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GAMMA KNIFE

Kayo Dot

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Kayo Dot Gamma Knife album cover
3.51 | 45 ratings | 8 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Lethe (5:05)
2. Rite of Goetic Evocation (6:40)
3. Mirror Water, Lightning Night (5:33)
4. Ocellated God (6:32)
5. Gamma Knife (6:46)

Total time 30:36

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

NYC:
- Toby Driver / bass guitar, guitar, clarinet, keys, vocals
- Terran Olson / woodwinds and ... more keys
- Daniel Means / woodwinds, guitar, keys, bass guitar
- Keith Abrams / drumset, bass guitar

LA:
- Mia Matsumiya / violin, keys, guitar

And occasionally:
- David Bodie / drums & percussion
- Tim Byrnes / trumpet, synth, french horn
- Ron Varod / guitar and synth

Thanks to Anthony H. for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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KAYO DOT Gamma Knife ratings distribution


3.51
(45 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
13%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
42%
Good, but non-essential (33%)
33%
Collectors/fans only (9%)
9%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

KAYO DOT Gamma Knife reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Gamma Knife' - Kayo Dot (7/10)

Since the days with maudlin of the Well over a decade ago, Toby Driver has been a consistent force in delivering some of the most powerful avant-garde music of the new millennium. With each album, this group of musicians has approached a different angle with their music, as if Toby and co. are browsing through a cosmic buffet, taking the flavours they fancy most, and making albums out of them. Especially in the case of Kayo Dot, I have felt that each album has a binding musical theme behind it. While 'Choirs Of The Eye' may have been defined by it's atmospheric surrealism, and 'Coyote' by is dreary jazz overtones, Kayo Dot's latest album 'Gamma Knife' is a little more difficult to pin down. Not that its sound is any more abstract than what has come before, but the music on this latest release is more diverse than I would have expected. For the sake of a bottom line, however: Kayo Dot has brought the metal back into their sound.

You might not guess that 'Gamma Knife' is a return to heavier times from its opening track 'Lethe'. The album opens on a very dreamy note, with bells chiming and Vangelis-like electronic orchestrations shimmering. This, and the titular closing piece, both show Kayo Dot in a very laid-back, even ambient frame. Even with Toby's signature brittle vocals, the music does more to capture a memorable feeling than to have particular ideas get stuck in the listener's head. When 'Lethe' closes, the more definitive traits of 'Gamma Knife' start to emerge. 'Rites Of Goetic Evocation' sounds like it could be a track from a black metal band, and it may as well be; the three songs that make up the body of 'Gamma Knife' are rife with growls, screams, blastbeats, and dissonance. The opening chords of 'Rites' sound more like late-era Deathspell Omega than anything else, as big a surprise to me as any, considering the band's music was being compared to Sigur Ros not too long ago.

It's not quite metal in the traditional sense, but Kayo Dot have certainly brought back a much heavier sound to their music. For one, the guitars are back, although the most distinguished instrument in the sound is the saxophone. Yes, the saxophone is there to beckon in the heaviest, darkest moments of 'Gamma Knife', and yes, it works. Take the albums defacto climax at the end of 'Ocellated God', for example. Overtop a fury of distorted screams and intense drums, the usually-jazzy sound of what I think is a saxophone layers over itself and repeats to create a very jarring and off-putting lick. Many more traditional metalheads may label this music as many things before metal, but it is undeniable that Kayo Dot has become heavier this time around.

Although Kayo Dot's latest is heavy, doomy, and metal-ly, I have also said that 'Gamma Knife' is more difficult to pin down than Kayo albums in the past. This is in large part due to the fact that there are five tracks here, and two of them are in stark contrast to the other three. There is certainly dynamic in earlier releases, but this time, the melancholic and soft is ostracized from the brutal and dark, as if it were a musical apartheid. It gives the album a cyclical sense to it, but my impression of 'Gamma Knife' is split in two. Be it dark or light, the music here is inventive, challenging, and often very powerful, with particular regards to the darker-edged material on the album. That being said, 'Gamma Knife' does not feel like a full album to me, at least not the way 'Choirs Of The Eye' or 'Coyote' did. For one, the album barely scrapes the half-hour mark, and leaves me wanting more than what the short length offers. I'm left feeling the same way I did about Radiohead's 'The King Of Limbs' from last year; though the musical quality in itself is quite high, there isn't enough meat on the bones to give it a lasting impression. In that sense, it is much like chicken wings. Had it been made at least ten minutes longer and given a little extra polish, 'Gamma Knife' would have almost certainly left me in total awe.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#603612) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, January 05, 2012

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Start the year off right with a listen to a dissonant avant-metal-jazz explosion.

