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KAYO DOT

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Kayo Dot biography
Founded in Brooklyn, NYC, USA in 2003 - Still active as of 2017

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.

⭐ Collaborators Top Prog Album of 2006 ⭐

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 "heav...
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KAYO DOT discography


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

4.21 | 402 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
2003
3.71 | 191 ratings
Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
2006
3.51 | 122 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
2008
3.81 | 196 ratings
Coyote
2010
3.55 | 75 ratings
Gamma Knife
2012
3.99 | 132 ratings
Hubardo
2013
3.76 | 105 ratings
Coffins On Io
2014
3.83 | 116 ratings
Plastic House On Base Of Sky
2016
3.65 | 86 ratings
Blasphemy
2019
4.08 | 38 ratings
Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike
2021

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

3.70 | 10 ratings
Live in Bonn
2010
4.00 | 11 ratings
Kraków
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)

3.08 | 22 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda Split
2006
3.93 | 60 ratings
Stained Glass
2010

KAYO DOT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.08 | 38 ratings

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Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars In the on again / off again world of KAYO DOT in regards to being an avant-garde metal band, Toby Driver has shifted gears once again away from the Gothic rock / electronica menageries of his post "Hubardo" period and once again jumped back into the heavier realms of music complete with death growls. While some may call KAYO DOT's tenth studio album MOSS GREW ON THE SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES ALIKE a return to form, it would be more accurate to call this album an interesting album length compendium of everything Driver has conjured up in his past works and thrown onto the work table for the ultimate mix of all the previous styles in one listening experience.

One thing is for sure and that is that KAYO DOT remains in its own little world, utterly unclassifiable although the list of ingredients that include avant-garde metal, gothic rock, doom metal and progressive rock do give a hint of what to expect. With some rather bloated projects in the past with huge rosters of guest musicians, MOSS GREW is basically the Toby Driver show where he plays all the instruments with the only exception being guitar solos performed by Greg Massi. Jason Byron, the long term collaborator continues to provide the lyrics for Driver's unique atmospheric knotty prog to latch onto.

Clocking in at close to an hour, MOSS GREW ON THE SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES ALIKE displays a triumphant return to those missed metal accoutrements that decorate Driver's musical palette like no other. "The Knight Errant" unapologetically breaks down the door announcing that the series of non-metal albums has ceased and a new chapter of the KAYO DOT experience has begun. With dramatic synth stabs, howling atmospheric keyboard fuzz and off-kilter percussive outbursts, Driver re-introduces his growly metal vocal angst yet without the aqcompanienmt of heavy guitar distortion but rather jagged angular keyboard runs, jazzy drumming dopamine inducers and crazy roller coaster ride time signature changes and proggy workouts. Some heavier guitars do make their appearance but always play second fiddle to the untamed and oft unhinged synth madness.

It becomes quite clear with the second track "Brethren Of The Cross" that Driver did not completely abandon his avant-goth leanings of the previous albums but in fact has melded them with his prior avant-metal and Maudlin of the Well sensibilities. The juxtaposition of elements provides a turbulent stormy ride like chartering a sailboat over the Drake's passage to Antarctica. This atmospheric jungle mixed with the more aggressive metal leanings is exactly what the doctor ordered and offerings the much needed contrast that has been missing on Driver's non-metal offerings. The result is an abstract soundscape in the vein of MotW's "Bath" and "Leaving Your Body Map" as well as the earliest KAYO DOT offerings all kept in the more accessible realms of Driver's more recent jaunts into the easier on the ears soundscapes of Goth electronic mood enhancers.

The diversity factor has been turned up on MOSS GREW and that is what makes it such a welcome return to past glories! While recent albums sorta got stuck in a one-trick pony groove, this one really isn't afraid to let each track drift to wherever feels right. "The Necklace" is a particular standout as erratic percussive drive accompanies a chilled out synth soaring sequence with Driver screaming from beneath the mix. Another standout is the closing 13-minute plus "Epipsychidion" which delivers what one could only deem as atmospheric death metal. Thick ambient cloud covers suffocate heavy drumming and growly vocals with weirder than weird meandering compositional fortitude that reminds as to why Toby Driver is considered one of the most inventive artists in today's prog and metal realms.

MOSS GREW ON THE SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES ALIKE comes as an unexpected surprise as the previous album "Blasphemy" really made me think that Driver had peaked and was destined to no longer compose music that i can't really resonate with. If anything this album reminds me that Driver is always on the lookout for something new to latch onto but also has his pulse on the whims of the fanbase and returned to a more familiar comfort zone in the nick of time for those on the fence. Overall, MOSS GREW is not only a dramatic and welcome return to his metal roots but really does capture the essence of everything Driver has tackled up to this point. It's sort of a recap in musical form of all those "leaving your body map" musical projections. What really makes this one work is the abstract fuzziness of it all, as if it is the soundtrack to a dream. Just enough melodic progressions to latch onto yet one of the most surreal KAYO DOT experiences to behold in a very long time.

