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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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Plastic House on Base of SkyPlastic House on Base of Sky
The Flenser 2016
Audio CD$8.56
$8.55 (used)
Coffins on IoCoffins on Io
Import
The Flenser 2014
Vinyl$12.18
$66.00 (used)
HubardoHubardo
Import
DISK UNION 2014
Audio CD$39.51
Choirs of the EyeChoirs of the Eye
Tzadik 2003
Audio CD$10.51
$4.22 (used)
Dowsing Anemone with Copper TongueDowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
Robotic Empire 2006
Audio CD$55.86
$4.21 (used)
CoyoteCoyote
Hydra Head Records 2010
Audio CD$11.97
$5.99 (used)
Blue Lambency DownwardBlue Lambency Downward
Hydra Head Records 2008
Audio CD$8.58
$4.77 (used)
Gamma KnifeGamma Knife
Antithetic 2012
Audio CD$7.48
$7.47 (used)
Plastic House On Base Of SkyPlastic House On Base Of Sky
Import
PSP Company Limited 2016
Audio CD$26.65
Stained GlassStained Glass
Limited Edition
Antithetic 2012
Vinyl$16.90
$46.99 (used)
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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 | 330 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
2003
3.72 | 153 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
2006
3.53 | 95 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
2008
3.82 | 159 ratings
Coyote
2010
3.56 | 54 ratings
Gamma Knife
2012
3.89 | 96 ratings
Hubardo
2013
3.97 | 68 ratings
Coffins On Io
2014
4.08 | 32 ratings
Plastic House On Base Of Sky
2016

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
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)

3.07 | 17 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda Split
2006
3.94 | 44 ratings
Stained Glass
2010

KAYO DOT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Plastic House On Base Of Sky by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.08 | 32 ratings

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Plastic House On Base Of Sky
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

5 stars 4.9 Stars. All the synths in all the wide world

Kayo Dot are one of those few bands that you can never tell what they are going to do next. The only true connection between PHOBOS and the rest of their discovery is the desire to combine genres and styles to create something very unique and Avant-garde. PHOBOS uses many of the same building blocks as their previous album Coffins did i.e strong 80s synths, a heavy focus on rhythm and enough repetition in their songs to be highly rememerable. However unlike its predecessor the musical density is not only high, but though the roof in terms of complex layers which are pretty overwhelming on the first listen.

The main focus on this album is ultra-complex rhythms and a huge depth of musical layers, most of them synth and drum based. 4 of the 5 songs follow a similar pattern, where you are swamped with bright and flashy synths that keep going at a medium-fast pace and refuse to let you rest. It's only the final track that takes a darker and somber turn where you get some reprieve and a change in direction. Despite the similarity of the first 4 songs each one has a very unique and distinctive personality, with some being energy pumping rock and others deep voltages into the avant-garde world. PHOBOS is also a concept album, telling the story of the oracle Amalia set in a futuristic world. The first 4 songs deal with drugs, murder, prostitution and satellite observation/spying respectively, with the final track having a bleak doomsday direction for the world the band created.

"Amalia's Theme" starts the album off with the main rhythm for this song and gradually adds layers which is followed by Toby's "Bowie" vocals. The track weaves between different themes here and there, creating a labyrinth of complex rhythms and sounds. When I listened to this song the first time it was so overwhelming and uncomfortable to my ears that it was almost nauseating. It took many repeated listens to slowly adapt to what was being presented. But the breaking point into getting me to enjoy this was the subtle but infectious hooks that are hidden in the song and leave you humming the main musical themes afterwards. This is the most technical of the 5 tracks and has the greatest amount of changes in direction.

"All The Pain in All the Wide World" ranks as one of the most challenging, adventurous and brilliant songs the band has ever composed. The first 4 minutes are actually very melodic and instantly beautiful, which is a rarity for this album. This part has a synth-pop feel to it that gradually increases in intensity up to the 4 min mark.