Kayo Dot's recent album "Gamma Knife" is the first 2012 album I listened to and began the year on a discordant note. It is no secret to those who know me that I am no fan of the darker side of prog and the bleak "Coyote" was more of an endurance test for me. I will admit that I approached this latest Toby Driver offering with a degree of trepidation. The opening track of chamber music had me spellbound immediately. Once the bells begin to toll and the hymnal Gregorian style chanting is over on 'Lethe', a dissonant collage of guitar crashes breaks the serenity. A death metal growl invades the doomy atmosphere surprisingly. The off kilter saxophone is an intriguing embellishment and a cacophony of sound results. This continues for some time generating a darkened soundscape. Then blastbeats and anguished cries follow, almost sounding like Emperor or other Norwegian black metal. This is the 'Rite of Goetic Evocation' and it may surprise many listeners, as it is a very atonal cacophonous sound that is jarring on the ear.

Next is a jazzy piece that sounds like a bunch of saxophones having an affray. The competing instruments are drawn together by Driver's estranged vocals. Interestingly enough this track sounds like Van der Graaf Generator music when they play the inharmonious improvised sections of songs such as on "Pawn Hearts". There is a thankful break in the song and the time sig diverges into unknown territory on 'Mirror Water, Lightning Night'. I am becoming hooked by the saxophone as lead instrument at this point. It becomes quite a noise in places, none of the instruments attempting to stay into any particular time metrical pattern. The result is a sound of intimidating ferocity, perhaps the angriest album I have heard in some time.

It almost transforms into death metal jazz on the unnerving 'Ocellated God'. Growling screechy vocals and insane manic woodwind clash together and at one point the tempo quickens until there is a repeated 3 note motif that once again is very much like VDGG. The growls become intense and the hyper percussion and dissonant woodwind sound as if the band are having a multiple progressive disorder, perhaps a musical breakdown. The music goes all over the place and intensely frenzied as Driver screams unintelligible cries. It is almost humorous such is the vehemence of the instruments. This may be what it sounds like when an orchestra is having a bad day.

Finally it ends with 'Gamma Knife' with very gentle guitar and Driver is at peace on calming vocals having had his tantrum previously. The tessellated fractured keyboard phrases are quite beautiful. There is a sound like a harp flowing up and down the scales and arpeggios. Driver's voice becomes more penetrating with a style similar to that on "Coyote". It is the best track on the album apart from the opening. It is strange how this beauty is bookended with all the rage sandwiched in between.

My conclusion is this will appeal to the Toby Driver and Kayo Dot fanbase, no doubt but the rest of us must tread cautiously as we approach this uncanny music.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#603728) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, January 05, 2012

Review by m2thek
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Since 2009's Part the Second and 2010's Coyote, Toby Driver's many projects and albums have presented some of the most exciting music this genre has to offer. With the announcement of Gamma Knife at the end of last year and its recent release, my anticipation for a Kayo Dot album has never been higher. While it's held back slightly by its length and audio quality problems, the music of the band's newest album is great, and is a great way to start off 2012.

Gamma Knife is a live album of new material recorded in late 2011 in New York City, with studio overdubs later on, similar to King Crimson's Starless and Bible Black. The audio quality is generally OK, with the vocals taking the biggest hit out of anything. The instrumental mix isn't without flaw, but for the most part, there may as well not be lyrics for how understandable they are. Besides the quality of the mix, the only way you would be able to tell that the music was recorded live is brief clapping at the end of the third song; Gamma Knife certainly has the feel of a studio album.

