leaving Your Body Map but doesn't get their by forsaking melody and harmony, despite a penchant for dissonance, and maintains a distinct level of emotion to the music that is at once noticeable. An absolute must have album, 5 stars and amongst my top 5 all time favourite albums.

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Send comments to sleeper (BETA) | Report this review (#172614)
Posted Friday, May 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Kayo Dot - 'Choirs of the Eye' 5 stars

Kayo Dot is the project started by former members of progressive metal band Maudlin of the Well, with Toby Driver being the main composer once again. Toby Driver's musical vision with this project is merging classical music with many jazz influences, avant-garde touches with elements of minimalism and post-rock. The music is heavily structured, but comes off completely opposite, as the record feels relaxing and chaotic multiple times even in songs and doesn't sound like a tight 'jam-band'.

The album opens up with Toby Driver's trademark dissonant guitar which he can make sound beautiful and a pounding of the drum kit by Sam Gutterman, instantly Toby adds his screaming vocals that are reminiscent of the hardcore genre. This is potent through the first half of the track with a saxophone placed in between some of the most brutal sections showing a sharp contrast in mood. The second half is a smoother one with some atmospheric guitar and keyboards. A track that can describe this band quite well.

'A Pitcher of Summer' is a personal favorite because of the context of the song. I can certainly get the image of this song and what it is trying to convey. The track is driven by Toby's vocals and some beautiful single note leads by his guitar. The drumming is laid back as well working likewise with the guitar. The ensemble gets gradually louder into the chorus which is the best part, giving me the portrayal of a calm relaxing summer day. The random breaks of the harsh dissonance give this song an occasional jump or two.

'The Manifold Curiosity' is the most progressive song on the disc. There are so many variations in this 14 minute piece that it is bothersome to count. This track ends especially well, when the track begins to run out of seconds, a heavy section comes in the really shows Drivers ability to play the guitar quite unconventionally.

'The Wayfarer' is possibly the best track on the album. Another beautiful chorus lays the groundwork to the song, with a building up section before it and some chaos after it.

'The Antique' is hands down the heaviest track on the album. For nearly ten minutes the track is filled with high pitched screams, dissonant guitar and crashing drums like the first track. The piano finally gives an edge after the chaos, accompanied later by a cello and then a trumpet finalizing over both of them. Toby's passionate vocals whisper through and end the track beautifully.

After hearing an album like this, I can only remain silent; it is an experience, not something you can get across through words.

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Send comments to ProgBagel (BETA) | Report this review (#178255)
Posted Saturday, July 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars A pure Masterpiece. The best album EVER recorded!

There are 3 gods in my prog music world: A mighty Pink Floyd, mysterious Tool and unique Porcupine Tree. I'm exploring these bands (and also many others) for over years and years, but i wasn't expected that there will be one album from the other band that I will fall in love so much. Kayo Dot - 'Choirs Of The Eye' it's not only a music, it's a beautiful journey to the other world. Just put Your headphones, close Your eyes and get drown in music. A perfect mix of genres like Jazz, Classical, Ambient, Death Metal, Indie gives this album an unique atmosphere that you have never heard before. I'm not so good in English but i have to write this review. Get this as quick as You can and You wont be disappointed. 6+

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Send comments to Third Eye Traveller (BETA) | Report this review (#186683)
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The contrasting of heavy and light, the chaotic with the pastoral is not new, but KAYO DOT does it in a unique and refreshing way. I'm probably one of the few who listened to "Blue Lambecy Downwards" first then "Choirs Of The Eye". And while I liked what Toby did on his latest record, it's that contrast of styles on "Choirs Of The Eye" that makes it stand head and shoulders above it. That's a simplified analysis I know but "Choirs Of The Eye" is so dynamic and so full of surprises. It's one of those albums that is very pleasing whether it's during the atmospheric passages or the powerful sections.Very cool to see that John Zorn was the excecutive producer on this album.

"Marathon" opens with heavy outbursts that come and go then it settles as gentle trombone with acoustic guitar takes over. Flute comes in. Lots of atmosphere here. It kicks back in heavily 2 1/2 minutes in with growly vocals that are buried deep in the powerful sound.This is intense and chaotic. It settles again before 5 minutes with keys. Great dreamy sound 6 1/2 minutes in that continues as spoken words arrive after 9 minutes.This song contrasts beauty and brutality very well. "A Pitcher Of Summer" opens with acoustic guitars and vocals after a minute with a beat.The tempo shifts back and forth. It almost poppy before it turns heavy after 2 1/2 minutes. Great section ! A calm 3 1/2 minutes in is blown away before 4 minutes. "The Manifold Curiosity" is heavy but not overly so. Clarinet joins in. Acoustic guitar after 1 1/2 minutes. Spoken words after 2 minutes. It kicks in with horns before 5 minutes. Settles after 7 minutes and spoken words come in. Violin 8 1/2 minutes in. Here we go again 10 1/2 minutes in ! Vocals follow and are screaming but again they're fighting to be heard in the powerful sound. Big finish.

"Wayfarer" opens with gentle guitars before violin joins in. Female vocals before 2 minutes. It's building 4 minutes in. Great passage ! It settles 5 1/2 minutes in with spoken words. A change 6 minutes in as it becomes atmospheric with this dark undercurrent. Vocals join in. It kicks in after 8 minutes with some ripping guitar. Nice. Then it calms right down as female vocals return. "The Antique" opens with guitar sounds that come and go. It's getting heavier 3 1/2 minutes in and building. Growly vocals after 7 minutes fight to be heard. The guitar then lights it up. Intense 8 1/2 minutes in then it relaxes briefly. It does settle down before 10 minutes as keys then trumpet come in. Vocals after 11 minutes in an emotional finish.

One of the strengths of this album is it's ability to change my mood throughout. At times I feel like i'm bracing myself for the onslaught of heaviness while at other times i'm lost in a peaceful place it has taken me to. There are many moods though. Not quite a 5 star record for me yet. 4.5 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#210777)
Posted Wednesday, April 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Kayo Dot is one unique group. And Choirs of the Eye is the perfect example to prove it. The album cleverly combines jazz, metal, and post-rock to make this incredible mixture that will blow your mind to an another dimension. Let's take Manifold Curiosity. It starts off with a smooth jazzy mood with melancholic emotion, with some electric overdrive guitars adding some edge to it to make it a little more interesting. Then the song fades to this atmospheric, ambient part with distant vocals with tons of different effects. After a while the song explodes to a cool section with metal-like guitars and jazzy woodwind soloing which makes a great contrast to the song; this is probably why the song is called Manifold Curiosity. When this explosion then calms down, the listener thinks for a second that the song ends there, but no. The song takes another key, and a huge build-up begins. At first it sounds beautiful, but slowly it becomes louder and more chaotic with maundering speech in the background. The chaos creeps in and soon the song is just noise, awful loud angry noise with ears-aching screaming. Then this pure metal riff takes place, which ultimately ends the song. That's uniqueness for you. You can listen this song here in progarchives, just press play right now and you'll understand what i'm talking about. Manifold Curiosity gives a good representation of what this album is all about. And It's truly a masterpiece with almost an hour of mind-blowing music. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Tall Hair (BETA) | Report this review (#238985)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars There is no sense here, besides the rapture found in a million guitars soloing at once. Besides the moody into of "Marathon"; a flute and trumpet converse in uneasy tones until a deranged guitar and vocals enter the fray. Things become slightly more conventional after that, a little more rock and roll--until a dreamlike post-rock section starts, complete with a heavily delayed guitars, weird percussive noises, unidentifiable samples, and poetry. Yes, poetry. But the Moody Blues this is not. As I said there is no sense here. Nothing I can readily grasp.

"A Pitcher of Summer" is probably the most easily defined song of Choirs of the Eye. It's got beautiful lyrics passionately (but imperfectly) sung, somber guitar notes, and a cool METAL outburst at the end. But it also contains no structure that I can discern, and has many lapses into tense silences. It's the shortest track here in Choirsland.

The aptly titled "The Manifold Curiosity" is a thing of beauty and terror together. There's poetry reading again, there are weird noises, and there's a section of multi-tracked violins (for the first time noticeable). Something that Kayo Dot never does on this album is repeat things unnecessarily. Once a section is over they move on. "Marathon" is a good example of this, there are many different sections of this piece and yet they all sound like they are part of the same "song". It's a pretty impressive feat.

