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KAYO DOT

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Kayo Dot biography
Kayo Dot is a New York based avant-garde rock and experimental metal group which formed in 2003 after several members left Toby Driver's previous project, Maudlin of the Well. Kayo Dot has been subject to several line-up changes, although the constant members are Toby Driver on bass, lead vocals, guitar, clarinet and keyboards, and Mia Matsumiya on violin, viola and vocals.

The band released their debut composition, 'Choirs Of The Eye', on John Zorn's label Tzadik in 2003. This album captures atmospheric metal with avant-garde overtones with an evocative and sincerely experimental approach. 'Choirs Of The Eye' continues the combination of metal and atmospheric compositions which maudlin of the Well are known for, and is a good entry point for new listeners.

The band's 2006 follow up, 'Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue', combines a more avant and less metal overall sound, and features over an hour of guitar based compositions with less frontal vocals and a higher emphasis on atmospheric textures and avant-garde playing.

In 2008, they released their third LP, 'Blue Lambency Downwards', which features several shorter compositions bookended by two ten minute pieces. This album is the least metal of their output, and is made up mostly of drum textures combined with string sections and clarinet playing. The connection of metal within a typical sense is gone from the band's sound, replaced by an occasionally aggressive and consistently freeform sound.

Kayo Dot's overall sound has become less metal based since their formation, and it is advisable that metal fans start with their debut. Kayo Dot is recommended to listeners of avant-rock, experimental and atmospheric music, fans of maudlin of the Well and anyone interested in a unique combination of metal and experimental textures.

The current line-up consists of Toby Driver, Mia Matsumiya, Terran Olson, David Bodie and Daniel Means, who all play several instruments.

'.With Kayo Dot I try to constantly discover new ways of being "heavy" and "dark" without resorting to the same old cheap tricks that so many other "heavy" and "dark" bands rely on. In that case, we are the most metal band of all'
-Toby Driver

(Biography by Joel G, Australia. Replaces original bio written by useful_idiot)


See also:

- Maudlin of the Well
-...
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Choirs of the EyeChoirs of the Eye
Tzadik 2003
Audio CD$9.21
$8.99 (used)
Coffins on IoCoffins on Io
Flenser 2014
Audio CD$9.31
$11.10 (used)
CoyoteCoyote
Hydra Head Records 2010
Audio CD$9.93
$7.40 (used)
Dowsing Anemone with Copper TongueDowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
Robotic Empire 2006
Audio CD$44.86
$10.84 (used)
HubardoHubardo
Indies Japan 2014
Audio CD$40.29
$39.00 (used)
Blue Lambency DownwardBlue Lambency Downward
Hydra Head Records 2008
Audio CD$7.22
$6.48 (used)
Gamma KnifeGamma Knife
Antithetic 2012
Audio CD$6.83
$6.00 (used)
Stained GlassStained Glass
Limited Edition
Antithetic 2012
Vinyl$15.72
$28.92 (used)
BLUE LAMBENCY DOWNWARD(2CD) +bonusBLUE LAMBENCY DOWNWARD(2CD) +bonus
DIW Records (JAPAN)
Audio CD$30.72
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KAYO DOT shows & tickets


  • Sannhet Record Release Show on 27 Mar 2015
  • Metalorgie Fest #3 on 3 Apr 2015
  • Doom over Leipzig Festival 2015 on 8 Apr 2015
  • Roadburn Festival 2015 on 9 Apr 2015
  • Botanist + Kayo Dot at Hafenklang, Hamburg on 13 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist at Fńngelset, G÷teborg on 14 Apr 2015
  • Junius on 15 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist + ?Alos + more at Vila Stvanice, Prague on 16 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist at Undertown, Meyrin on 17 Apr 2015
  • SoloMacello Fest on 18 Apr 2015
  • Floor + Kayo Dot + Minsk + more at Espace B, Paris on 20 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist at The Macbeth, London on 24 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist at Islington Mill, Salford on 25 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist at Panic Room, Essen on 27 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot on 28 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Botanist at Gozsdu Manˇ Klub, Budapest on 29 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot at The Stone, New York City on 26 Aug 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Tartar Lamb at The Stone, New York City on 27 Aug 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Stern at The Stone, New York City on 29 Aug 2015