However after 4 min the track becomes increasingly chaotic and anxious, with Toby chanting "I'm only talking, talking, but you're not listening" over and over. This seems to be a political remark about big governments and companies not paying attention to the poor, and others in general which results in mass confusion and misunderstanding. The song then descends into what appears to be absolute chaos. Toby is ranting incoherent vocals everywhere and the music has also gone completely wild. However despite this the music and vocals balance themselves to create a uniform level of weirdness and chaos that can only occur through a high level of composition hidden within it. The sound created here is so unique and out there that only listening to it will do any explanations justice. They then drag the track gradually to some sort of order before things end abruptly.

"All the Pain" is mindblowing in every sense of the world. In all my years of listening to Prog I have never heard such a intense unison of order and chaos. I'm still coming to terms with the magnitude of this song and how it has opened the floodgates of a new way to compose music. It has to rank as one of the greatest songs I have ever heard in my life and makes the album an essential listen in its own right (although everything else on PHOBOS is also brilliant).

"Magnetism" is the most instantly gratifying track on the album. Very strong and memorable rhythms and a much greater focus on the electric guitar means that this track rocks really well. There is a masterful build up in intensity and drama which erupts into a flowing 2 min of pure power and euphoria right at the end of the song. The drumming on this track is particularly inspired here and what gives the track its strength. This is my second favourite song on PHOBOS and it was a excellent choice to release this track first in order to get buyers.

"Rings of Earth" is a song of two halfs. The first uses extra 80s "spacy" synths that are bright and almost cheerful. Toby has some incredibly catchy vocals which combined with the synths gives a strong pop feel, if it were not for the subtle layers of texture in the background. There is a gritty guitar in the background which is gradually brought into the foreground as the second half of the song starts. Here there is a major contrast in mood where all the positivity is lost and you are surrounded by oppressive synths and distorted guitars. Almost as if to say how the positive intentions of the satellites have now backfired and are now a force for evil and manipulation. The song finishes with a wall of distortion and Toby's deep, doom-laden singing.

"Brittle Urchin" carries on this bleakness with 40 seconds of a single, deep layer of synth. This darkness and extreme musical simplicity is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, as if all the bright futuristic toys are gone and only hard reality remains. A simple bass line along with Toby's vocals enters and we are treated with the classic KD sound of old like that found on "Cartogram out of phase", "A pitcher of summer" etc. This "bass + wavering vocals" is ended with the return of synths, drums and guitars but this time the atmosphere is pure negativity and despair instead of flashiness. The song cuts off dramatically at the end and the album finishes almost instantly.

At the moment PHOBOS ranks as my third favourite KD album and is only slightly below the No 2 spot. However when you consider that my top KD record ("Choirs") is a top 2 album of all time and the other ("Hubardo") is a top 10 then you know that I think PHOBOS ranks with the best of the best. This album has everything you could ask of it. It has insane complexity and endless layers that requires many many listens to fully explore what is going on, let alone to get your head around the album and begin enjoying it! However despite this each song has a key strong hook that holds everything together and acts as the gateway into loving each track. Finally it has the originality, by taking 80s sounds and musical principles that no Prog band would dare touch and doing something completely different with it. It even has a excellent concept and lyrics that despite the futuristic feel and occult overtones is becoming increasingly relevant as we get well into the 21st century.

In summary PHOBOS is a virtually perfect record that needs to be heard by every forward-thinking Prog lover. It also must be listened to many times as it is very hard to get into initially. A good speaker or headphones is needed to hear every layer that is going on, as without the proper equipment for listening the music suffers immensely. Kayo Dot have now firmly taken the crown as the most progressive Prog act in the 21 century, and since the 70s if we are being honest. 100% essential music.