"Wayfarer" is probably the most psychedelic on the album. And theres another excellent violin section in this song, along with some impressionistic guitar playing. Check out some of these lyrics:

Caves of candlelight with amethyst imbued, Opal skulls of opal creatures decorating tombs. Woods of columned water supporting ceilings breathing blue, Seascapes filled with poison, lonely, waiting for the few Final scarlet denizens to march into the scorching fumes.

Pretty cool, eh? Very ornate stuff. Almost Keatsian. Pretty prog rock too, for an experimental metal band.

My only complaint with the album is the last song, "The Antique". And while it's far from a bad song, it does take a while to get started. One could probably say that it stays most true to the post-rock method of quiet-into-loud, of all the songs presented. It also has the most coherent structure of the group too, with only a little metal at the climax.

For anyone who is interested in finding something that's somewhere in the middle of post rock and avant rock with a few metal and jazz flourishes I recommend you check it out. There is no sense here, but in its place is a great beautiful delirium, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Send comments to phantom banana (BETA) | Report this review (#251080)
Posted Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This debut album from Kayo Dot is a mixed set of compositions where I adore some while feel completely untouched by the others. The material on Choirs Of The Eye is split up into five pieces of music where all of these tracks might at first seem quite similar but once they get under your skin the nuances between them become very clear.

The opening composition simply titled Marathon is a gorgeous piece of work with precise balance hidden withing its 10 minute stream of sounds and beautiful atmospheric progression. It's difficult to describe these tracks on a more precise level and so I base my judgment here solely on the emotional factors that appear when I listen to this type of material. Trust me though when I say that this opening composition is a marvelous way to start this album since everything I love about this music is present on it.

While Marathon was a true gem of a composition it sets up a high standard for the rest of material to follow which in my case became somewhat of a problem. The second track titled A Pitcher Of Summer is the shortest of the bunch and it also plays as such. For me it almost feels like the band is trying to artificially re-create the pleasant flow that came so naturally on the previous piece and so it leaves me cold.

Up next is The Manifold Curiosity which is one of the two 14-minute compositions featured on this release and it plays a bit like a hit and miss for me. Its long acoustic build-up and the string section just doesn't work for me but I do enjoy the overall progression of the piece. At the end it still manages to leave an overall pleasant impression.

Wayfarer looses a lot of momentum due to those short abruptions which occur on a few occasions within the composition and so there isn't really a flow to even talk about. Luckily the concluding piece called The Antique manages to set the album back on track with its slow Post Rock build-up to the heavy dissonant section and the completely mesmerizing outro.

After reading some of the other reviews it became clear that this album's material appeals differently to each individual and I'm sure that any new listeners will find completely other favorite moments within this music. Having said that I definitely recommend this album as an introduction to Kayo Dot and their musical universal.

***** star songs: Marathon (10:14) The Antique (14:41)

**** star songs: The Manifold Curiosity (14:30)

*** star songs: A Pitcher Of Summer (5:50) Wayfarer (10:43)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#271810)
Posted Sunday, March 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

"Choirs Of The Eye" is a perfect mix between Avant-Garde and Post-Rock, with some Metal.

Post metal at its finest. After I fell in love with maudlin of the well, i wanted to give Kayo Dot a try, but I thought it was going to sound a lot like classic motw. And boy I was Wrong. Choirs of the Eye sounded like something I've never heard before, an excellent mixture between post rock and avant-garde metal; put also some jazz and baroque elements and you have this, a near perfect masterpiece that will hopefully go down in history.

The first track, " Marathon" is probably the best song of the album, starting kind of heavy and being mellow and creepy at the same time afterwards. I would like to remind you that these aren't just normal songs, but pieces almost without any melody, based on long, atmospheric, dense themes. The second track " A Pitcher of Summer" is the shortest song and, other than being the most melodic, it's the least complex song. Still beautiful though. The third Track " The Manifold Curiosity", is not as good as the other songs, but still maintains a high level. The fourth track " Wayfarer" has a similar structure of Marathon, even though there are more vocals and it's less creepy. The Fifth track " The Antique" is 14 minutes long and it's, along with the first track , the best piece of the album. It is mainly played with guitar, and has a riff that haunts all over the song, which is kind of scary sounding, but great.

In conclusion, I must say this is one of the best albums I've heard in months, so enjoy it!

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#273248)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Kayo Dot's debut album was released on Tzadik label, so you can expect Zorn's genius under their sound. Dark chaotic violence mixed with acoustic grace and atmospheric elegance. Free form compositions, strongly rooted in free form music ( ambient and partially free-jazz).

No way easy listening - strange and unusual rhythms and structures are melted with nervous noisy metal explosions. Sound is full of strings - guitars, cello, violin. And sound is full of free space. Voices are strange, sometimes dreamy, sometimes crazy. And brass sound is there as well.

They know, what each sound is, and how important it is. Minimalistic avant-garde? Not really, but their music borrowed something from that beast for sure.

Something in this music reminds me experimental Miles Davis albums. And Zorn's Naked City. Even if Kayo Dot is really far away from them both. Possibly, same atmosphere.

Interesting, fresh, experimental, avant and ... really good work.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#275615)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars An exploration of psych prog, Avant metal and deconstructed space rock; a ferocious species that cannot be easily captured

I first encountered this strange beast on a hunting expedition for new prog and once I caught and shot the creature I was at the mercy of this entirely new species. A mixture of aggressive thrashing guitars and ambient atmospherics, you are never quite sure where you are placed with this music. This excursion into psychedelic post metal is ear opening and at times alarmingly beautiful with textures of dark and light.

'Marathon' is a wonderful blend of beauty meets the beast; beauty in the flute playing and beast as in the growling contorted vocals and distorted guitar crashes. At 3:40 there is a freakout of piano grunge guitars, sporadic drumming and woodwind, it is totally and gloriously chaotic. It settles into a weird time sig and guitars ringing out as a chiming sound takes over creating ambient shades. The guitar nuances are compelling on the instrumental passage though it threatens to roar at any moment. The beast is quietened with subtle drumming and soft keyboard bells and guitar embellishments. The atmosphere is peaceful but still has a dark quality for some time. There are some contorted sounds that are disturbing, overlayed in the musicscape. Then a very dull voice speaks some poetic reflections about a woman; "her eyelashes weaken ... and this feels like frogs and spiders in the sweet outside... unfathomable and good, the beauty of everything is cruel... an airplane.. a spoon, the stars and the moon." This is quite a disconcerting track but a great intro to the band's experimental style.

'A Pitcher of Summer' begins quiet and patient with a guitar gently swaying in the breeze. There is no time sig as the vocals come in falsetto style. There are long gaps and odd time changes making it difficult to grasp the melody. Yet there is no ad libbing; this is carefully constructed or rather deconstructed in timed complexity. The music builds to a heavy distortion and some wailing singing. It builds and then falls to silence and cascading sounds of guitar before another cataclysm of distortion drowns out the ambience. The scream of pain at the end is suddenly mercifully cut off.

'The Manifold Curiosity' is the epic of the album and my first Kayo Dot song, after much recommendation from KD listeners. The build up with sonic distortion is brutal. There are some rasping vocals and very grungy guitars, a dirty sound that reverbs like Sunn O))) guitars tuned down to A. The freezing atmospheres are backed by chilling keyboard sounds. At times the lights in the room seem to flicker with the intensity of the music. There are massive passages of instrumental prowess, and these are balanced by short outbursts of distorted vocals phased through a vocoder or effects mixer. The clarinet battles it out with the guitar flourishes, a lonely sax fights its way through the thick fog of electronics and keyboards; this will take you to another realm of music.

'Wayfarer' begins with sad melancholy guitar and violin, the very quiet vocals accompany the sounds with heartfelt emotion. The violins are rather eerie, reminding me of VDGG, Comus or Maudlin of the Well, the band that morphed into Kayo Dot. Violin can be rather screechy if misused but the shimmering notes played here are building unrelenting tension. This tension overflows at 4:14 when the drums come in on a steady beat and a space guitar riff, it builds with ascending violin shrieks and then the time sig is completely changed without warning to a slow droning distorted guitar and very off kilter vocals. The layered music is slowed to an extreme crawl at 5:50 and then silence before a pleasant sounding guitar picks a motif over sustained keyboard pads. The beast becomes dreamy though the threat of violent chaos is prevalent. It feels too comfortable for a time, and you may wonder when the metal will return. The music keeps you on edge and you tend to hang onto every note, waiting for new directions of sound. The violin is louder until the metal guitars crunch in on the climax and a huge lead riff well executed until it just stops and we are back to silence. The haunting vocals are there in the shadows with lurking violins sliced quickly till they cease and the minimalism of guitar and vocals return. Of note is the method in the way Kayo Dot are able to fill songs with silence that are so well juxtaposed, the pauses become an instrument in themselves.