KAYO DOT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KAYO DOT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.27 | 294 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
2003
3.70 | 142 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
2006
3.52 | 86 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
2008
3.84 | 150 ratings
Coyote
2010
3.51 | 45 ratings
Gamma Knife
2012
3.93 | 88 ratings
Hubardo
2013
3.93 | 48 ratings
Coffins On Io
2014

KAYO DOT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 6 ratings
Live In Bonn
2010
4.00 | 4 ratings
Krakˇw
2014

KAYO DOT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

KAYO DOT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

KAYO DOT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.07 | 17 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda Split
2006
3.94 | 42 ratings
Stained Glass
2010

KAYO DOT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 48 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars In talking about KAYO DOT's "Coffins On Io" Toby Driver said they were going for that 80's retro-future noir vibe ala "Blade Runner". He also said that the album sounded like a combination of TYPE O NEGATIVE, Peter Gabriel and SISTERS OF MERCY. It just so happens that i'm a fan of the style of eighties music they are trying to emulate here, of course this is KAYO DOT so there will be a lot of surprises and experimentation.

"The Mortality Of Doves" opens with sounds pulsing in this disturbing soundscape before the vocals arrive and it settles back to a more normal sound instrumentally with fuzz. An organ solo which is far from normal arrives after after 2 minutes and ends before 4 1/2 minutes when the vocals return. The vocals by the way remind me of the band IN THE WOODS... here. Love the drum work as well. Sax before 7 minutes and the vocals will stop a minute later. Check out the bass solo that follows. It kicks back in with vocals quickly then we get this intense ending with Post-rock styled guitars.

"Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22" opens with drums as vocals and more join in quickly. A catchy number with so much going on. An eighties vibe here for sure, especially the vocals. This is so impressive instrumentally. "I push the needle, I push the needle..." then the vocals stop 5 minutes in as it becomes somewhat experimental with electronics and more. I like the background synths as this continues to the end. "Longtime Disturbance On The Miracle Mile" has this dark rhythm to start as the relaxed vocals join in. The focus is on the vocals for almost 2 minutes then that rhythm returns to the fore. The vocals return 3 minutes in in this surprisingly accessible song. A very cool tune.

"Library Subterranean" is my favourite track on here. A haunting start that turns experimental fairly quickly. Vocals after a minute as the tempo picks up. It settles back as the vocals become the focus 2 minutes in. The guitar starts to make some noise as it all becomes fuller again as the vocals step aside. Lots of fuzz here. This is dark and heavy. What an incredible instrumental section. My God! Love the mournful synths after 4 minutes that recall RUSH's "Permanent Waves" album or GENESIS self-titled record from 1983. Killer sound here! Outstanding drum work as well. Intense is the word. Sax joins the chaos after 6 1/2 minutes.

"The Assassination Of Adam" comes out of the gate with guns blazing as the vocals arrive a minute in and they are processed. Insanity! A calm after 1 1/2 minutes as the guitar solos in an unconventional manner(haha). It's experimental when the dissonant sax and more join in and processed vocals follow. So much passion. The sax kicks back in after 4 minutes as the vocals stop. Incredible! Huge bass lines too. "Spirit Photography" has relaxed vocals and a pleasant sound to start. Some high pitched vocal moments at times, man can Toby sing or what? The vocals then stop as the sax comes in before 3 minutes. It just sort of trips along until the vocals return before 8 minutes with some deep sounds as well.

I wasn't sure what to think after one listen but man once I got a grasp of what they are doing here I was totally on board and loving this stuff. I can appreciate that there are those who won't be into this dark, eighties styled music but I adore this album.

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 Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.70 | 142 ratings

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Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars "Choirs of the Eye", the previous album by Kayo Dot was a masterpiece. This was dangerous for a debut album for this band, even if they are all accomplished musicians, because it set the bar high for the follow up album. Guess what? They got themselves another masterpiece. But they did it without copying anything from the previous album. This album is a masterpiece on it's own merit. If anything, this one shows more cohesiveness within each track. Each epic song has it's own basic feel to it and seems to have more focus, for the most part anyway. Now this is not really a flaw in the previous album, but it is a difference between the albums and it pays off in both cases.