 Plastic House On Base Of Sky by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.08 | 32 ratings

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Plastic House On Base Of Sky
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

5 stars My first listen to any Toby Driver music project is always so darn humbling. Every time. And Plastic House on Base of Sky is definitely no exception to this pattern. Surprise, shock and awe are invariables in my range of responses. Toby does things with sound, with music, that are beyond any conceptual imaginings that I could ever have for the scope and bounds of musical expression--and I think I have a pretty good imagination! I can honestly say that every single Kayo Dot album has caught me totally unprepared. I'm never sure whether or not I really like the music I'm hearing but I am ALWAYS floored and awed by it. Creative genius. Expanding the horizons of musical possibilities like nobody else in the 21st Century. Taking ten steps further into the realm of techno-electronic music than they did on 2014's Cofffins on Io, Toby Driver and company have once again put forth a challenge to all lovers of progressive rock and progressive music: Is this good? Is this progress? Is this prog? I can hear the arguments from both sides lasting for years to come. I, for one, like the constant unpredictability of Toby and the projects, themes, and musical directions he has chosen. To my mind, he is one of the very few truly "progressive" artists in the music industry today.

1. "Amalia's Theme" (7:33) is an amazing song of layers upon layers of--as if five different songs are all playing together as one--each "song" playing in their own channels (tracks), oblivious to one another, and yet the blend, the weave, works as a cohesive single song. This is so difficult to describe. This is techno pop taken to the next level, 70s BOWIE or 80s DEPECHE MODE elevated to meaningful sophistication. Awesome melodies, awesome effects, awesome instrumental weave, awesome synth solos, topped off by one of my favorite vocals from Toby. One of my favorite songs of the year! (10/10)

2. "All The Pain in All the Wide World" (10:09) Cool sounds can't save the discordant disconnect between music, melody and lyric on this one. Perhaps it is intentionally done, but it makes for a very difficult listening experience when one feels pulled apart in three and sometimes four or five directions all at the same time. Again, this may have been the desired effect KD had here, but I find it more than I choose to take. Perhaps it'll grow on me. (7/10)

3. "Magnetism" (7:29) DEPCHE MODE 30 years later! Even the vocal sound is stylized remarkably like that of DAVE GAHAN. No more need be said! (9/10)

4. "Rings of Earth" (8:40) opens with some synthesized drum sequence and multiple layers of synths before Toby's treated voice--mixed slightly back of front and center--enters. At 1:10 the music shifts a bit and Toby's voice comes slightly forward. This is so like early SIMPLE MINDS! Especially the rhythm programming. ("Promised You a Miracle" comes to mind.) The next shift in the third minute is pretty cool--multiple synths doing multiple things while a gradually increasing multiplicity of Tobys shout out, "Rings of Earth."* Then things return back to the second part before a ROBERT FRIPP-like heavily distorted guitar solo begins. The vocals become really cool with multiple voices layering and even harmonizing. Another outstanding song--perhaps more favored than "Amalia's Theme"! (10/10)

5. "Brittle Urchin" (4:32) opens with a heavily treated midi-bass skulking slowly over some distant background synth chords. A minute in, Toby's voice--in a fairly clear mix--leaps out at us with some more synths and slowly strummed guitar chords also present themselves very forward in the mix. At 2:30 drums and heavy bass chords join in. Toby continues singing in this pretty, mellifluous voice. It sounds like a PETER GABRIEL song! This is actually a very pretty, sedate song for TD! And a very pleasant end to an album. (10/10)

Another five star masterpiece of progressive rock music. This is rather premature, but I have a feeling that this is going to end up being my favorite TD album of all-time--even above my beloved three maudlin of The Well albums released since Y2K. Thank you, Toby, for never getting stuck in a rut, for being ever-lured to explore new pathways, for going beyond where anyone has ever gone before, for feeling that you always have to test yourself (against yourself)!

 Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.72 | 153 ratings

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

Review by LakeGlade12

4 stars 4.5 Stars. The greatest 4 star album of all time!

Kayo Dot are one of those bands that can take many years to appreciate, let alone enjoy, which has been the case for most of their albums. This is due to the band's constant desire to push the boundaries of music to the maximum and to reinvent their sound with every album. Dowsing is the follow up to their most highly acclaimed album "Choirs of the eye" which has gradually positioned itself as one of my top 3 all-time favourite records.