'The Antique' is a heavy exploration of dark aggression and white sonic noise. It begins very slowly with minimalist guitar and many rests and pauses building a sense of dread. I turned the sound down in case it was going to erupt into violence. The music has me on edge after all the chaos of RIO/Avant Prog. It continues painfully quiet for some time but there is an unnerving uneasy atmosphere and then some distortion slowly creeps along like a stalking monster ready to pounce. Some wretched vocals scream along inaudible lyrics to slow metal chords that have no framework and play sporadically. The darkness of the atmosphere is akin to horror, augmented by piano runs and screaming guitar solos with off kilter drum signatures. There is no pattern to the music as it builds to a thrash style, but without a repetitive riff. The whole thing builds climactically and drops to tranquillity as if the monster is asleep and the piano is gently caressing it's hide. The soft vocals are sung too close to the microphone warping them into inaudible moans and falsetto sounds like a flugel horn.

The album ends on a sombre note, quiet and displaced, hypnotically impotent vocals and raw guitars drift off and close the eyes of the album not with a bang but a whimper. Perhaps it was the only direction to take after so much innovation. The sun goes down ready for a new day; a return to the beginning when the beast will wake from its slumber. Adventurous, bold, inventive and complex; it is impossible to pin this music down to one genre though Avant space rock may be close. I was not as overwhelmed as Maudlin of the Well, it is too bleak or dark at times for my tastes, but Kayo Dot are still a force to be reckoned with and demand attention as one of the most ferociously original bands in years.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#287403)
Posted Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "I was swept away when the choirs in your eyes cast little drops of water on everything"

Already mentioned in the lyrics of a song on Maudlin Of The Well's debut album, Choirs Of The Eye is the title the first release of Kayo Dot, another project of Toby Driver rising from the ashes of Maudlin Of The Well. The music on Choirs Of The Eye is more avant-garde than that of Maudlin Of The Well, and the modern classical music influences seem to play a bigger role here as well. This can be seen in the line-up of the band, which features a bigger amount of woodwind and brass players than Maudlin Of The Well did. Also notable in this line-up is violinist Mia Matsumiya, who would remain a consistent member of the band up to date.

In a striking way "Marathon", a very typical Kayo Dot piece, opens the album. The already mentioned modern classical music influences are very evident here, as a melancholic trumpet creates a beautiful soundscape, which is a typical case of the emotional instrumentalism of Kayo Dot. This beauty doesn't last too long however, as monstrous growls and crushing distorted guitars change the setting. These changes between beauty and beast make frequent appearances in the music and play a very important role in the progression of the pieces. Most notable here perhaps is "The Manifold Curiosity", probably the most impressive and mind-blowing piece on the album. Starting out quite softly, it gradually turns into some of the most fierce and intense music I've ever heard, with high- pitched screams and ferocious riffs included.

These intense and heavy parts of the music often serve as climaxes of their respective piece. However, the softer and more benign parts of the album can easily be just as impressive. A good example is "Wayfarer", a song driven by acoustic guitar, beautiful vocals and a delicate, melancholic violin. Though roufh distorted guitars also make their appearance in this piece every now and then, they serve a much less dominant role. Pretty much the same goes for "A Pitcher Of Summer", which is probably the most lightweight song on the album with its feeling of solace.

Another thing that is evident on some of the pieces on Choirs Of the Eye is a droning ambience. This means for example a couple of minutes of dreamy atmosphere, or an acoustic guitar gently strummed for some time with spoken words over it. The longest piece on the album and also its closer is "The Antique", which features more droning music than perhaps any of the other pieces on Choirs Of The Eye. The first 6 minutes or so feature a constantly repeating riff gradually growing heavier, to become what probably is the most dark and gloomy piece on the album. Doom metal influences, which also were present in Maudlin Of The Well's music, clearly can be heard here.

The broad range of musical styles integrated in their sound basically makes Kayo Dot unclassifiable. Nevertheless, they certainly have created a consistent and solid sound on Choirs Of The Eye, which is probably an even more impressive one than that of Maudlin Of The Well. Choirs Of The Eye to me feels like one marvelous journey driven by melancholy and somberness, either beautiful or ferocious, with every now and then a feeling of modest delight or relief.

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Send comments to The Sleepwalker (BETA) | Report this review (#294057)
Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Any Colour You Like
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Instantly the listener is bombarded with glistening shards of angular noise. The powerful riffs seem to fly off at tangents, gleaming, echoing, then fading. There is a warmth in their sound that defies the coldness of the instrumentation. Pulses surge with lush tones, yet seem restrained by calming vocals. Again the tempo increases, a strange sound emerges then subsides, all is calm once more. Dissonant chaos then erupts from the void, accented by newly frantic and nightmarish vocals. The catharsis peaks, then the noise begins to subside, leaking away into jazzy ambient minimalism. This is Choirs of the Eye, a place where subtlety and chaos collide at will.

Kayo Dot's debut album is a intense expanse of noise, metal, dissonance and ambient experimentation. Forget comparisons because there are none. Even Toby Driver's other projects fail to match the sheer scale and power of this album. Again, as with any Driver project, categorisation is pointless. Call this avant-garde, post-metal or ambient... it's all essentially worthless because Choirs of the Eye defies convention. The angular dissonance and crushing heaviness of the compositions will push the listener into chaos, while the eerie ambience and subtle poetry of the lyrical content will lull the listener into a vivid dream-like state. The embrace of this album is glorious, it feeds you warmth, then crushes it under layers of dense noise, only to throw you a lifeline from beyond. The neo-classical and Jazzy elements that accent the metallic soundscape add an unusual density to the composition, one which can at times be haunting, but also sometimes unusually catchy.

Indeed, there is something for every listener here, from chaotic metallic riffs to cathartic noise, chilled minimalism, sweeping orchestrations and bittersweet poetics. There are even a few melodic hooks to keep the listener from completely eschewing the more dissonant edges. Choirs of the Eye is easily one of my favourite albums of all time, and best compositions of recent years. It is immersive, challenging and downright beautiful. I can only strongly recommend this release to all people willing to give it a listen. Just let your open mind drift, this choir as your guide.

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Send comments to Any Colour You Like (BETA) | Report this review (#302920)
Posted Saturday, October 09, 2010 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is like nothing you have ever seen

I can without much hesitation say that Choirs of the Eye is singel-handedly the most unique album I have and probably ever will. The music is a thing of it's own, blending into a single song genres of music that have only one thing that connects them: the lack of pre-conceived rules, methonds and forms. Even the lyrics have little sense when it comes to metric, rhymes or any other systematized way of writing poetry or lyrics of any kind. The final part of the opening song, called Marathon, show that quite well: Tell me why world, unfathomable and good,/The beauty of everything is infinite and cruel./An airplane, a puppet, an orange, a spoon,/A window, and outside/Stars and the moon..

In fact, it is not simple at all to discribe this album. The music have such angular abrupt and sharp changes that, despite that, can be so emotional, smooth and with such and easy flow that I think that the best mean to describe te music this record is looking at the cover. There, we see the trubled waters of the surface of a river and a bird that has just fallen in that river. As its body is halfway inside the water, with its talons still looking upwards outside the water, the bird is fighting for its life, trying to resurface and escape this troubled moment.

That would be the same as someone listening this music for the first time: being the the middle of a big and uncontrolable whirlpool. However, due to the sheer amount of things happening throught the 56 minutes of the total album length, no matter how many times you have stoped to listen to Choirs of the Eye, the feeling is the same.

At the same time, we have the placidity of the river water below the surface. Not immediately below the surface, because itis also aggitaded by the bird, but deeper still. The deeper you go, the more the water calmly flows. Same thig happens with this album: the more you know its music, better you can understand the peacefulness of it. That is exactly how this album works. It joins distress and peace, destruction and construction.

Choirs of the Eye also proves to be a fundamental crossroad in Toby Driver's musical evolution. This is the album where the extreme heavy metal side of his music that was so vividly present in his Maudlin of the Well years is slowly but surely loosing ground to the jazz side of himself to the point that in late Kayo Dot and Maudlin of the Well albums there is almost no noticeable heavy metal influence at all.

Grade and Final Thoughts

Compared to his previous albums, still with Maudlin of the Well, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map, Choirs is much less of an avant-garde heavy metal album and more a legitimate expander of the musical horizons in rock music.