The album consists of a half hour of material made up of five songs. The opener and closer are mellower, atmosphere kind of tracks, with the middle three being the dense and dissonant affairs that Kayo Dot fans will crave. The music is generally great, and has a heavier feel than Coyote with the inclusion of guitar again, and growling vocals that are reminiscent of early maudlin of the Well albums. In contrast, the first and last songs provide beautiful, softer pieces of music before and after the calamity that is the middle of the album.

Overall, the music contained within the 30 minutes has the regular dissonance, some insane counterpoints, and even more density than the usual Kayo Dot album. The album flows from beginning to end, with smooth transitions and shifts in mood and energy that make perfect sense. However, there is only 30 minutes (and less than 20 minutes, taking out the first and last songs) of this music, and that's hard to ignore. It helps that you can purchase the album for just $5 on bandcamp, but this combined with the quality of the mix unfortunately holds Gamma Knife back from reaching its full potential.

Considering just the music alone, this album is easily worthy of 4 stars, and if you have any interest at all in Kayo Dot is a must buy. For those on the fence, just know that your purchase will get you a great, but short and technically marred album.

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Send comments to m2thek (BETA) | Report this review (#609188) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 13, 2012

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Kayo Dot: Gamma Knife [2012]

Rating: 6/10

Gamma Knife is the fifth full-length album (and sixth overall release) from American avant-rock band Kayo Dot. Toby Driver's flagship band has been pushing itself to the forefront of modern experimental music ever since its inception in 2003. This group has reinvented itself many times in order to fit Toby's constantly fluid ideas. Kayo Dot began as an avant-garde metal band, but the metal influences slowly melted away from their sound. Coyote and Stained Glass from 2010 were full-on RIO/avant-prog releases, combining elements of jazz-fusion and chamber music. Both of those releases contain some of the most interesting and memorable avant-rock that I have ever heard, so I was happily anticipating a follow-up. This album was produced in quite an unorthodox manner. It was recorded in front of a live audience and was subsequently subjected to heavy doctoring, overdubbing, and reproducing. Multiple new instruments were added and all evidence of an audience was edited out. This is an odd way to record an album, but it works well. I would never have guessed that the album was made this way if I didn't already know beforehand.

Musically, Gamma Knife signals a return to the heavier and more abrasive elements of the band's sound. However, heaviness is approached differently here than it was on earlier Kayo Dot records. Albums like Choirs of the Eye and Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue featured crushing sludge-metal riffs and bombastic crescendos; Gamma Knife features black-metal inspired fury with hyper-speed blast beats. This ferocity is bookended by two mellow pieces of ethereal chamber music. The quiet moments of the album are wonderful, but the heavy tracks are disappointing. They lack the intricacy and finesse that I have come to expect from Kayo Dot. Instead, they often fall into indiscernible noisiness. Multiple ideas are repeated without proper variety.

"Lethe" is an unorthodox opener, to say the least. This is a haunting piece of gorgeous chamber music centered upon strings and bells. The vocals are what really make this track strange, however. The group harmonies sound like Gregorian chanting; in fact, they would not be out of place in a cathedral. "Rite of Goetic Evocation" takes the album in a radically different direction. Deathspell Omega comes to mind while listening to the crushing chords, cacophonous drums, and demonic chants. This is an interesting track, but parts of it end up sounding needlessly noisy and directionless. "Mirror Water, Lighting Night" continues in the same direction. The saxophones sound phenomenal here, but the track feels disjointed and anticlimactic as a whole. "Ocellated God" is more of the same: furious saxophones, abrasive vocals, and banging blast beats. The title track breaks the cycle of heaviness with a burst of calm. Toby's vocals are gorgeous here, and the piano/guitar interplay is seamless and beautiful.

Gamma Knife is a very good album, but it's a major disappoint after the phenomenal output that preceded it. Toby Driver is no stranger to harshness and density, but his music is usually much more finely-crafted than this. The entire middle of the album drones on with very little variety; the movements blend together with indiscernible structure and blurry noise. The bookending tracks save the album, however. "Lethe" alone is enough to demonstrate the diversity and beauty that Kayo Dot can deliver. I'm glad that the band continues to explore new ground, but this result underwhelms me. Kayo Dot is one of my favorite bands, but this latest release is unable to move past the "good" category in my book.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#615297) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review by VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Another fascinating album from Kayo Dot, but really, when has Kayo Dot not been fascinating? Personally I think Gamma Knife is a bit less interesting than the two releases that preceded it (Coyote and Stained Glass), but it's still a very good release from a great band and one that's certainly worth hearing if you're a fan.