Dowsing can be seen as a continuation of Choirs due to the similar instrumentalisation and quiet-Load flow of the album. However Dowsing has a far greater range of atmospheres compared to the former record, to the point that each of the 5 tracks are so diverse that each one could have come from a completely different album. A track by track review is needed to enforce my point:

"Gemini Becoming The Tripod" starts the album off in a very similar vein to what was found in Choirs. You are firstly given a instrumental maelstrom along with background screams that swirl around you in organised chaos. This settles down into the main section of the song, which is a incredibly slow 5 min build up with sporadic drums and blasting bass happening every few seconds. But what is distinctive to the song is Toby's vocals. They start as a deep groaning which develop into 10-15 second long screams, over and over to the point where you expect Toby's voice to shatter from the amount of strain on his voice-box. Its drone-black metal at its most extreme and for people not used to the genre will probably alienate 80% of people in this site simply due to that voice-shattering primal screaming and wailing.

...and "Immortelle And Paper Caravelle" is the 100% opposite to the album opener. This is 9 min of beautiful bliss and to date (2016's PHOBOS included) the most chilled out song KD have ever written. The opening and closing sections of the song can be described best as abstract and dreamlike, which could send you easily off to sleep, while the middle part of the song sounds like a gloriously instrumented pop song.

"Aura On An Asylum Wall" can be seen as the half-way house between the violent extremes of the opening two tracks. After a few tense start-stop vocal moments the song goes into a Crimson-inspired instrumental which is full of energy and ideas. The intensity slowly builds up until it climaxes into black-metal screams and instrumental chaos. Honestly this is one of the most impressive Prog instrumentals out there and is the most accessible of the 5 songs. Its also the only song on Dowsing that can be considered fast-paced.

The first 4 minutes of "___ On Limpid Form" continue the KC Prog from the last track and make for a nice, self contained track in its own right. But instead of finishing the final sparks of the song refuse to die and gradually morph into a monster 12 min drone-metal marathon. All the momentum of the last song + 4 min is gone completely and the listener's patience is truly tested. The dynamics of the song is also challenging as it pulses from too quiet to ear-bleedingly load in a space of seconds. The track slowly goes from one theme to another until it finishes with Godspeed you! post-rock noise. A very challenging 18 minutes.

"Amaranth The Peddler" however can be seen as a more abstract and inaccessible cousin to track two, with the opening and closing sections being very challenging avant-garde soundscapes and the middle being a oddball avant-prog track. The closest comparison I can make is KC's Moonchild, i.e. you need to be in the right headspace for it otherwise its just random noise.

You may have noticed I've not given my personal opinion on most of these songs. Well to me each song is a clear 5 stars in their own right, and each one makes huge strides in expanding the boundaries of established music. However the major problem with Dowsing is that the musical canvass is so overwhelmingly wide that there is little to no coherency between any of the songs. I never listen to this album from start to finish, in fact in my head I treat Dowsing as 5 mini albums in their own right (Like that seen on "Don't touch dead animals"). How on earth does Toby and co expect me to go from the brutal 10 second screams of Gemini, to the pure tranquility of Immortelle, to the epic Prog instrumental of Aura, followed by the glacial and brutal Limpid and finally to the pure avant soundscapes of Amaranth over the space of 1 hour and not lose my mind!? When each song is so different to the others and three of the five tracks are incredibly challenging the band are asking far too much for the listener to be able to handle.

So in summary this is a masterpiece of avant-garde music, but it does not function at all within the traditional album context. For this reason I just cannot give it 5 stars, because I never have and probably never will play Dowsing from start to finish. Treat it as a 5 separate KD albums.

 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 68 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Insin

4 stars Kayo Dot is too experimental to stick with the same genre or sound for too long. A drastic change from its predecessor, Hubardo, Coffins on Io is nowhere close to being metal, borrowing extensively from eighties new wave with a touch of psychedelic influence. Accessible in comparison to previous Kayo Dot releases, it is far less noisy and harsh, instead embracing their softer side.