Even if it was not so, even if Choirs was not so different from everything else, the album's music is good enough by its own right to receive the rating it does in this website and I find it very hard to dissagree.

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Send comments to CCVP (BETA) | Report this review (#303260)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
progkidjoel
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Music shattered my spine of the steps outside.

As an album, truly captures the grand scope of modern invention; an endless symphony of shattering intricacy, violent ferocity, hopeless beauty and limitless rhapsody. Few albums such as this have truly horrified, interested, saddened and interested me as much as this one has. What we have here is 5 truly unique and brilliant pieces of music; a combination of jazz, metal, classical and avant are at the forefront of this journey and present a truly perspective changing adventure. I must admit, on my first listen to this, I thought it was literally noise - I could see no musical value to it. After consequent listens I began to understand, feel and respect the grand scape of this disc of pure perfection and true wonder. As such a grand musical concoction, it is hard to define, describe or discuss this epiphany of mystic brilliance using words. The five compositions here are all incredibly different beasts, but are all quite literally perfect in a truly divine sense. A collection like no other.

Barely 3 seconds into this adventure, your ears will be bombarded with the sound of intense and piercing guitar, which will retreat and return with underpinning vocals and chaotic drumming. The insane vocals and slamming instrumentation is like no other; true insanity transposed into sound. It is clear moments in this is no standard deviation into several schools of music, but rather an incredibly successful experiment on a grand scale. The spoken word outro is both chilling and beautiful, and calming in nature.

Marathon's follow-up, the short (and we're talking Kayo Dot short here, people) A Pitcher Of Summer is a much more... Directly musical masterpiece. Achingly beautiful and slow guitar open this piece and continue into a lead vocal line, and as this track picks up momentum, a slow transition from one kind of beauty to another begins. This transition is complete with the shattering Line 'While... Snow.'. This is the musical equivalent of reading in one's house and waking up in a burning forest, the adventure so intense, the travelling so obvious yet completely hidden and wonderful and perfect.

The Manifold Curiosity is just that; a true curiosity in what we call music. The perfectly balanced guitar and drums are quite chilling and, yet again, incredibly beautiful. The soothing muffled vocals and the slow acoustic work, the exploding guitar and the soaring clarinet solo - there is nothing other than ethereal beauty to be found here, and it is equally painful and wonderful. The textures and atmosphere are truly uncharted, and remain just as wonderful on subsequent listens. As with the two previous compositions, the transition here is slow, unsuspecting and futile. There is nothing other than the purest form of beauty represented here, and it is truly wonderful to here such a piece of music. The slow, chilling violin and spoken word, the perfect journey from emotion to emotion, texture to texture, atmosphere to atmosphere, movement to movement, it is truly something that needs to be experienced. The thumping bass it at its best throughout this track, and is simply perfect. The last section of this piece is perhaps the most truly brilliant slice of music, a painfully heavy, jarring and shattering explosion. The vocals are one of the most interestingly placed, written and performed vocal sections I've ever heard, and represent true progress in modern art as much as they do the captured creativity of 9 of the most creative musicians in modern music.

It all sings beautifully; With all your strength, believe this. But I know you can't understand... Why I threw myself from the glass again.

The chillingly shrieked outro is immensely wonderful, and the punishingly heavy outro guitar riff is a heaven-made match for such ferocious screams. This is a track best enjoyed alone in the dark, at a tortuously loud volume.

Wayfarer is my personal favourite and pick for track of the century so far, even after the fan favourite. The slow violin and incredibly poetic lyrics are, once again, a perfect match, and create such a dense and cutting atmosphere. The screamed 'Wayfarer' and slamming guitar has yet to be matched, or even challenged by another moment in music for me. It is quite literally the most beautiful, intense, truly heavy and indifferently perfected section in any song I have ever heard. The vocals are at their most prominent here, a chilling layer of sound transposed and made beautiful in their contextual perfection. The whispered beats, the clarinet and violin interplay, it's all there and it's all so flawlessly done. The last shimmering minute is like watching glass explode in slow motion, a build up so intensely perfected it becomes inhumanly brilliant. It is truly hard to believe an ensemble of 9 masters were able to do what they've done here.

The Antique is perhaps the darkest piece in this black hole, and is quite definitely and decidedly extreme in nature and practice. It has the most typically metal sound, but it is not made in any typically metal way. The slow build up is frightfully intense and transcendently dark. The unsuspecting listener's ears are nuked with an immensely slow and atonal build up. The squealing guitars on top of the pounding drums and 6-string explosions are so intense that the tension is nearly visible. When the vocals make their true entrance, the transmutation to true brutality is complete with a scarily heavy music all round. The guitar technicality is truly wonderfully done, and in such an artistic matter. Its nice to hear technicality used to create an atmosphere, an art, rather than to turn music into a masturbatory sport. The riff, chugging at times, is amongst my top 10 ever. The vocal squeals over the top of the growls cut and penetrate the brutal walls like an arrow. The insanity reaches a peak with several small breaks and even impossibly heavier music, and then Kayo Dot's masterpiece, Choirs Of The Eye, comes full circle with the piano, trumpet and jazzy drum outro. The muffled vocals of The Manifold Curiosity return here in a nearly anesthetizing effect with spiralling background noise and hissing snare. It is amazing to be broken by such ferocity then soothed by such beauty, but amazing when so flawlessly performed.

The ensemble outro perfectly closes the album, and the truly perfected musical journey. This stands out as one of the most unique musical discoveries of all time, and one that truly needs to be heard to be understood, respected or appreciated. This stands out as a progressive, musical and artistic landmark, and is one of the must have albums from any genre, any time and for any music listener. This is an album which will blow you away time and time again, which will knock you over and stomp on your throat whilst you try to squirm, and then tenderly massage your bruises whilst poisoning you. The diversity and creativity is so uniquely crafted in this near-hour of music, that any number of listens will never be enough to truly get, respect or to 'know' this album. It is THAT stunningly good.

An easy 5* album, if that isn't obvious enough already.

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Send comments to progkidjoel (BETA) | Report this review (#303853)
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
NecronCommander
COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Decidedly un-motW.

Choirs of the Eye is the first album from Toby Driver's new band Kayo Dot, formed out of the ashes of Boston avant-garde metal band maudlin of the Well. Several lineup changes have been made and a total shift in attitude towards songwriting, and the result is something that is totally incomparable to any other musical journey you've ever experienced.

One thing that is on everyone's minds (well, everyone who's ever listened to a Toby Driver project before) is how this band compares to aforementioned maudlin of the Well, so I'll make sure to point out the most important similarities and differences during this review.

Choirs of the Eye is the closest Kayo Dot release stylistically to maudlin of the Well, but there is a serious shift in focus in terms of the songwriting. Whereas motW was ultimately a metal band with avant-garde tendencies, Kayo Dot (at least for this album) are much more of an avant-garde band with metal tendencies. Here, the album is much more composition- oriented than its predecessors; of the 5 songs, only one is below ten minutes in length, and even then there are two songs just short of 15 minutes. Choirs is definitely a test of endurance as it pulls you through its dark passages.

Again, the band's style on this album is wholly unique and unlike anything I'd heard of at the time. Whereas maudlin of the Well's principle claim in their songwriting was astral projection (for those unfamiliar with motW's claims, astral projection is the supposed separation of one's spirit from the physical plane of existence through a process called lucid dreaming. The band claimed that they were merely vessels for the music, which already existed in a vast cosmic library in the astral plane, and that this music was merely interpreted.), in Kayo Dot, Toby completely denounces such methods and prefers to work on normal compositional terms, yet stating that Kayo Dot are an evolution or natural progression of maudlin of the Well. Atmospherically, Choirs of the Eye doesn't have the same sort of spacey undertones that past motW albums have had, but at times it does have both a pleasant, earthly atmosphere to it, and at other times it takes on a scary and dark, but worldly semblance.

Avant-metal is a rather limiting way to describe the music found on this album. While the album is more avant-garde than it is metal, certain sections reach such a crushing heaviness that it cannot be classified otherwise. Much of it relies on new-age abstract and it has a lot of minimalist elements, yet it also has equal doses of avant-metal, 20th century classical, avant-jazz, chamber rock, goth rock, and the like. At times it can be pleasantly bright, then go to oddly discordant, to frighteningly dark, atmospherically heavy, all without warning, given the incredible avant-garde nature of the album. An amazing amount of work is done with layering all the parts of the music, vocally and instrumentally, and at parts when all of the instruments are playing, each seemingly trying to one-up the other's part, it turns into a wildly insane yet surprisingly calculated chaos in sound architecture. These massive spots of sonic density are incredibly remarkable to behold, and are excellently contrasted by the equally well-done abstract minimalism that permeates the structure of this album. When Kayo Dot wants to hit hard, they hit you like an expressionist baseball bat to the face.