Reviewers outside of PA have said this album is a lot heavier. Except for the track "____On Limpid Form", I don't find this to be true. The album starts out with "Gemini Becoming the Tripod" which is somewhat heavy, but not in the extreme. The vocals on this one are almost dirty vocals (growly) all through the track, but there is a lot going on here, just like there is throughout every track. There is a lot of space in the music allowing a lot of improvisational work along with the structured work. A loud track but not extreme except for in little spurts. Very dynamic. The next track is closer to ambient, though I wouldn't go so far as to call it that, it only approaches it. The vocals are soft, there are nice short touches of jazz and even though it stays pretty soft through all 9 minutes, the time goes by quickly because of the beauty of the track with enough dissonance to keep things interesting.

"Aura on an Asylum Wall" is the shortest track at over 7 minutes, but it is an amazing example of dynamics with the overall feeling of the track being around the midway point between extremes. The jazz and orchestral passages through this track are wonderful and the interplay of the instruments is perfect. As I said earlier, "___On Limpid Form" is extremely heavy. It starts out innocently enough with vocals and stays innocent for about the first 5 1/2 minutes, then a sudden build of dirty heavy guitars, a wall of sound, starts to build, plodding along almost like an early Swans track, but without any discernible hooks, mostly noise, with feedback being added slowly into the mix. Soon the feedback becomes a lead instrument almost playing a melody of sorts, this track is extreme to the max by the end. The last track is more of a free form, with a small amount of structure, remaining dark, but much more sparse than the previous track. Plucked guitar chords with strings whining and screeching very low in the background and an occasional lead violin weaving around the guitar. It's a nice cool down after the previous track and a good way to complete the album.

I have yet to hear anything conventional by Kayo Dot. They explore so many styles of music, usually centering around harshness that exists between musical palettes. The best label to put on this music is definitely avant-garde. They were early on looped into the Progressive or Art Metal category, because of their harshness and their tie ins to their previous band, but they go so far beyond that. This is music in the abstract with it's roots in Progressive rock and as I have said in other reviews, it is worthy to hopefully be added in with a Classical Music category some day. Kayo Dot is one of the best bands for effectively mixing styles and being innovative.

Their next album "Blue Lambency Downward" is somewhat of a departure and it suffers for it. I understand the need to explore, but, even though it is still excellent, it is very dense all the way through with very little let up. I don't mean dense in a metal way either, it is dense as there are so many things going on without a lot of recognizable structure. It takes a lot more getting used to, but the amazing sounds present in this and "Choirs of the Eye" are harder to find. If you are looking into finding a way to hear what this band has to offer, be prepared that it will be different from anything else you have heard. I would say it is closer to Mars Volta's first album than anything, but even then that is a half assed attempt to compare it to something else that a lot of people have heard. But this album, or the previous album, are your best bets for initiating yourself into this music. I suggest you have an open mind and that you listen to it a few times before passing judgement. Kayo Dot had become one of my favorite bands to follow lately because I am always excited to see where they go next.

Highly recommended to everyone that is willing to explore. A masterpiece once again for Kayo Dot. 5 stars.

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 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 48 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Kayo Dot. This band is such an anomaly in so many ways for me. In 2013, they released the classless, pointless "Hubardo", which I still feel is more of an experiment in cacophony than in actual music. They have rebounded, however, with 2014's "Coffins on Io", an album with a title that caught my interest to some degree.

The album features much the same list of performers as "Hubardo", with the notable exception of Mia on violin. I actually wasn't sure how to process that. Anyways, the band consists of Toby Driver on vocals, bass, synths, electric percussion, and guitars; Ron Varod on guitars; Daniel Means on saxophones, synths, and electric percussion; and Keith Abrams on drums and electric percussion. You may have noticed that electric percussion is pretty popular, and you would be correct. This new album from Kayo Dot is an electronic, bassy affair that harkens back to the 80s in some ways. The main difference between the last album and "Coffins on Io" is the fact that actual song structures and melodies are present. Some people have even likened this album's sound to Riverside, but I think that is unwarranted. Ultimately, however, the album has a droning sound to it that is mostly accompanied by some down-turning melodies and stark atmospheres. Some of the tracks, such as my favorite "Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22", are honestly quite beautiful in a weird, blunt way; almost as if we are listening to this album by candlelight somehow, if that makes any sense.