Primarily a mellow release, there is not a distorted guitar to be found. The vocals, all clean-sung, take up a central role and I am glad to say that they have improved a great deal since the maudlin of the Well days. Beneath heavy effects, they command the rest of the music, capable of emphasizing and strengthening the feeling already carried in each song. They bring the sprawling opener The Mortality of Doves to a grand peak, and (I point this out mainly because I find it a humorous delivery) they can sound rather sassy in the Library Subterranean line "he drew the pictures of his dream."

A lot of these songs incorporate a post-rock-type, or in a more general sense a buildup of intensity, into the new wave framework. Often times a song will follow one theme for a while until another one subtly slides in. It still shifts between the extremes of noisiness and ambience to a degree, but generally falls closer to the ambient side of the spectrum. Spirit Photography, the ten-minute closer, certainly has a strong basis in ambient, peppered with vocals and saxophone noodling, but it does build up much like the others. Most reminiscent of earlier Kayo Dot is the relatively short Assassination of Adam and the latter portion of Library Subterranean, featuring what sounds suspiciously close to a masturbatory prog instrumental section. Both chaotic and noisy, like the rest of the album, they still cannot be considered heavy or metal.

Coffins on Io places Kayo Dot's experimental tendencies of odd instrumentation, extended song lengths, and overall unconventionality, into the framework of eighties new wave to a good result, one that is more accessible, less noisy, and more vocal-based and mellow. I'm not sure where this falls for most Kayo Dot fans, but I find Coffins on Io an enjoyable release, and it would be interesting if they continued to insert their love for experimentation into the framework of other genres as well.

 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.89 | 96 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I should have done my homework before picking this one up. I'm not a big fan of Avant Metal although there are exceptions including the mind-bending "Choirs Of The Eye" by this band. Their latest "Coffins On Io" is far from Avant and has become my favourite by them. Anyway this particular recording is quite long at close to 100 minutes and very bleak. There are a few styles of music at play here but the extreme stuff I find very difficult to enjoy.

"The Black Stone" is what I call getting off on the wrong foot when it comes to my tastes. We get experimental sounds and more as spoken growly vocals join in. This continues for about 6 1/2 pointless minutes. Then the tempo picks up as the vocals stop but the growls are back before 9 1/2 minutes but more sung than spoken. "Crown-In-The-Muck" is melancholic and I like the tone of the guitar and also the drum work. It picks up and horns are added. Vocals after 4 minutes and they become extreme about a minute later as this becomes the focus. "Thief" is drum and vocal dominated and it's uptempo. It does settle back with random drum patterns, laid back clean vocals and more. Horns join in as well and I like how dissonant they are 4 minutes in. "Vision Adjustment To Another Wave Length" features a chaotic soundscape with vocals that yell throughout. Not a fan. "Zlida Cao Sgi(To Water The Earth)" has some impressive instrumental work but with lots of growly vocals. "The First Matter(Saturn In The Guise Of Sadness)" is my favourite track. This sounds so good with those relaxed vocals and atmospheric sound. Just a great sounding tune.

"The Second Operation(Lunar Water)" is a sparse track overall as it opens with keys as horns join in softly. The violin becomes the focus then reserved vocals take over around 3 minutes in. Backing vocals and some creepy violin follow. A calm with vocal melodies after 6 minutes. "Floodgate" is a heavy duty onslaught with growly vocals. "And He Built Him A Boat" is the other tune I like. It's ANATHEMA-like circa the "Judgment" era. Guitar expressions and drums lead the way before it calms down with reserved vocals, a beat and more. Some cool lyrics in this one. "Passing The River" has a beat with guitar as laid back vocals arrive. It kicks in hard at 3 1/2 minutes then calms right down with distorted guitar. Drums join in and we get chaos after 6 1/2 minutes as the horns scream and the sound picks up. Another calm 9 minutes in as the laid back vocals return and this continues to the end. "The Wait Of The World" is completely different from the rest as they turn this into a jazzy mode with lots of horns and it's uptempo. Again the heavy and calm are contrasted until it feels like they simply jam for a long time with plenty of horns before a calm returns just before 10 minutes.