 Blasphemy by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 86 ratings

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Blasphemy
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars KAYO DOT decidedly abandoned any metal connections on "Coffins On Io" and started melding Gothic rock with it's unique brand of dark jazz, avant-prog and darkwave. Toby Driver and friends continue this on BLASPHEMY, the ninth studio album. While the previous release "Plastic House On Base Of Sky" was larger than life with 21 extra musicians on board to create a somewhat bloated production, BLASPHEMY on the hand creates a more immediate effect by reducing the lineup to a mere six participants. The result is a more direct progressive rock experience that focuses on creepy atmospheres that match the foggy album cover art with Gothic bleakness.

There are two camps of KAYO DOT fans, one that went gaga over Driver's unique avant-garde metal style that mixed metal bombast with jazz, chamber prog and avant-garde weirdness and then there are those who love this second phase of non-metal mood maddening Goth. Of course there are those who get into both sides. I'm in the first camp and have never related to this phase of the KAYO DOT universe and unfortunately BLASPHEMY does not change this fact. The album consists of eight tracks of over 45 minutes however there is also a second bonus disc titled PURITY for those who can't get enough of this style of KAYO DOT. If that's the case get the Digibook Limited Edition and bliss out!

Admittedly while i literally hated this album upon first listen, it actually has grown on me a bit through forced exposure until i can put myself into the head of the creators who forged it in their fiery pits. The admirable aspects include highly complex time signature changes, abstract and surreal tones and timbres that really do take you to the heart of the matrix for deep contemplation. The whole thing does sound what The Cure might've evolved into had they pursued a more progressive rock oriented sound. The down side is that after the first three tracks the album begins to lag a bit and the spell that the album casts begins to wear thin to my ears.

While the production works quite well, i find the vocals to a bit irritating to be honest. Musically all is fine featuring those knotty KAYO DOT workouts but considering the music is so dark and depressive i find the vocals to be a bit one-dimensional and in the end pretty much ruins the overall experience. In fact the vocals sound processed much of the time and there is some sort of tinny tone that reminds me of modern day electro-pop which while not inherently bad for what it is, doesn't resonate in the context of a dark gloomy album theme to my ears. Whatever the case some have warmed up to this album as the logical next step from this series of non-metal albums.

Given the Gothic rock leanings, BLASPHEMY also has more pop oriented hooks than most KAYO DOT albums would ever dare. As a KAYO DOT fan i'm more accustomed to the jagged surreal soundscapes of "Choirs Of The Eye," "Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue" and "Blue Lambency Downward," therefore this one is just too tame for my interest from an artist known to expand the metal world's horizons into bizarre new colonizations of sound. All in all this isn't as bad as my first impressions implied but after giving it more time to sink in and renewed contemplation, it still doesn't exactly light my fire. When it comes down to it, BLASPHEMY just doesn't deliver what it promises. I can't enjoy an album that i constantly have to reinterpret it to what i want it to be. While i can overlook that to some degree, in the end this just doesn't rank high on my KAYO DOT experiences.

 Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.08 | 38 ratings

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Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

5 stars 5.0 Stars. maudlin of the Well + Kayo Dot = Astral Hubardo

Kayo Dot have been on a strong run for a while now. Ever since their landmark Hubardo album back in 2013 they have been delivering a diverse but consistent string of albums for the rest of the decade. They had tuned down the pure Avant chaos of their earlier work but in exchange had made their albums more direct and engaging, while still being far away from commercial or selling out.

Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike sees a shifting back to the older, more experimental style of Kayo Dot, partially due to the deliberate homage to former band maudlin of the Well and Greg Massi joining the band once again. As with the older Kayo Dot albums Moss is very uncompromising, with their being lots of extreme metal, grows and screams. They have even managed to do some Avant drone metal and expansive sound scaping, which I have not heard from them since their earlier 2 albums and never thought I would again from them.

Their is a lot of familiar ground between this album and Hubardo in terms of aggression and song writing. However the key difference is the Mauldlin influence in Moss, which causes the songs to be more abstract and experimental. While most of this album is dark and heavy, ambient and new-age sounds permeate though to add a more otherworldliness feel.

The album was created during the Covid pandemic, when the world was turned upside down and people were full of fear and dread. The nightmare of 2020 has been perfectly reflected on Moss, which tells stories of cruelty and pain, with their being no hope on the horizon. The darkness intensifies as the album continues, with it reaching a climax at the start of Epipsychidion ( probably the most chaotic and destructive song Kayo Dot have ever created), before everything crumbles away into Avant Garde sound scaping.

Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike may well be the most challenging album Toby Driver has ever written (which is impressive if you look at his back catalogue!), as it contains a level of darkness and intensity that surpasses the likes of Hubardo, Coyote or Library Loft. The extreme metal and psychic darkness will make this album hard to listen to, even for most Prog listeners. Yet despite this there are some of the best music I have ever heard to be found here. I would rank this album as highly as their debut Choirs, which is one of my favourite albums of all time.

 Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.08 | 38 ratings

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Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Reuniting some of the cast from previous Maudlin of The Well albums, Toby has stepped back into relativity with this, at times, stunning album.

1. "The Knight Errant" (8:21) a fascinating ride: high energy, yet, on cruise control the whole way--and narrated by an angry man with something to say. Could have used a little more variation in tempo and themes. (17.5/20)

2. "Brethren of the Cross" (8:20) engaging both musically and lyrically, the key and tempo changes are fresh and unpredictable--which makes me want to come back to it more. The instrumental seventh and eight minutes are awesome as the music slowly deconstructs. (18.5/20)

3. "Void in Virgo (The Nature of Sacrifice)" (9:10) definitely has a moTW feel to it despite its more modern/recent Depeche Mode-like synth wash treatments. The lead guitar work is my favorite element but the chord and key changes are also awesome. From the opening with Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins)-like rolling bass play and the guitar's melodic foundational chord progression, I am into this one. The sensitively sung lyrics and interjection of 80s synth sounds are wonderful. As a matter of fact, it's an extraordinary vocal performance--one of my favorites by Toby Driver in a long time. Great lead guitar play by Greg Massi--even as the walls of sound thicken. Awesome song! Great ending! (19.5/20)

4. "Spectrum of One Colour" (4:57) uptempo and fast-moving, this one sounds like a Billy Idol song. Interesting how Toby's dominant bass and the guitar's chord play weave around each other. I'm thankful to be able to understand the scream vocals, however, since I have trouble (or an innate lack of interest in) hearing words, the deep impact of the song is lost upon me. Love the oscillating synth work in the final section. (8.5/10)

5. "Get Out of the Tower" (7:06) that murky, echo bass of recent KD albums anchors a more moTW music structure-- even more emphasized by Toby's screaming vocals. (I think he's actually angry, folks!) The "angry" Robin Guthrie guitar play is another great aspect. While I like this song, I'm not as enamored of Toby's fairly untreated vocal--it's too thin and weak (except when he gets into the growling in the second half)--this despite the fact that I can appreciate the target of his anger. The full soundscape of the second half is much better than the spacious opening three minutes. (13.25/15)

6. "The Necklace" (8:10) a song based over the field-filling drumming! Floating, droning synth-guitar wall-scapes and screamed vocals help give it its other shape and identity--with great, slow-transitioning sustained chords--but the real attention-grabber here is the drumming--especially in the first half. Cool song! (14.25/15)

7. "Epipsychidion" (13:13) the walls of cacophony--despite the use of Edge Evans' guitar tone from the early 1980s-- coupled with the scream vocals throughout the first half of this song irritate me to no end. The song improves in the sixth minute as the walls of noise are taken down and Toby sings in a human voice (sounding drained and exhausted--a reflection of the planet and it's homo sapiens?) The second half, with it's experimental sound explorations, is highly entertaining and even enjoyable. Still, I simply can't reward those first five minutes too highly. (25.5/30)

Total Time 59:17

I don't know how Toby & Company manage to release album after album in which they challenge the existing norms of what is practiced--of what is acceptable--in progressive rock music, but they do--and here, with Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike, they've done it as well as they ever have. Definitely the most stunning display of the combination of frustrated aggression, instrumental virtuosity, and melody I've heard in 2021. In spite of this praise and recognition, I feel as if, once again, I'm faced with rating an album from this year whose song output ranges quite drastically from extremes of "pleasing" to "irritating." Were it not for the weak aspects (the growl/scream vocals and occasional lack of change or development), this might be one of my favorite albums of the year--and certainly the best experimental/post metal album. As it is, I can only go with the metrics. B/four stars; a very interesting and polarizing album to listen to (for me). I do not, however, hesitate to urge you to try it for yourselves.

 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.99 | 132 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

5 stars In Hubardo, Toby Driver returns to the extreme avant-prog metal roots that he embraced with his prior band Maudlin of the Well. The reason that Driver revisited the heavy sounds of the early days of Kayo Dot and his prior band was because he felt that a lot of the avant metal that was being produced was not deserving of the accolades that it was receiving, that it wasn't quite challenging or imaginative enough. So, he rips out all of the stops for this one and creates a monster of an album.