"Lethe" begins the album with a melody played on bells, with a mysterious sounding string part coming in after a short time. This part of the track has a definite post-rock feel to it, a feeling which is cemented by the somewhat subdued and hard-to-make-out vocals that come in midway through the track. Additional vocals are added at about the 3 and a half minute mark, in a chanting style that sounds like it wouldn't be out of place in some secluded monastery. Overall, "Lethe" is a very relaxing, laid back track, and one that sounds totally unlike anything else I've ever heard from Kayo Dot, or any of Toby Driver's projects, for that matter.

"Rite of Goetic Evocation" begins with a riff that one could almost mistake for groove metal, but this doesn't last long before winds are added, along with growled vocals, and the track takes on a more experimental feel. "Rite of Goetic Evocation" is definitely a much heavier, more guitar-led track than was "Lethe," and I can hear aspects of maudlin of the Well, previous Kayo Dot projects and even a couple moments that hearken back to the Tartar Lamb II project "Polyimage of Known Exits." Unfortunately, it doesn't quite grab me the way that those previous projects did. There are moments of brilliance (the last minute of the track is amazing), but there are also moments that feel a bit muddled, as blasphemous as saying that makes me feel.

"Mirror Water, Lightning Night" begins with a flurry of sound, with drums, winds, guitar, and a myriad of other instruments all wailing together to create a sound that I can only describe as death jazz (man, do I love coming up with these descriptions). Vocals are added as well, though they're far from being the primary focus of the tracks. "Mirror Water, Lightning Night" is really a very good track, if a bit frenetic, and definitely proves that even after 9 years and 5 albums Kayo Dot can still turn out some of the most challenging, engaging music out there.

"Ocellated God" begins with a guitar drone, over which drums, winds, and growled vocals are added, and the track dives into an energetic sound that comes off sounding just a little too much like the previous track to me. It distinguishes itself a bit by featuring a section in the middle that's a bit more minimal and features vocals more heavily, but I think it runs into a little bit of the same problem as "Rite" in that it goes on just a little bit too long, and the sonic similarity to "Mirror Water" doesn't help it either. Don't get me wrong, it really is very good, it just suffers a bit from being placed after two rather similar sounding songs.

The title track abruptly switches gears, trading in the growls and howling instruments for a sedate guitar and vocal introductory section. Keyboards and winds add another sonic texture, and overall this track is very calming, though the shades of dissonance give it a slightly sinister feel. Overall, the song is a great closer after the aural assault of the middle three tracks and, along with "Lethe," is a nice bookend for the album.

So Gamma Knife on the whole is a bit of a mixed bag for me. As I mentioned above, there are moments that feel like absolute masterpieces, but there are also sections that simply fail to engage me in the way that most of the rest of Kayo Dot's work does. If you're a hardcore Toby Driver/Kayo Dot fan than this is absolutely worth a listen as it fuses together a lot of different styles in a way that's totally different from the rest of the band's work, but if you're new to the band this is not the place to start. Go listen to Choirs or Coyote first.

3.5/5, rounded down

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#619051) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars None More Blue, Er...Lavender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#629274) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 09, 2012

Latest members reviews

4 stars Gamma Knife is a short one, clocking in at barely a half-hour. The long, dense tracks we've come to know Kayo Dot for are gone and replaced with average-length 5-7 minute tracks. The artsy covers we've come to see from Kayo Dot has been replaced with a blank pinkness (although I've heard talk ... (read more)

Report this review (#661628) | Posted by DisgruntledPorcupine | Saturday, March 17, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Kayo Dot are back, kickingstarting 2012 with Gamma Knife; a mystical dichotomous album. It was supposed to be released in mid-December 2011, but a power outage halted the mastering proccess. The opener, Lethe, named after a mythological river in Hades that erases the memory of those who drink its ... (read more)

Report this review (#603012) | Posted by The Neck Romancer | Wednesday, January 04, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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