I was so happy that the band decided to make actual songs this time. I rather enjoyed the off-key sounds and edgeless sensibilities of this album. While the band returns to the style I despise here and there in the second half of this album, the album as a whole is genuinely interesting, beautifully different, and strange in the best of ways. I still can't commit and call this an excellent album, but "Coffins of Io" is definitely good and worth hearing.

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 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 48 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak

4 stars Toby Driver keeps on evolving. Perhaps more than any other artist . . . ever. Miles. Fripp. Genesis. Sylvian. Herbie. Mahavishnu John. Zorn. Ulver. Trying new styles, new personas, stretching himself instrumentally and compositionally, Toby Driver's Kayo Dot discography alone would compare favorably to any of the above shape-shifting artists--and Coffins on Io does not disappoint on that account. The much-mentioned Goth/glam-synth-pop sounds from the 1980s are absolutely present here (the over-long "Library Subterranean" [8:23] [9/10], the feel of the guitar chord sequence and vocal in the first two sections of "The Assassination of Adam"), but there is so much more. There is a haunting soundtrack jazziness to the saxophone-laden "Spirit Photography" (10:06) (10/10). And yet there are still vestiges of the Post Metal heaviness of previous Kayo Dot albums, such as on the second half of "The Assassination of Adam" (5:47) (7/10; a bit too grating for my ears), as well as some of the sensitivity and enjoyable melody-making of Toby's maudlin of The Well era ("Longtime Disturbance on the Miracle Mile" [4:07] [8/10]). Parts of "The Assassination of Adam," interestingly, also fit into the realm of psychedelia.

Two of my favorite three songs sound like they came straight out of the 80s. In the haunting "Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22" (9:25) (10/10) I hear bits and pieces of bands like DIF JUZ, TALK TALK, BLUE NILE, THE CURE, GENE LOVES JEZEBEL, NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE, ICEHOUSE, ROXY MUSIC, and even STEELY DAN (in the drumming).

Despite its length, "The Mortality of Doves" (11:54) (9/10) has one of my favorite Toby Driver vocals of all-time. Though it is very heavily treated in reverb, it is his most consistently 'normal' vocal ever. It is also heavily steeped in similarities to the glam styles of 1980s Glam rockers like Brian Ferry, Ira Davies and Dave Gahan. And yet it is Toby Driver--his own fresh, new territory. Where the song suffers, however, is in its lack of variation and 'development' over its twelve minute length.

"Spirit Photography" (10/10) escapes being pigeon-holed in the 1980s umbrella due to its spaciousness and its jazzier drums (though 1990s TALK TALK does come to mind). The gentle central groove with its DICK PARRY-like breathy sax is quite reminiscent, to me, of the wonderfully soporific songs "Breathe" and "Us and Them" from PINK FLOYD's Dark Side of the Moon.

Still, this is, for me, the most impressive--and my favorite--Kayo Dot album since Choirs of the Eye. The others have been either too unpolished, too dark and depressing, or seeming undeveloped and without direction. While Toby's signature chunky, rolling bass remains central to every song, Coffins on Io has seen Toby & Co. take a definite turn down "a road less travelled by" other bands. Let's hope that it is the one that makes all the difference.

4.5 stars--one of the best I've heard from 2014.

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 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 48 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Kazza3

4 stars Kayo Dot is one of those bands known for changing their tune with every album, but arguably never more so than with Coffins on Io. The band's pre-release description of the album as "80s retro-future noir? Blade Runner... a good record to put on while you drive across the desert at night under a toxic, post-apocalyptic atmosphere" is absurdly accurate- this is a dark, openly 80s influenced record, with little of the usual post-metal and jazz influenced sounds more familiar to the band's listeners. Much has also been made of it being probably the most accessible Kayo Dot album, with the emphasis being placed squarely on Driver's greatly melodic and clean vocals, a shift away from the trend of vocals on earlier KD albums being merely another part of the instrumental soundscape. The instrumentation is usually greatly restrained, in the tradition of 80s pop, and is often straightforward on the surface, being rhythm & riff-driven, albeit in a dark and twisted way. The songs themselves are almost always characterised by shorter vocal sections (some- 'Offramp Cycle'- even in verse-chorus form!) followed by long instrumental vamps, which are usually repetitive and feature little to no soloing, additions or changes, meaning they sometimes overstay their welcome. The biggest exception to that latter point is the highlight & centrepiece track 'Library Subterranean', in which the vamp upon a synth-drenched riff continually shifts and builds to a sax solo.