There are two discs to this album, and pretty much all of the first disc is dark, chaotic, heavy, extreme and loud. But, it is also obvious that the tracks are not your typical, run-of-the-mill extreme metal. It is definitely not accessible music at all, but highly imaginative and well-produced metal at it's finest. Right away, starting with "The Black Stone", the Kayo Dot listener will know that she/he is in for craziness. This 10 minute track is heavy and harsh, yet complex and brilliant. Layers of bass and guitar pile upon growling and extreme brass along with harsh vocals by Jason Byron, formerly from Maudlin of the Well. "Crown-in-the-Muck" is a bit lighter in feel, but still as dark as the previous, but then layers of brass come in building a foundation for layers of guitar to join in later. Vocals come in half way through with a combination of growling and yelling, sometimes at the same time, sometimes separately. "Thief" is a very interesting delve into an almost speed metal/avant punk sound, then, true to Kayo Dot, it turns into what could be a free meter piece. Vocals are more tonal here, but there is a use of some odd modes. "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength" begins abruptly with shouting and is joined by a choir of harsh vocalist styles that are layered on top of brass, drums, bass which come together in a cacophony of noise. Halfway in, a flute takes the song in a complelty different direction turning to a free form jazzcore along with growling vocals. "Zlida Caosgi" as keys and guitars play around almost playfully, suddenly it is destroyed by layers of loud guitar, and then things calm again turning this into a track that has a returning riff that almost sounds like a standard metal tune except it continues to rely on the synths to create some nice textures. The outlying track on this first disc is the last one, "The First Matter (Saturn in the Guise of Sadness)". This one is strikingly different from everything else we have heard on this album up to this point. The music is quite atmospheric sounding very much like something that could have fit comfortably on Ulver's "Blood Inside" album. The vocals are quite beautiful here, but the melody is definitely non-standard.

On the 2nd disc, the "mellower" mood continues with "The Second Operation (Lunar Water)". A standard meter that consists of simply a hypnotic keyboard pattern with a violin playing the melodic part starts it all off. At 3 minutes, things get quite ambient, but with lots of dissonance. Several singers provide an avant-garde style chorale. This one also sounds a lot like Ulver especially when the vocal parts become surprisingly beautiful, yet remain very non- standard. The 2nd disc ends up being the softer side of the album, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of places where everything gets extreme, however, the harsh vocals appear a lot less on this half. However, "Floodgate" will prove that anything can and does happen as this track literally re-opens the floodgates of heaviness, harsh vocals and extreme prog. This track is followed by "And He Built Him a Boat" which once again steps back for a calmer sounding track, not much like anything the band has done before since it is the closest thing to a standard style than anything else on the album, but a great track nonetheless. The calm side continues at first on "Passing the River" which starts out as a study in restraint and dark, complex beauty. The last half, however, turns into a churning, wailing guitar solo which occassionally gets interrupted by outbursts from the rest of the ensemble turning it into metal shoegaze and jazzcore combined. The album ends with complex and epic "The Wait of the World" which pretty much brings everything together in one 14+ minute track.

Many have said this is the heaviest of all of Kayo Dot's albums, and that is the truth. There are plenty of impenetrable sections on this album, especially on the first disc. However, there is a lot of style that Kayo Dot listeners will be used to on the album also as most of the 2nd disc is a bit less chaotic, but still quite complex. Some have said that this is a good album to begin with if you want to get into Kayo Dot's discography, but, even though it is a masterpiece of avant- prog metal, it would not be the one that I would recommend, unless you do like extreme music, even then I would approach it with caution and stick with "Choirs of the Eye" as a beginning point for exploring the band. However, I still consider this one of the band's best albums even with it's harsh tracks. You have to listen closely and concentrate on the music, otherwise it may just sound like noise, but it is not an album to just listen to casually. For that reason, not everyone will be able to handle it's abrupt changes from harsh metal to ambiance. But for those that are willing to explore and are adventurous, this is an essential album.

 Blasphemy by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 86 ratings

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Blasphemy
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

5 stars 4.95 Stars. Avant-Prog at its most accessible

Kayo Dot are a band that have been on a steady rise over the last decade. After hitting rock-bottom in 2012 where they had to produce Gamma Knife on a budget of $0, they have slowly gone up the ranks by getting signed to the Flesher Label, and now the larger Prophecy Productions. The last time they were signed on a bigger label (2008 with Hydra Head) it all began crashing down on themselves, but thankfully this time they have created something that should appeal to a larger market without sacrificing their "Avant-garde" label.

The best description that can be applied to their new album Blasphemy is if their previous albums Hubardo and Plastic house on base of sky had a baby, with a hazy song structure that harkens back to the ill-fated Blue lambancy downward. For those who are not familiar with the band, image a heavy rock band with black-metal flourishes combined with complex 80's synth arrangements and unorthodox song structure. This album has managed to use the key strengths of each of those albums while avoiding the extremes that turned a lot of listeners off. Blasphemy allows moments of intense heaviness and screamed vocals such as that found in Hubardo, however it never becomes a cacophony of sound that overwhelmed many listeners. The 80's synth arrangements are just as tangled as they were in Plastic House, but the rock elements provide a grounding to the sound and give it a greater impact. Lastly the songs are given the freedom to roam off track, but unlike Blue Lambancy there is end destination and storyline to stop the album from losing its way.