Many consider this KAYO DOT's best but I have to disagree. Still if your into extreme Metal that is adventerous with some variety you really need to check this out.

 Blue Lambency Downward by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.53 | 95 ratings

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Blue Lambency Downward
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Reviewing anything that is classified as "avant garde" is like walking through a mine-field of subjectivity. For those up to the challenge, it can be very rewarding; for those who just need three and a half minutes of music to distract themselves, it is a nauseating useless waste of time.

As prog fans, we probably those that are up to the challenge, which is why most of us will find Blue Lambency Downward a deep, subtle, and dangerously beautiful charm. Those needing a 4/4 tempo and a pattern of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus will probably hit the Stop button within the first 10 seconds.This album is not so avant garde or experimental that it becomes nothing but a collection of directionless bloops and bleeps; the group is definitely playing music, but it is very different than most anything you've probably heard... especially if you're new to the genre.

Blue Lambency Downward is an artful combination of sounds and music, sometimes wonderfully delicate, others abstract and improvisational, and still others oppressively moody with a sort of dark contempt. It carelessly ignores conventions to create songs that dare you to follow along, and will probably affect your mood in ways you don't expect. Each song is like a mental patient, each with their own collection of "issues" to discover. As background music, Blue Lambency Downward is barely passable, probably being too odd for you to play in most situations. As artistic expression for prog fans, it reveals many levels of music to discover - though it'll probably take you a while to hear them, and even longer to care.

Recommended if you're interested in a largely instrumental challenge to your sensibilities and senses.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

 Gamma Knife by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.56 | 54 ratings

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Gamma Knife
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Kayo Dot pretty much stays in the avant garde prog genre, but it is pretty fascinating how many different styles they can explore within that genre. This particular album is a shorter one compared to the others in their discography, clocking in at around only 30 minutes with 5 tracks. But the songs on this one are loaded with so much music consisting mostly of layers piled on top of each other, enough that if the music and the musical ideas were broken down, you would have enough to fill over an hour. That is one of the drawbacks of this album, which was totally funded by the fans. I would have liked to have heard a little more development of some of the musical ideas here, but some of them are sort of buried in the noisier passages on this album.

The first track "Lethe" is not an indication of what most of the album sounds like. It sounds almost like a Gregorian chant with a minimal instrumental background which doesn't change throughout it's 5 minute length. The background fits to the chant strangely enough, even if the harmonies between the vocalist and the instruments have some strange harmonies. Very nice start to the album. Suddenly, that serenity is interrupted by the 2nd track "Rite of Goetic Evocation, which is layers of heavy guitar and black metal vocals. Yes, it's the first time since the "Choirs of the Eye" album since we have heard growling vocals, but they have returned as have the original Maudlin of the Well sound. This sound continues through the entire track, without letting up and no clean vocals. The vocals are somewhat buried in the mix, but they are there. The most surprising thing about this track is, even though this guitar orchestration is very dense and loud, the most dominant instrument in the mix is in the woodwinds and brass instruments, and their dissonance is the most crushing sound in the song. This is really close to black metal, but let's not forget it is actually avant-metal because it is not traditional in it's harmonics....there is a lot of dissonance in the track as there is throughout the album.