If previous Kayo Dot albums have been too obscure and difficult to get into for you, or you're a particular fan of dark, minimalist 80s pop a la Peter Gabriel, try this one out. A fantastic and atmospheric, if slightly flawed, album.

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 Choirs Of The Eye by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.27 | 294 ratings

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Choirs Of The Eye
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This album is incredible. Original, intense, very dynamic. This is not music that just anyone can appreciate. It is not accessible by any means, you really have to grow into it and appreciate it's importance. It is considered one of the most important post metal albums ever.

Toby Driver, the founder of this band, is trying to define modern classical music through post rock music. I really appreciate his vision. This is what I would imagine new classical music should sound like. It is very important to him that electric guitar is a seminal part of modern classical music. I have to agree. Why is it that in order to be considered classical music that you have to shun the new instruments of today? This is music that needs to be explored, and is being explored by several pioneers including Kayo Dot, Godspeed You Black Emperor, A Silver Mt. Zion, Mogwai, Mono, Sigur Ros, John Zorn and so many others. Kayo Dot however doesn't just concentrate on the guitar, but it fuses the guitar into the "orchestra" to emphasize it's importance.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is not an easy album to listen to. But when you get to the point that you can appreciate what is going on here, listen for the dynamics in this music, how it doesn't have to follow the typical patterns of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus. It is music that is free, that has many liberties, and that is the best way to express oneself.

Now this formula works very well on this album. You get a lot of interesting things going on, the instruments are all important and easy to pick out throughout the album, the lyrics can be hard to understand though, even in the quiet passages. However, it works on this album somewhat better than it does on Kayo Dot's later album "Blue Leniency Downward", which is still an innovative album, but harder to follow because of the similarities of the tracks and the tendency on that album to not concentrate so much on individual sounds, but to rely on the entire sound as a whole. So, for that reason, I like "Choirs of the Eye" so much better, because there is more of a variety in the sound here.

Just a warning here before you check out this album though. It can get quite loud at times. The vocals sometimes reach high emotional levels in that screaming and growling occasionally exists here. But that is all part of the dynamic and the freedom that exists in this music. Anyway, this is highly recommended if you are looking for music that breaks the boundaries of modern popular music. It is actually an attempt to merge the sounds, but it tends to lean more on the avant garde style of modern classical music, so expect dissonance. But don't worry, there is a lot of resolve too. If you want something challenging and different and if you love post rock/post metal, then this is something essential that you should be listening to. Great stuff. Masterpiece. 5 stars.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 88 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Billy Pilgrim

5 stars This is the pinnacle of everything Toby Driver has ever done, this is the one. If you are just getting into Kayo Dot then this is where to start, also if you're a bit hesitant to buy it after the somewhat underwhelming Coyote and Gamma Knife, just do it, its better in every way, more cohesive as a whole. Firstly, the songs are more structured here than they ever have been in previous Kayo Dot releases. Some of these melodies are so pronounced that they get stuck in my head from time to time. This does nothing to the creative process of Kayo Dot, and the songs still feel like free form expressions that came straight from the mind and then onto the album. Kayo Dot has always felt like that to me, like if some being was to say "let there be music" we would get something like Kayo Dot, minimalist discordant sounds that somehow fit together perfectly. The album has everything, from pounding metal, to bleak atmospheric passages, to the perfect melodies and the harsh shrieking from Toby Driver, and it all works perfectly. Only weak moment is the opener, and it still fits, Crown in the Muck is where it all really starts, and it never ones losing steam after that. 5 stars, buy this album.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 88 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Kazza3

4 stars This is an entrancing album, in the way only Kayo Dot can. The sound and aura of it is quite beautiful, even when it gets heavy- to me, it feels like the sound of the forest & river that is meant to be portrayed in the narrative (which centres around a strange meteor falling to earth, which a single poet obsesses over). The songs which capture this most clearly, of course, are those which have elements of post-rock, or of ballads, to them- particularly The First Matter, The Second Operation, And He Built Him A Boat, and parts of Passing the River. The other side of this album reflects more Toby Driver's black metal (at least I think it's black metal?) roots, particularly on the first few tracks, where most of the growling/screaming is located. The first track, The Black Stone, is particularly free-form. I admit, black metal & growling are not styles I am a fan of, but these tracks are growing on me. The 'odd track out' almost is the last track, the particular brand of jazz influence & all the horns is quite unusual for this band.