As well as learning from their previous albums, Blasphemy has two new features that have never been done on any Kayo Dot (or MOTW) album. The first is the new, dynamic singing style of Toby Driver and the second is the use of modern electronic dance music (EDM) that Toby has explored in his side project Piggy Black Cross. Toby has always been blessed with a very wide vocal range, allowing him to sing at very high and low notes, as well as being able to use harsh metal vocals. However on virtually every album he tends to sing in a consistent manner depending on the song (or segment of a song) being played. On Blasphemy, his vocal range is constantly changing throughout every song, in order to match the constantly shifting sound from the band. This, combined with the use of auto tune on An Eye for a Lie (the masterpiece of the album, or the worst thing they have ever done depending on who you ask) and other songs has proven to be very controversial with the Kayo Dot fan base, who despite being used to the unexpected, were REALLY unprepared for this.

From my perspective Blasphemy seems to be the perfect evolution of the band who is going in the right direction. The song structure of Kayo Dot has always been wild and dynamic, so it makes sense for Toby's voice to follow the same style. The use of auto tune as narration for the character Blasphemy (a demon child who is awoken from her sleep, and then brutally murders everyone on the ship) was a strike of genius, and shows that the band have no limits in what they can create.

Hopefully this album will continue their successful trend so they can continue to increase the scope of their projects. As a final note the deluxe edition is the essential version of the album. It contains electronic/dance versions of the main songs, however the structure of each track was dramatically changed to make them effectively brand new songs. These remixes match very well with the main album, using An Eye for a Lie as the bridge between the EDM and metal sound. To conclude Blasphemy can be ranked as one of Toby and co's strongest albums, while still referencing many of their previous work and moving into new EDM territory. It is a great starting point for those new to the band and in my opinion is only eclipsed by Choirs of the Eye as their key masterpiece.

 Stained Glass by KAYO DOT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
3.93 | 60 ratings

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Stained Glass
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Released in 2010, just shortly after the release of "Coyote", this one-track EP "Stained Glass" features pretty much the same line- up as Coyote. However, this 20 minute track is different enough than anything on Coyote, and it is obvious why it just wasn't included there. This track has some definite musical sections and contains quite a dynamic feel to it that was missing somewhat in Coyote. This track seems to pull the best from their masterpiece "Choirs of the Eye" all the way through "Blue Lambency Downward" as it moves across avant prog atmospherics, dynamics and sensibilities. There is also a guest appearance from Trey Spruance (from "Secret Chiefs 3") who plays the guitar solo.

The piece is centered around the vibraphone, a Rhodes piano and an electric guitar. The four sections are broken up into the instruments that are the most prevalent in the section. This first section is led by voice and violin which changes to distorted organ and tenor sax in the 2nd section, bass and glockenspiel next, and then finally to heavy guitar with tremolo effects, harmonium and synthesizer.

The music remains quite atmospheric all the way through, but stands a little differently than most of Kayo Dot's music in that it has a counting meter, though it is rather opaque. There is an air of mysteriousness all the way through and a section where there is a ten chord progression that rotates through the three main instruments, one at a time, and then starts to played with different odd counts, sort of like a round, yet often beginning on off beats. It's quite complicated, yet it the overall sound seems rather sparse and light.

The EP is a definite must for fans of Kayo Dot, and also for fans of avant prog. But as such, it might not appeal to everyone because of the use of un-traditional modes and intervals. I find it very intriguing and a nice surprise buried in the middle of Kayo Dot's discography.

 Blasphemy by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 86 ratings

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Blasphemy
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

5 stars Kayo Dot continues to be Toby Driver's musical project, and has been since it's formation since the band formed from many of his colleagues from his previous band "Maudlin of the Well". Some of that heavy, extreme metal carried over from that band, but Kayo Dot also took on a huge amount of experimental and post metal sound, and over the years and the course of several albums, that sound has adjusted as needed for each individual album. The music has ranged from the avant-prog-jazz-fusion sound of "Blue Lambency Downward" to the heavy black experimental metal sound of "Hubardo". All the while, however, Driver has retained this avant-prog mentality and has continually expanded his borders to include gothic-style rock and post- punk in some of his albums. All through this time, he has worked with different line-ups of musicians including John Zorn, Trey Spruance, Sunn O))), and many others.

Kayo Dot's album "Blasphemy" is the project's ninth full-length album, released in September of 2019. This album is based on an allegorical story by Jason Byron which surrounds three characters searching for treasure who end up being destroyed by the treasure for which they sought; a sleeping girl with terrible power that goes by the name of Blasphemy. The album is available on LP, CD Digipack, and Bandcamp. There is a 2x CD edition which includes a 6-track CD of remixes (done by Wet Math) from the album and a hardcover book with artwork and a chapter from the book that serves as the album's story. There is also a limited edition box set that includes the full LP on clear vinyl, the 2 CD artbook, 3 art prints and a map of the novel's universe.