A greater range of instruments are used here than in maudlin of the Well's compositions. In addition to the traditional guitars, bass, keys, and drums, instruments like the violin and clarinet get especially big parts. Also to be found on the album are flute, saxophone, cello, horn, trumpet, trombone, and bell parts. They're all balanced excellently and rarely are pretentious or overincumbent in the composition. Toby Driver returns doing guitars and vocals and is given the predominant vocal role this time around. His vocals are also much more varied on this album than with maudlin of the Well; here, he does all forms of soft vocals, harsh growls, high-pitched screams, and at times even flat speaking or whispering, and all parts are performed marvelously. Former maudlin of the Well instrumentalists Greg Massi (guitars), Sam Gutterman (drums), Nicholas Kyte (bass), and Terran Olson (woodwinds) make an appearance on this album and are complimented by 8 other contributing artists. In particular, violinist Mia Matsumiya leaves the greatest impression with some excellent violin parts. All the other instruments are used in moderation and are excellently structured into the framework of the music, though the clarinet suffers from a mild case of being overused, it's not terribly distracting, and works well more often than not.

Jason Byron, formerly responsible for the lyrics and growled vocals in maudlin of the Well, returns to compose the poetry for this album. I say poetry as compared to lyrics because unlike motW, where the lyrics were merely poetic, as often as not in Choirs of the Eye, the lyrics are actual poetry, occasionally even spoken instead of sung. They're rather beautiful sounding and at times even better than the lyrics found in motW's music. While they don't follow an overarching theme or story, they're all very surrealist and suited to fit the mood of the song.

The album opens with "Marathon" in a clashing of percussion and arrhythmic guitars. Some jazzy trumpet adds to the ambiance of minimalist guitars and a sorrowful flute while a distorted voice reads poetry over what sounds like an intercom. It eventually breaks into a dark section with crushing guitars, free-jazz drumming, Toby alternating his high falsetto scream and gut-wrenching vocals, while a whimsical flute and ghostly piano adds to the dark whirlwind of sonic density. Some slow, heavy, chugging riffs give way to a delicate guitar section with some strange, oscillating guitar soundscapes and eerie sounding keys. This confusingly dark passage twists and turns, guided by occasional electronic noise and a soft jazzy drumming. Towards the end a distant voice starts reciting cheerful poetry in a soft, raspy, speaking tone. Eventually the music fades out to nothing as the voice continues reading, conjuring up some strong images. This track is an interestingly inaccessible way of starting off the album and is definitely a piece that needs to be listened to multiple times to really be appreciated.

The dark menace of "Marathon" is surprisingly followed by the cheery bliss of "A Pitcher of Summer". Clocking in at just under six minutes, this is the shortest and most accessible piece on the album. It opens with some soft, bright guitar work and some very light percussion. Toby's voice kicks in shortly and his high pitch gives it a very happy tone. Indeed, the lyrics conjure up warm, fuzzy images of a bright, pleasant summer day at a cottage deep in the woods, nature at harmony with the peaceful structure. Even when the distortion and heavy drumming kicks in, the piece keeps its bright and happy tone while Toby wistfully sings along. Once this section ends the piece slows down considerably and adds more distortion and some horns, though Toby's voice takes on much more of a wailing tone as the piece picks up in density. An intense buildup culminates in two loud, screaming notes. Even when compared to the complexity of the other pieces on this album, this song remains one of my favorite pieces.

"The Manifold Curiosity" is a piece of truly epic proportions at the midway point of this album. It starts out with some soft guitar and some interesting layering while a clarinet plays a sorrowful lead. This section swirls with a sort of swaying sadness before stopping suddenly and going to a simple acoustic guitar strumming for a good period of time. The sound of a person appears as he takes a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, unfolds it, and timidly reads the track title. The soft acoustic continues with some guitar effects layering and two vocal tracks sing: one in Toby's crisp mid-level voice, one unintelligible under some odd static effects. This section comes to a close for a few seconds before a short fingerpicking bridge that slowly escalates in sound before the entire band erupts into a thundering chorus of heavy guitars and drumming, and a clarinet solo that I'm sure is supposed to be absolutely gut-wrenching but unfortunately almost doesn't work. It does improve shortly after the initial shock, when the guitar chimes in on the melody, and then the piece slowly goes into a post- mid album climax. Some floaty guitars emerge from the remains of the previous section, and very slowly start to build up, both in number and slight increase in noise. After a short while, voices start to chant more poetry, and even these become layered as up to three or four voices speak in an intentionally slight-off manner. Some excellent violins also add to the increasingly unsettling nature of the piece before some odd guitar whines lead into the melody being repeated in heavy distortion. Whiny guitars wail left and right, starting off slowly, guided by an interestingly strong bass. They slowly increase in intensity as the tempo starts to increase, going from a slow trot to a sturdy gallop over the course of nearly a minute. One guitar keeps adding to another, and yet another, and violins join the fray before Toby's wailing voice takes center stage for a brief spell, and all the flailing and moaning pauses with a short, slow three notes, only to be picked up in intensity again, with an increase in tempo. Every chaotic part builds up into a tremendous whirlwind of dense musical aggressiveness, and it peaks in one ridiculously fast torrential downpour of incomprehensible chaos with Toby screaming his lungs out in a way that almost reminds me of Jacob Bannon's voice (of Converge), and then it all comes crashing down with one quick drum roll and a super sludgy bass melody that starts an awesome, upbeat, motW-esque metal section, all ending in seven staccato notes. It's incredible how many twists and turns this titanic piece takes before its startling conclusion.

"Wayfarer" begins with some soft acoustic guitar chords and some awkward keys and then shortly adds a weeping violin. Much of the song up to the first moment when vocals come in has some odd chordwork where the chords are played unevenly or in an odd progression. Toby's vocals come in as soft and high-pitched with some of the prettier lyrics on the album. Some unsettling acoustic guitars pick up pace with the violin before some rolling drums bring the song to a big vocal section at a mid-song climax, some sad clarinets tagging along as Toby sing-speaks some interesting poetical verses before the piece starts over with some soft minimalist material, starting a new buildup, this one taking on a much more peaceful vibe than the one before it. It picks up slack very quickly as some beautiful violins add to the vocal harmonies. Then, all of a sudden, a switch is thrown and the metal turns on, though it's admittedly very bright and happy sounding, with an excellent short solo that dies on a screeching note. The last section ends with harp-like guitars and excellent violin work as Toby wishes a sad but hopeful goodbye to the starry wayfarer.

"The Antique" is another epic and probably the most abstract piece on the album. The first three minutes consist of some empty-sounding, rather chilling abstract minimalist guitar. Eventually some ghostly guitar effects and chilling keys give the already dark piece some added unease. Distortion slowly builds until it becomes a very slow-moving metal piece. Once the song hits the six minute mark the atmosphere becomes very dense and some alternating growling death metal and high pitched screams bring the song to a maddeningly dark level, the screams escalating in intensity every stanza before some haunting keys and whiny guitars escalate this section to a faster tempo. The change of pace brings some unsteady, back and forth chuggy riffing with some deliciously dark and malicious harsh vocals. A brief clean guitar spell gives way to a stanza of roaring metal with blast beats and ferocious screaming that then turns into an absolutely amazing, head-bangable chugging riff section at a huge climax. It returns to the clean guitar spell heard before as the drums begin to increase in speed as though leading up to something, and after a few quick heavy notes it drowns out to nothing but an echoic organ note. The last four minutes of the song consist of some beautiful, foreboding piano melodies, a stern horn solo, and some heavily distorted vocals. This creepy ambiance continues at a steady pace for some time before escalating into one grand note quickly at the end, leaving just the solitary organ note to linger quickly before cutting out to the end of the album.

Thus it ends. Choirs of the Eye is definitely a grower, especially for fans of maudlin of the Well previously unaccustomed to Kayo Dot. I was repulsed by the album after the first listen and it took me a good few months and seven more listens before the album really hit me as the incredible and unmatched musical composition that it really is. My suggestion: go in with as open of a mind as possible and try not to compare it to anything else. Let this dark, twisted piece of avant-garde brilliance drag you through its deep chasms and enjoy the tumultuous and schizophrenic soundscape at every turn.