Aside from the growling, & rambling heaviness in some of the tracks which doesn't appeal to me, the other negative factor for this album is the length- it's quite long, and it can be quite difficult to sit down to for one listen. However, overall it is an excellent work. 4 stars.

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 Choirs Of The Eye by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.27 | 294 ratings

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Choirs Of The Eye
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 88 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Forum & Site Admin Group Forum & Site Admin

4 stars When the writing of this album was complete and the recording was about to begin, Kayo Dot let it be known that their next album would be a monster. Fans had learned to expect the unexpected from this eclectic combo: it's sometimes hard to believe that Dowsing Anemone, Blue Lambency Downward and Coyote are all the work of the same band. Although the group's compositional imprint can be detected on each of these albums, stylistically they're very different from each other. Since Kayo Dot is still a working band at the time of this writing, and we don't yet have the benefit of hindsight, only later will we really know where these albums fit in their overall creative vision, which is still expanding and developing both vertically and horizontally. If anything, Hubardo feels like a career recap, a return to the roots, and a bold step in a new direction all at once. All this, plus the daunting album length of 100 minutes, has led fans to expect great things from this release. While the excitement of its release (and of the live show I saw last week) has not died down yet, I think it's safe to say this album will be seen as one of Kayo Dot's crowning achievements when all is said and done.

Its strengths are many. After two albums and one EP of relatively downbeat and pensive music, this album marks a welcome return to the roaring rock sound of their first two albums, not to mention those of their predecessors maudlin of the Well. The deep, thick guitar chords that helped make Choirs of the Eye and Dowsing such an intense listen are back, as are the livelier tempos and screaming squall of their most free-blowing moments in the past. The album also benefits from a fleshed out storyline, wonderful artwork, and a lean, mean ensemble of virtuosos including leader Toby Driver, Daniel Means, Terran Olson, Ron Varod, and Keith Abrams.

On the down side, the extremely wide spectrum of styles on this album can often be a distraction. Songs go from one extreme to the next with very little middle ground to ease the transition. For example, the album goes from the placid tranquility of "The Second Operation" straight into the furious tech/death metal of "Floodgate" without too much rhyme or reason that I can detect. The pacing of the album is also kind of strange -- it starts out sounding like a tech/death metal album for roughly the first 30 minutes , then it sounds like a post-rock/goth album for the next 30, and then ends up as a post-rock/fusion album for the remainder, with only the "Floodgate" interrupting this pattern. It's definitely an intriguing idea to pace an album this way, but as of now, it mostly leaves me confused. It's a good kind of confusion, but I can imagine a less sympathetic listener being turned off by this overt display of "how different can we make each song sound?".

Each song is its own universe of complex combinations of ideas, don't get me wrong -- I don't mean to reduce the whole album to three homogenous chunks. Even within the songs I casually described as "tech/death metal", there are strange shifts and myriad influences ranging from jazz to King Crimson. And the last two lengthy tracks, "Passing the River" and "Wait of the World" are perhaps the least easy to pin down, with elements of post-rock, Canterbury fusion, drone metal, and... as I said, it's hard to pin down. These are probably my favorite two tracks at this point, and they end the album on a very high, if puzzling note.

Kayo Dot is a band I've followed since Choirs of the Eye, and each album has intrigued me to the point that even thought I may not "get it" all the time, I am filled with a hunger to explore their world and understand it better. I won't pretend that I understand and love every note or even song on Hubardo, but like all of Kayo Dot's work, it rewards dedication and patience, and it may take me another ten years to fully appreciate it. Its sheer originality and wealth of ideas makes it a work to be reckoned with - even if you may not like it at first.

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