Starting off with "Ocean Cumulonimbus" (3:59), the music begins with the gothic mentality, with echoing and jangly guitars, and soon Driver starts with clean vocals that seem to be pushing his emotional boundaries, at least with the clean vocals, but then they become heavier and start to push the clean vocal boundaries, but not quite getting to the screaming or growling style he sometime uses. The music continues going from softer to heavier vocals and the music becomes more symphony- like, moving away from that gothic beginning. "The Something Opal" (5:43) has a sound that seems a bit thicker as far as guitar and synth layers go. The vocals continue in the clean style, but are layered with gruffer vocals at times. The music is cinematic and a bit hazy giving it a psychedelic sound, with rolling drums and a nice balance of guitar and keys. The sound is nice and expansive with just that right touch of dreamy haziness. Driver's vocals are quite expressive, which is a nice surprise. After the lyrics end, the cinematic element continues, and then suddenly the vocals turn dirty as the music remains almost orchestral. It all ends with a short rolling drum solo.

"Lost Souls on Lonesome's Way" (5:20) mix in a bit of the goth sound again, this time more in the attitude in the vocals and the jangly and echoing guitars. As it continues, some pizzicato is added to the guitar giving it a bit of attitude, then the vocals go chant-like as the music softens to sustained notes and continued drumming. Then, threatening spoken word section comes in with synths in the background, and then the music gets a bit complex and dramatic with Driver singing in his higher register. This track is quite dynamic and changes often, but the changes are smooth, even when it slips into a nice guitar solo around the middle of it all. I love the way the track slips from one style to another while still sounding cohesive. "Vanishing Act in Blinding Gray" (8:07) begins quite atmospheric and soft, even Driver's vocals are mellow and pensive. The soft avant- jazz sound makes the track glide along in a peaceful manner, sort of in the style of "Blue Lambency Downward" but a bit more accessible and less abrasive. Just calm and smooth. Now, saying that this music is accessible is only on a comparative with other Kayo Dot music, it truly is not accessible in a traditional sense. The music intensifies later, by the way, and the complexity level moves up several notches. If this is your first time listening to Kayo Dot (and so far, this is a perfect entry level album as it sort of gives you a taste of all of their styles), you will now notice why they are considered avant-prog and art rock. Intensity continues to grow and Driver's vocals get heavier and more expressive even as it becomes somewhat narrative. Wow! This is a definite stand out track.

"Turbine, Hook and Haul" (6:09) starts off sounding quite lush with layers of synths, and a trumpet coming along in the middle, sounding a bit tortured, but controlled. The dreamy sound is very evident in this track, yet it remains softly complex as it stays away from falling into any singular or traditional melody. " Midnight Mystic Rise and Fall" (5:33) starts out a bit heavier, but with a thick and layered sound with a combination of synths and guitars. Between the previous track and this one, the melodies have fallen into what sounds like a more improvised singing style. This is actually fine because of the telling of the story. The theme in this track lies more in the instrumentation than it does in the vocals. The track also remains in the smooth and lush sound of the previous track, but, as I mentioned earlier, a bit heavier. It also intensifies later on with frantic vocals and some squealing feedback and it gets quite dramatic by the end.

"An Eye for a Lie" (5:21) features heavily processed and layered vocals swirled into thick synth and guitar layers. The real experimental side of Kayo Dot shows through here and it all sounds quite exploratory now. Now, if it's your first time hearing Kayo Dot, you have never heard anything like this. Everything, at this point, is totally unpredictable as the music flows and intensifies with the story. The lyrics are quite discernable in the beginning, but as Driver starts to abuse his voice a bit, this becomes totally indiscernible. It all quiets down again to the heavily processed sound as it ends. The last track is "Blasphemy: A Prophecy" (4:13), with the odd gothic feel again, with rolling drums and dreamy synths, but with expressive, mostly atonal vocals at first. This soon changes as the vocals follow the notes of the organ, and then as it builds, the combination of guitars and synth layers gives that orchestral feel again.

I haven't heard the remixes that come on the bonus CD, so I can't say whether they add to or take away from the entire experience, but the album proper is quite excellent. I have felt for quite some time that Kayo Dot is one of the most important avant-prog and experimental bands that is still quite relevant. At the first few listens, I tend to like the first two- thirds of the album the best, but I think with time, that the last part of the album will also grow on me. This always seems to be the case with many of the Kayo Dot albums. I do know the musicianship and the composition of the songs is outstanding and it lends itself to one of their best. I like all of Kayo Dot's albums to some extent, but this one feels really strong. It also tends to by more variant, and that is also a plus. As I mentioned before, I think this is one of their best albums to start on if you haven't heard them before. It give you a good overall picture of what to expect from the band, that is, the unexpected. Their sound is unique, and each album has it's own unique traits, but this one seems to encompass them all at one point or another, but the overall sound is mostly thick and layered, yet to a degree, maybe a bit more accessible than some others. Anyway, if you are totally confused now, I don't blame you. I just know I love it and it is definitely one of the best of the year.