5 stars, highly recommended for anyone looking for challenging and unique music.

Standout tracks: "A Pitcher of Summer", "The Manifold Curiosity", "The Antique".

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Send comments to NecronCommander (BETA) | Report this review (#308326)
Posted Thursday, November 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've gone through phases with this album over the course of the last few years, listening to one track a dozen times and then another a few months later, and I currently just finished my most recent listen to The Antique, and if someone were to argue to me that The Antique is the most sublime, beautiful, transcendent, ecstatic thing ever composed, I don't think I would be able to argue with him. This is the type of album that you must listen to with full attention literally 5 times in order to have any sort of grasp on it, and even then, you'll listen and feel amazed that anyone could have orchestrated such an intense amount of pure chaotic energy into an hour of music as coherent as Choirs of the Eye. This one will grow on you.

Rating: 10/10

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Send comments to Earendil (BETA) | Report this review (#335216)
Posted Friday, November 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The glorious first offering by Toby Driver's post-maudlin band Kayo Dot, Choirs of the Eye is a largely emotional and powerful album. Driver evokes feelings of despair, hatred, and insanity (especially insanity) via both the lyrics and music. There is a mixture of calm, beautiful soft parts, angry heavy parts, and straight-up insane noise which seems to lack any structure at all. The songs are simultaneously distinct and lacking boundaries. Toby Driver's compositions reach beyond the mind into the very depths of the soul, if one believes in such a thing.

An entirely flawless piece of perfection, and one of the best albums of all time, in any genre.

I should write more but I can't entirely be arsed. It's hard to explain how something can be your favourite anything ever.

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Send comments to Triceratopsoil (BETA) | Report this review (#348470)
Posted Thursday, December 09, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars After reading so many good reviews I decided to try Kayo Dot without having ever heard of Maudin Of The Well (And I still didn't yet). I needed many listens to start understanding their music that's really not easy.

What confused me is the track order: if only the fantastic "The Manifold Curiosity" was the opener! In its first minutes this epic track is mainly acoustic with some electronic background noises. It's like they are saying "Hey guys, we are from NYC". The guitar and the vocals are mellow like Simon and Garfunkel or Kings of Convenience even if it's clear that the music is about to go elsewhere, and when it leaves Central Park to reah Alpha Centauri the rationale behind the noisy parts that I initially founded harsh and not pleasant on Marathon became clearer.

Yes, it's experimental, but there's a lot of Jazz behind, even when at the end of the mentioned "Manifold" it seems to turn into Industrial Metal.

This is an album of contrasts, too. The disharmonic notes of clarinet over a clean melodic classical cuitar on Wayfarer is an example. I remember a new-wave band of the 80s, the Felt. The Kayo Dot's acoustic parts are quite similar to them, but the discordant parts remind me to some classical authors of the last century. However, Wayfarer is a fantastic track between jazz and classic specially in the second part, after the few seconds of silence that divide it in two.

After those two tracks let's relsiten to the whole. Now Marathon has a sense. The chaos is not unstructured, The alternance of silence, noise and jazzy moments is now able to capture my attention. The french horn and its low-pitch and dark sound creates the right athmosphere that leads to the explosion, then silence, then chaos underlined by the drums. I still find a little disturbing the excessive distortion on the guitar as it causes a sort of background noise. It's the same "Industrial noise" that I don't like much in Semuth, but it appears to be functional and increases the gap between the noisy and the jazzy parts.

"The Antique" seems quite similar, but it's probably because I'm not yet inside the Kayo Dot's music and I can't fully appreciate it.

Whoever is familiar with Krautrock or psychedelic will be facilitated. Being used to catch little variations means attention to particulars and can help in getting familiar with this band. So even if this is an excellent album I should rate it three stars only, as it's not for ANY prog collection. However we proggers are open-minded enough, so I can rate it with the number of stars that I think it really deserves.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#378693)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is on this album that KAYO DOT reveals to us their unique brand of music, mixing cafe jazz sounds with doom metal, with avant-garde and dissonant harmonies and melodies, with very post-modern lyrical approaches, with space and silence and drone, with melodrama and overplaying, and lots of other things I'm probably leaving out.

We've seen this before, haven't we?

I say this because this album feels more like a MAUDLIN OF THE WELL album to me. It doesn't quite seem like TOBY DRIVER, main songwriter as well as doing just about every instrument yet invented, had a firm idea of what this group could do unique from his prior one. If you were wondering why people are hung up on the connection between Kayo and maudlin (always lowercase that word in reference to motW; it is simply the way of things), Toby, it is this album.

To be honest, I don't differentiate these songs much when listening to it. It's not that they don't have unique sonic signatures, but more that none of them really stand out. I mean this in the best possible way; I get so lost in them that I never look up what song I am hearing. The only tune I can pick out is "The Manifold Curiosity", and this is only because Toby announces it with the unwrinkling of (presumably) the lyric sheet followed by reading off the name. Well, also the beautiful poem he reads at the end in which he lists mundane items within which he sees beauty. It sounds contrived and I won't quote it for fear of turning you off, but it is quite moving in context and is something I actually find quite beautiful on its own after hearing it. Those couple minutes are my favorite part of this entire record are right up there with my favorite parts of Mr. Driver's entire career.

This is a very good album, but not quite different enough to really make me think it is a masterpiece. I love it to death and listen to it very often, but this only gets four stars.

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Send comments to Gorloche (BETA) | Report this review (#409046)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've just come to "Choirs" after "Part the Second," after "Blue Lambency," after "Coyote," after "Bath and Leaving Your Body Map" and I am STILL BLOWN AWAY!! Amazing music! Amazing vision and creativity! Amazing virtuosity! "Like nothing else you've ever heard"! Like other reviewers here, "Manifold Curiosity" is one of the most amazing songs I've ever heard by any band! Ever! This seals it for me: Toby Driver IS the future of 'progressive' music. He is pushing the envelope, finding beauty in places, sounds, and structures that no one--no one has done before. Even from depression and suicide ("Coyote"). Highly, highly recommended. Every listen is different, revealing, awesome, amazing. A TRUE masterpiece of PROGRESSIVE music!

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#429463)
Posted Friday, April 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Picture yourself in your bed on a dark stormy night. The rain is pouring down, and the thunder is booming. You are trying to get to sleep and feel yourself finally lulling off. Suddenly, a very loud thunder clap snaps you out of your drowsiness. You then try to fall back asleep but feel a little unnerved. You feel something coming on. Then a tornado lifts your house up in the air, similarly to the Wizard of Oz, and all you can hear is the roaring of the tornado and the screams of others.

That's pretty much what I find listening to track three, "The Manifold Curiosity", like. If you aren't already scared off by the pretentiousness of how I've started this, then I'm doing well. Anyways, yes that song is magical. But not only is the song, this whole album is magical. I can't pick a favourite because every song is 100% perfect for what it's going for. Each song has more care and thought put into the composition than on any album I've heard. Every song carries the feeling that if it went on any longer, it'd decline in quality, but they remain at the perfect length where the quality peaks. This is probably the closest any album could get to being absolutely perfect.

Another thing that makes this album so satisfying is the feel of it. It feels very dark, but has undertones of bright majesticness and sheer beauty everywhere. The quiet sections range from atmospheric to dazzlingly gorgeous melodies and features impeccable usage of a multitude of instruments.

If you don't want just quietness, don't worry. There is plenty of loudness here, present on all tracks except "Wayfarer", which gets louder but now so much dark and heavy as the other tracks. Every song seems to know exactly when to engage the heavy setting and pound the listener with growls and screams that almost sound as if poor Toby is being mercilessly tortured in the middle of the song. The vocals in the loud parts sort of blend into the music, but it works with the tortured screams and adds what I find is a very frightening effect.

Since each song is amazing in it's own way, I'll break it down track by track. "Marathon" builds on atmosphere and dynamics and ends with a beautiful spoken word poem from Toby Driver. "A Pitcher of Summer" is the most accessible track, yet still carries the avant-garde feel with it in the way it's composed and how free the quiet parts seem. I already said my piece on "The Manifold Curiosity", but it features one of the best uses of dissonant chaos I've ever heard. "Wayfarer" is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard. Hard to go beyond that description. "The Antique" features a very slow and almost creepy build as the intro where it then turns into heavy chaos, and ends with haunting piano and distorted vocals.