Next is the track that falls mostly between the extremes of the first and second track called Mirror Water, Lightening Night. This one is an excellent exploration of dynamics among the layers of instruments and features clean vocals, even though the overall feeling of the track leans towards the heavy side, there is a breakdown of the layers not prevalent in the 2nd track. Individual melodies and ideas are easier to pick out here and a lot more beauty shines through even among the most dissonant parts. This one is my favorite on the album. The 4th track returns more towards the 2nd track, but again not quite as dense even though the vocals are growly and screamed again. Throughout tracks 3 and 4, the woodwinds and brass instruments continue to be featured among the heaviness of the guitar layers. Both of these tracks meld the sound of black metal guitars with avant garde jazz which results in an interesting sound. The heaviness of these tracks probably would turn off a lot of casual listeners, but the avant garde sound of the music would also turn off a lot of metal fans.

The last track which is the title track is a quiet study with clean vocals and flowing yet dissonant instruments. It is, like the first track, a study in minimalism, but this time the song stays away from the Gregorian sound and remains unquestionably avant garde. It utilizes chromatics, as do the other tracks, and this is the reason that you get the atmosphere that you do on this album and also throughout most of Kayo Dot's sound. The vocals are a little wobbly and sung in falsetto, which Driver does on a lot of his quieter works.

Overall, this is another great exploration in sound and harmonics. Better than "Blue Lambency Downward" because of the variety, but a step down from the great "Choirs of the Eye" and "Dowsing Anemone..." this one is still an excellent addition to any avant-garde library, be it classical or modern. I love the way Kayo Dot explores the realms of classical style music utilizing modern instruments, genres and techniques. I only wish some ideas were more fleshed out here, but it is still a great album.

 Blue Lambency Downward by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.53 | 95 ratings

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Blue Lambency Downward
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

3 stars 3.3 Stars. Wondering though the marshes.

Kayo Dot have been one of the most rewarding bands I have discovered over these last few years. Some of their albums such as Choirs of the Eye, Dowsing and Hubardo have blown me away and widened my musical horizons. Many of their other albums have however been very difficult for me to get into. While I have grown to appreciate and enjoy some of these albums over time (such as Coffins on Io), others have never grown on me to the point of true enjoyment with BLD being one of those albums.

While I do love Dowsing there was one significant issue with it on the final two tracks. They were very strong tracks however they were also incredibly inaccessible and required a huge amount of work for the listener to get any enjoyment out of them. Even now I struggle to listen to them unless I am in the perfect mood, because if I am not then they will only prove to an annoyance rather than spellbinding.

BLD takes the difficultly of those 2 songs, increases it several fold and extends it thought out the entire album and at the same time removes the instantly accessible sections. I once read a Amazon review where the writer described BLD as walking though a swamp. This for me describes BLD completely. You won't find any of the sweeping beauty found on Choirs or Dowsing and you will find little of their ferocity either. What you will find is an endless supply of that "cliche" Avant-garde weirdness which puts many people off the genre. Ideas spring forth and disappear randomly with what initially seems to be for no obvious reasons. No strong melodies are found either which only adds to the challenge. This is why I would describe BLD as a swamp, as every step though the album is difficult, awkward and impeded by random branches that prevent you from seeing the bigger picture.

I have spent enough time with this album to find there is a natural flow of mood and ideas and that each song does contribute to a overarching theme. This is a very smart album and great credit should be given to Toby and Co for creating this complicated jigsaw puzzle for people like me to solve. But when all is said and done and the album is fully understood does it make it anymore enjoyable to listen to? No not really. I might know where the album is going and how the mood has changed over the course of the last couple of tracks, but that does not make the random musical branches smacking my face any more fun then they were when I first listened to it. And its hard to appreciate these more subtle changes when every second of the album requires a lot of mental energy for me to follow. And if I zone off for a little while then its difficult for me to get back into it.

Blue Lanbency Downward is just too much hard work for it to be worth the effort most of the time. Unless I'm in a very specific mood I won't get anything from the album even when I know the music quite well. So unless you are a big fan of Avant-garde weirdness and regularly delve into it your enjoyment factor will probably be too low. Go for their more highly acknowledged albums before you try this one. As for the rating 3 stars seems to be ideal. Its a smart, quite original and well put together album but it just goes over the top with the weirdness.

 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 68 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.

 Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.72 | 153 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.

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

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