 Coyote by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.81 | 196 ratings

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Coyote
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Kayo Dot is another one of those bands that I admire and look forward to everytime they release a new album. The band is the brainchild of Toby Driver, previously the lead from Maudlin of the Well as most people know. Toby's music has always been challenging, sometimes harsh and noisy, other times thoughtful and inventive, but always challenging nonetheless. And that is one of the reasons why I love this band so much, is that you never know what to expect, and the music always takes time and exploration to really get it. Toby's constant companion with Kayo Dot has been Mia Matsumiya who always lends her talents on violin and guitar. Other than that, the band's line-up is often in flux, as the music can be quite demanding and often requires a change in style between each album.

"Coyote" was Kayo Dot's 4th studio album and it came after the less appreciated, but still excellent "Blue Lambency Downward". Many people weren't sure what to expect this time around as that previous album seemed to focus around a lighter, jazzier sound than the heaviness of the albums that came before. So, the question was, what is this album going to be like? Well, behind the scenes, right away there needed to be a different tone for this album. It was going to be a return to a darker sound. The reason for this is because the album is based upon a story and text from a close friend of the band who was also terminally ill from breast cancer, her name was Yuko Sueta. The story was written in a the last stages of her life, in fact, she died while the album was in production. Toby said that this album was going to be in a goth-fusion style, reminiscent to Bauhaus and The Cure. Coyote is more of a singular piece broken up into 5 sections, and Yuko actually toured with Toby and others to perform the piece before she passed away. Toby then re-adapted the piece for Kayo Dot who performed it on the road during 2009 while touring with "Secret Chiefs 3". Both Toby (bass and vocals) and Mia (violin and guitar) were joined on the album by David Bodie (drums and percussion), Daniel Means (alto sax), Terran Olson (tenor sax and keys), and Tim Byrnes (trumpet and French horn).

The album is obviously darker than the previous album right from the start, the music is more sustained, but also complex as expected. "Catonyction Girl" (7:59) begins with the strained sound of violin and sustained brassy notes along with a more taxed and emotional vocal from Toby. The melody is in his higher range causing him to stretch to sing, and that tenseness pushes the music. Later, more instruments are added and a complexity develops as the instruments vie for attention. The melody follows more the emotional charge of the lyrics than it does any traditional style tune-based melody, so it is tough to pick out any returning phrase or organization. Same thing with the instrumental lines. There is a lot going on here, and the melodic phrases are there, but those new to this kind of complexity may have a hard time with it. A more steady feel comes along in the sixth minute along with a more thematic element in the melody as the note structure gets more repetitive, but this is used for the text which the music also centers around. Though it is hard for some to understand, the music and composition is as brilliant as ever.

'Whisper Ineffable" (11:13) continues with the contrasting sounds of the instruments, again starting more sustained and hesitantly, with the bass and trumpet working against each other with the occasional shaking vibrato of the violin. At 3 minutes, a sudden explosion of drums bring in forceful vocals. The trumpet continues by supporting the vocals in a contrasting and also complimenting way as the bass thumps along and the drums roll along maniacally. Synth effects also swirl around and the violin starts to squeal and screech. Toby again pushes the envelope with his angry vocals, but still remaining clean, though angry. Finally a break in the intensity just before 7 minutes see the end of the vocals for now, and the brass takes on sustained notes while the violin whines and the bass and drums thump out sudden outbursts as the music returns to it's hesitancy of before. At 9 minutes, a more relaxed atmosphere comes in with the simpler sounds of French horn, sax iron things out a bit, yet the bass still remains heavy, playing hesitant and sporadic sets of notes.

"Abyss Hinge 1: Sleeping Birds Sighing in Roscolux" (3:45) featured heavy drums and bass and dissonant guitar and synths. The music isn't necessarily thick, but it is very grating and dissonant, especially in the tortured guitar. Layers of brass come in towards the end of the track and play contrasting melodic lines. "Abyss Hinge 2:The Shrinking Armature" (13:40) begins with several different lines that tend to come together and break apart often, this time involving pretty much all of the instruments. Dissonance and contrast is hard at work on this track and chimes are added to help brighten the darkness up a bit. The beat stays slow and steady, but it is really the only steady thing here as it grounds the more seemingly, chaotic randomness of the instruments. At 4 and a half minutes, things quiet down quite a bit and subdued vocals come in to a minimal bass and percussion accompaniment, later joined by sustained brass and ambient effects. After minutes, a start and stop bursting of bass and drums interrupt the quieter sound, and then this leads to more fighting between the guitar and other instruments. The harsh guitar again contrasts the smoother brass sounds as they create conflicting musical lines and the drums beat out its own contrasting rhythm. The music is thick and complex, abrasive and yet dark. All the contrast gets to be almost unbearable at this point especially with the stark contrasts of all the instruments and this track drags on a little too long. The last track is "Cartogram Out of Phase" (3:11) and features Toby singing slow and almost drunkingly as mournful brass, bass and drums lead him in a short funeral march of sorts. This ends everything on a giant downer, even if it is short.