I could really go on and on about this album but I'd never even cover half of the stuff there is to say about it. It's brilliant and perfect in so many ways that it'd take an eternity to capture it all into words. It may take you several months to digest fully, as it did for me, but if you let it do so I hope you will see it as much a masterpiece as I do. My favourite album of all time, and no amount of stars would capture my love for it, so I'll just give it the maximum 5.

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Send comments to DisgruntledPorcupine (BETA) | Report this review (#431018)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It is my opinion that Toby Driver is one of the greatest composers in the modern progressive rock scene, and this album (along with the maudlin of the Well albums "Bath" and "Leaving Your Body Map") shows exactly why. This is music that is at turns bone-crushingly heavy, cacophonously noisy, and profoundly weird, and all of it sounds absolutely beautiful. Not in the sense of Beethoven or Mozart, certainly; there are no hooks or even many proper melodies, but it is beautiful nonetheless. The noisiness and insanity perfectly coalesces into something more, and results in one of the most amazing albums of the modern era.

If you've heard the two aforementioned maudlin albums, there are shades of similarity to be found here, but overall this is a different beast. This album has a far more "experimental" feel to it; I don't want to say it's less precise but it certainly seems less structured. A lot of the atmospherics will sound similar, though, and it certainly sounds more like maudlin than Kayo Dot's later albums do.

Now, this is certainly not the symphonic progrock of the 70s. If you see a 14 minute track and are expecting something along the lines of Yes, or Genesis, you will be disappointed. However, if you approach this admittedly formidable piece of work with an open mind I think I can safely say that it will be just as breathtaking as anything else.

Highly recommended; and an album that really has to be heard to be believed. Stunning.

5/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#455023)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is difficult to speak of a band not afraid to be jarring.

Kayo Dot was formed from the ashes of the then defunct Maudlin of the Well (whose comeback album in 2009, "Part the Second", which I will hear soon), and "Choirs of the Eye" in 2003, is her debut. All I can say is: Dude, that album crazy! It is a chaos of guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, vocals and even rare stringed instruments and wind!

The guitar is of course the main element, building strong and amazing riffs that lead the listener to fear and fright. Once when the music goes silent until now between the guitar and abound with violence.

But "Choirs of the Eye" also knows how to be playful, and these guys give us moments of peace when they want. But these moments are rare and in general the album is quite heavy and strong, although not as avant-garde environment, or as I thought (but I do not quite know what is avant-garde to say something!)

My only complaints about this album are the vocals are weak and unnecessary and "quiet time" is too long. Aside from that this is a great album that deserves 4 stars.

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#483262)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Choirs Of The Eye' - Kayo Dot (10/10)

For one reason or another, multi-instrumentalist and composer Toby Driver's flagship band maudlin of the Well fell apart, and from its ashes came its new incarnation, Kayo Dot. Although many of maudlin of the Well's familiar quirks tranlsated onto this new name, there was a decided change in the sound; a move towards a more experimental and avant-garde sound. To me, maudlin of the Well's sound was very curious and dreamy, like a nostalgic childhood summer. Of course, childhood does not last forever, and enter Kayo Dot, leading Toby Driver's music out of the proverbial childhood nostalgia and into a much darker and challenging adolescence, one that is much more ambiguous and even frightening. Kayo Dot's first album 'Choirs Of The Eye' therefore is something of a transition album for Toby Driver and company, featuring elements of both the carefree innocence of his earlier band, and the avant darkness of his future material with Kayo Dot. The result is a multi-faceted album that may very well be Driver's greatest achievement, but one of my favourite progressive albums ever.

Unlike maudlin of the Well- which featured comparatively accessible songwriting and a clear sense of direction- Kayo Dot's 'Choirs Of The Eye' changes the approach, leading to many moments that could feel aimless to someone who is not paying close attention the the ever-changing textures and build up. While some have described this album as post-metal, the majority of 'Choirs Of The Eye' relies on quietness rather than heaviness to get the mood across. This is an album which hits that sweet spot between variety and cohesion. There is a dreamy, otherwordly vibe to all of the music here, but the tone and dynamic is always changing. Each track encapsulates a variety of emotions. For example, the closing number 'The Antique' goes from crushingly heavy, sludgy metal to jazzy piano and muffled vocals that could have easily been plucked out of a Radiohead album. There are plenty of surprises here, and until the very end, like some sort of quiet, intellectual action movie, the listener is kept on their toes.

These compositions do not have the same cohesive feeling to them that maudlin of the Well's music had, so really besides the potential single 'A Pitcher Of Summer', these will not be tracks that get stuck in your head. Instead, you will probably find yourself getting hooked onto certain parts of each song, and it will only be after many intent listens where a listener is able to predict each of the twists and turns in this masterpiece. 'Choirs Of The Eye' can get very heavy, but these spurts of metal are usually only momentary; much of the album instead leans towards mellw tones and textures; perhaps I may use the term 'avant-post rock'? The guitars are filled with echoes and reverb to rattle around in the listener's head, but the joys of the performance here are really about the non-typical instrumentation. Above all, violinist Mia Matsumiya's performance here is jaw-dropping, taking any violin arrangement here and making the strings sing with beauty. Another fairly strange aspect of Kayo Dot's sound is Toby Driver's voice, specifically his wide range of styles that he employs. Throughout the album, a listener will hear him go from mellow, mid-register singing, spoken word poetry, and soft falsetto, to choatic howls and screams. Often, all of this will be heard within the course of one song. In his work with maudlin of the Well, I was unsure whether or not I considered him to be a good or bad singer, but Kayo Dot has set me straight on the matter; although his voice does not have a great technical skill to it, he is able to express himself with great diversity, and pulls off most of what he tries quite impressively.

'Choirs Of The Eye' is one of those albums that listeners will take alot of time to wrap their heads around, although some of those coming off of a maudlin of the Well binge may be initially put off by the change in pace and style. After giving this many nights of engaged listening and awe, I could safely say that 'Choirs Of The Eye' is the most impressive, exciting thing that Toby Driver and co. have done to date; a sweeping epic that soothes, excites, and challenges. A masterpiece.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#520433)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Kayo Dot: Choirs of the Eye [2003]

Rating: 10/10

"An airplane, a puppet, an orange, a spoon; a window and outside stars and the moon."

Choirs of the Eye is the debut album from American avant-rock group Kayo Dot. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver has been making a strong name for himself within the progressive/experimental music scene since the formation of his first band, Maudlin of the Well, in 1996. Maudlin's uniquely multifaceted take on avant-garde metal has given them quite a reputation within the prog world. However, this reputation was largely retroactive. Kayo Dot was formed from the ashes of Maudlin of the Well. Although Toby Driver sees this album as a natural progression from Maudlin, the stylistic gap between the two bands is difficult to deny. I'm not going to pontificate about the differences between the two groups - such would be a useless exercise - but it is abundantly clear that Toby's compositional vision has come into full fruition on this release.

Music like this does not easily lend itself to linguistic description. Beyond "avant-garde", it is near-impossible to attach any sort of generic label to Choirs of the Eye. There are elements of post metal, chamber music, sludge metal, avant-jazz, and post rock here, but none of those genres fittingly describe the music as a whole. Contrast and juxtaposition are the main compositional philosophies at play here; massive bombastic crescendos are contrasted with brooding ambience and minimalism to create a consistently fascinating pearl of musical experimentation. The incredible music is made even better by Jason Byron's daunting lyrics. This is some of the most beautiful poetry that I have ever encountered in music.

The absolutely majestic "Marathon" opens the album with ferocious crescendos and heavy guitars that quickly transition into quiet chamber music. The entire piece is centered on climactic juxtaposition of intense sound blasts and quiet brooding ambience. "A Pitcher of Summer" is the shortest song on the album, but it features just as much power and beauty as its four companions. Toby's vocals are the main focus here; he ranges from quiet crooning to emotive wailing, often without warning. This is a hauntingly gorgeous track with some of the best lyrics I've ever seen in rock music. "The Manifold Curiosity" is one of the greatest musical compositions of the 21st century. Such a statement seems difficult to accept without a scoff, but I can assure you that it is made free of hyperbole. This is an absolutely perfect 14 minutes of music. I can't aptly summarize everything that goes on during this piece without taking up pages of text. Suffice to say, this is one of the most moving pieces of brilliant music that I have ever heard. "Wayfarer" is the mellowest track on the album, although it still has its fair share of heavy bombast. Toby's vocals are in prime form here. "The Antique" is a 14-minute epic of atmospheric sludge-metal and ambient chamber-jazz. The last five minutes of this piece end the album in a suitably powerful and emotional manner.

Choirs of the Eye is a musical triumph is every sense of the term. Few albums exhibit this level of creativity, intricacy, and emotional weight. Each listen yields something new to appreciate; I've owned the album for nearly two years and I still have not come to completely understand it. These five compositions are emotional roller coasters that leave me in a different state of mind after experiencing them. The album as a whole is an unforgettable experience. It's atmospheric, it's dense, it's complex, it's majestic, it's beautiful, it's perfect. Choirs of the Eye is an essential masterpiece.

Farewell, starry wayfarer.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#607874)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It really beats me why this band had to be switched from the experimental/post metal subgenre to rio/avant prog. To me there is no better example of experimental metal (along with Green Carnation perhaps) even though there could also be arguments to place it in the recent category. I will leave it at this since these discussions should not take place in the reviews but I had to get this off my sleeve.

Besides this another statement I will have to make is that Kayo Dot isn't exactly my favorite sort of metal. My taste and preference lie more in the straightforward prog metal like DT, SX, LTE, Vandenplas and Threshold. And then this is a totally different ball game. But if I do my very best to be more open minded I must admit there is very interesting music to be found with this band, especially with this album (don't know there other material yet). The two epics truly deliver some captivating stuff and it's hard to deny a certain class listening to Choirs of the Eye. Marathon is much more avant garde indeed (1:30-2:30 for instance) and the suddenly emerging wall of noise is quite impressive as well.

In the end there is at least one undisputed truth about Choirs of the Eye and that is the 100% progressive state. And therefore I can partly subscribe the masterpiece status. But I'm afraid I'm in Bob's corner where my taste and definitive rating are concerned. It's simply not my kind of thing and it's not an album I will play for my enjoyment. But it's nevertheless highly recommended for the true prog seekers and probably even a must ! Three stars for me though.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#608670)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Kayo Dot are a splinter faction formed after the breakup of maudlin of the Well. Whereas their predecessor band made pretentious claims of using lucid dreaming to acquire music composed by ghosts in the astral plane, Kayo Dot disavowed this compositional method, and indeed the compositions do seem to be a bit more cohesive than on Bath/Leaving Your Body Map. However, their mixture of quiet and loud parts - the standard post-rock formula, really - doesn't quite work for me, mainly because I just can't bring myself to like the quiet parts, which seem rather bland and uninteresting. Still, it seems to work for some, so it might be worth giving a try - just don't feel bad if it turns out they're not to your tastes, because you're not alone.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#659735)
Posted Thursday, March 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars My observation of Toby Driver through his various projects is that he is very much an artist and seems to strongly emphasize his musical output as works of art and beauty. I would call CHOIRS OF THE EYE the best of his statements I've heard thus far simply because it's the most memorable.

What ends up happening is that this is one of those albums where the album is meant to be viewed/heard/understood as a whole rather than a collection of ''songs'', and that listening to one song by itself would have little meaning as it is part of a whole? or something like that. It's an album that exists to be appreciated, revered and respected as a high-brow form of art metal. Capturing the mood of post-rock, avant-garde music, classical and metal sounds over the course of the album (and in some cases, just one movement/song) is an impressive endeavor considering that the ebbing and flowing between any two ideas is smoother than traditional ''every genre but the kitchen sink'' albums.

There still leaves one problem with me, and why I don't automatically consider CHOIRS OF THE EYE as a masterpiece. While this is a respectable artsy album, the enjoyment factor is near a lull here. I typically like to listen to music as a means of escapism, a time to appreciate life without taking it far too seriously. It's not an album for everyday binging; you've got to be in the right mood at the right time. It's almost like how Neurosis albums work, except Kayo Dot is less extreme in the metal sense. Speaking of, the euphoric moment of this album is the cascading crashes of metal at the tail end of ''The Manifold Curiosity''.

Somehow on overcast days, the mood that I normally couldn't find in CHOIRS OF THE EYE just hits me all of a sudden. Try it out on one of those days and see if you get that sense of wonder like I did.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#822060)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.9 Stars. The manifold masterpiece!

Choirs Of The Eye (COTE) is the debut album of Kayo Dot. The band formed from ex members of Maudlin of the Well and many of the trademark sounds transferred from this band (which is understandable as the writing of this album began while MOTW existed). However there are some significant changes that have occurred. The band have absorbed a lot of genres and have mastered the art of blending them together so well that the output is totally unique and fascinating to listen to.

MOTW have always been a band that enjoyed being unpredictable and combining hard and soft passages. This philosophy has not changed for COTE, but never before has their sound been so extreme and yet still feel like you are listening to one song. It works because of how they composed the quiet sections. The fusion of classical, jazz, post-rock etc. at the same time creates a tense and unsettled atmosphere where nothing you hear can be considered stable or long lasting. This justifies the band to occasionally unleash some devastating black metal inspired passages which even after multiple listens are still terrifying! So this is not a easy album, but if you are willing to go into their disturbed world then COTE will completely captivate you.

"Marathon" begins with blasts of noise followed by near silence. The extremes even themselves out and settles with some abstract jazz. The moment you think things are safe they explode with raw black metal furry until you are lost in a maelstrom of noise and tormented screams. After some crunchy riffs things settle down and they go into a steady ambient/post-rock rhythm. After several minutes more and more distorted and creepy effects are added in until it sounds almost as disturbing as the metal section. When you think they are about to hit you with metal they finish with a spoken poem (obviously!). What a opening!

"A Pitcher of Summer" is the most straightforward song here and the only reason COTTE does not a perfect rating (on my score system not PA), but it is still very good! It begins very gently with some relaxing and tranquil passages. However things get more and more distressed until they finish with some post-metal and screams.

"The Manifold Curiosity" is the highlight of the album and probably the best song they have ever made (in KD and MOTW). It begins with a beautiful and powerful jazz and post-rock hybrid. A steady guitar driven rhythm continues with Toby trying to sing with lots of emotion, but his voice is distorted so we cannot understand what he is saying. It's an unorthodox idea, but COTE is so out-there its just another fun twist. The intro theme returns with more force which is followed by a drawn out spacy/ambient/classical section. This gradually builds in drama until they deliver 4 min of the best metal I have ever heard. The intensity is overwhelming and by the end its hard not to feel physically exhausted. One of the best songs I've ever heard.

The band are very smart by making "Wayfarer" starts slowly so the listener can recover from the last song. There are some metal moments and several moments that threaten metal but surprise you with classical music instead. When the band are not teasing you they give some of the most beautiful moments of the album. I won't tell you where the metal is, you will have to find out for yourself!

"The Antique" begins with a relatively simple electric guitar tune. They repeat this tune over and over while gradually adding more elements. Its like waves getting closer to the shore as the tide comes in. But these waves of noise are fierce and so as they get closer they foretell some powerful metal, and that is what they deliver. Another metal overload is unleashed with primal screams for added power. They then quickly switch back and forth between quiet and black metal passages before calming down. The album finishes with slow and gentle jazz and more emotional but heavily distorted vocals.

COTE is one of the best albums I have ever heard and deserves nothing less than masterpiece status. Anyone who admires or wants to play light + heavy music needs to hear this album. I honestly can't think of a single album (which includes future KD releases) that comes close to this level of mastery in soft + hard music. It would take 10 years before they would produce a album that can be ranked along COTE, but that is for another time. 100 % essential.

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Send comments to LakeGlade12 (BETA) | Report this review (#1047746)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The first album from KAYO DOT after the end of Toby Driver and company's other unique creation Maudlin Of The Well. Unlike that band this is a lot more experimental and well... strange. It's less about juxtoposing diverse genres side by side and more about mangling them up into an appropriate fusion. The result is something that I like better as it sounds more refined. Not sure what the influences are here but to me it sounds like a fusion of Krautrock, black metal, abstract classical and some freak folk with occasional avant-jazzy horns. Basically a complex and highly layered atmospheric experience that sounds like nothing else i've heard.

This is one of those albums that you have to be in the right mood for. If you're not then it's jarring and irritating. There have been times I tried to listen to this and had to take it off immediately. If you are in the right frame of mind, this is a satisfying listen. The music is so airy and free that it's like a ride on the ethers. In fact i feel kinda like a little dandelion seed that has been whisked away from the parent plant and aimlessly directed in the gentle wind with intermittant violent eddies taking me on a different course. I can't say I like to listen to this very often but when I have the urge to take a musical journey of the avant-garde then this is one that can take me down the rabbit hole.

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Send comments to siLLy puPPy (BETA) | Report this review (#1084812)
Posted Monday, December 02, 2013 | Review Permalink

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