The first 3 tracks are pretty good, while the last two are harder to enjoy as the sound gets to be a little overbearing and depressing. Where the previous album had some nice avant-jazz sounds to it, even if the melodies were complex, this one is just overbearing in its darkness and contrast of melody lines. It's not a bad album, and its pretty much the strange sound you expect from Kayo Dot, but it is also far from the masterpiece status of some of their other albums. However, the complexity saves it, especially in the first half of the album, yet in the end, is its downfall as it gets so dark and depressive. As much as I hate to, I have to go with 3 stars on this one, mainly because it doesn't hold my interest as long, even after many listenings. But, its not a complete failure, I just wouldn't say it's the album I would use to introduce others to their music.

 Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.71 | 191 ratings

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

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars After the original breakup of Maudlin of the Well, Toby Driver found a new direction to steer the avant-garde smorgasbord that mixed art rock, post-rock and progressive rock together in the cauldron with extra servings of extreme metal mixed into the pot but Driver didn't waste any time putting together a new band that could carry these avant-garde tendencies to the next level. KAYO DOT was assembled in 2003 with Driver himself behind the steering wheel and a welcoming debut release called "Choirs Of The Eye' on John Zorn's Tzadik Records. Several Maudlin members also went along for the ride and together they created one of the most unique sounding albums of the entire 2000s. "Choirs Of The Eye" was part modern classical, part post-rock, part chamber music and part avant-garde metal. While the debut album caught the world's attention and instantly brought KAYO DOT into spotlight at least in terms of the prog rock and metal underground, Driver decided to take the band into even stranger arenas from then on.

Arriving three years later, the surreally named DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE delivers the bizarre avant-garde fortitude that the title suggests. With a label jump to Robotic Empire Records, the band continued the intricately designed sprawling compositions and took them into even more bizarre and complex experimentation with a huge army of instrumentalists delivering an orchestra of bleak sonic oppression that exhibited a truly labyrinthine fusion of modern classical, avant-garde jazz, post-metal and chamber rock. It was clear that KAYO DOT's instant popularity wasn't heading in a more accessible direction and on the contrary DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE is one of those albums that requires a multitude of listening experiences preferable in a wide range of moods to really find its way under your skin but ultimately casts a long-lasting spell as it slowly sinks into your psyche like a parasitic hookworm!

While classified as metal, the heavier parts are intermittent with much focus on the slithering slow chamber rock and jazzy touches ratcheting up the tension in the same fashion as any good Godspeed! You Black Emperor style of apocalyptic post-rock however KAYO DOT's sophomore album exudes a much more interesting turn of events with violin solos unleashing haunting melodies over a dark atmospheric backdrop of guitars, viola, trumpets and keyboards. The drums and the bass provide the rhythmic drive as with most rock bands but the tempos and time signatures ratchet up often with zigzagging riffs, sudden start / stop syncopation and jittery uncertain gloomy mood enhancing timbres that climax in explosive outbursts of dissonant power chords unleashing their fury in metal bombast. Out of the five lengthy tracks, the shortest running time of "Aura On An Asylum Wall" still hovers near the eight minute mark while the soul crushing bombast of "?On Limpid Form" soars to a majestic eighteen minute run. This is an album to savor slowly as it requires full active participation in its ever-changing stylistic sequences.

DOWSING ANEMONE is quite a different beast than "Choirs" as each track is independent of the other and has a distinct personality trait. While the opening "Gemini Becomingt The Tripod" delivers a distinct metal bombast as heard on "Choirs," the following tracks focus much more on the chamber rock, jazz and 20th century avant-garde attributes of avant-garde classical musical scores. The metal bombast returns on the lengthy "?On Limpid Form" which strangely builds up a textural whirlwind of jazzy melodies with indie rock sensibilities until it creates a monstrous roar of heavy metal thunder that carries it far and wide. The time signatures on this album are off the chart as each track employs a wide range of off-kilter compositional counterpoints with a tapestry of instrumental interaction that is phenomenally performed in manners hitherto unheard. This music is startling and dramatic and sounds like it was beamed down from another world.

Personally i have always preferred this second album to the first and anything KAYO DOT has down to the Maudlin of the Well material that preceded. This album simply takes me to places i never knew existed and that is exactly what avant-garde music is supposed to achieve only this isn't experimentation for its own sake but rather an interesting new way of achieving a full compositional experience with everything tweaked in order to create an alienating effect. While i absolutely love the chamber-jazz- metal-art-rock that's on display, i still find the vocals to be quite weak on several occasions. While they are perfect in some contexts, particularly the more aggressive moments, it's during the really slowed down and whiney parts they are awful and this effect is on full display, unfortunately for much of the final track "Amaranth The Peddler" which exercises the weakest aspects of the bands and crafts them into an entire track. Seriously if it weren't for the closer i would rate this much higher and had it been cut off it would still be a 40 plus minute listening experience. As much as i love DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE it pales in comparison to the even more dynamic perfection of the following "Blue Lambency Downward" album.

Thanks to useful_idiot for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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