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Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downward CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.53 | 110 ratings

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1 stars Indulgent Free Time Snore Fest

Kayo Dot's BLUE LAMBENCY DOWNWARD was actually the first Toby Driver album I purchased, not long after joining ProgArchives. Immediately I heard a certain talent contained in the music, but the album was just very difficult to get into. I've tried over and over to capture the vibe of that magic I detected. Sadly, aside from some fleeting passages here and there, it's just not here. In the meantime I've gotten a few Maudlin of the Well albums, and here the talent finally reveals itself. I can respect that Driver is trying to push himself further and further, but by this album, he has his head so far into his navel that I feel like he doesn't even care that I, the listener, am even here.

The majority of the album is a kind of free time, dissonant, avant rock/jazz hybrid. The guitars are quite subdued through most of the album, and various horns are used in an almost Univers Zero styled warped chamber music. But there is extremely little structure here, with the instruments hanging on dissonant chords for extended periods, playing contrapuntal lines that have very little relation to each other, and Driver's nasal vocals drifting in and out acting more as another (a)melodic instrument than a lyric lead. What's more, everything is slooowww and dragging, occasionally making it up to midtempo before limping back to ambling snail.

Though Driver dominates all of his projects, this might as well be a solo album, as the only other band member credited is Mia Matsumiya on violin and vocals. There are various guest musicians, but Driver plays all the various guitars, keys, some clarinet, and obviously wrote all the music. The sound of the album is exactly that, an isolated genius recording alone in his lair, virtually oblivious to the world around him. The length of the songs is simply indulgent. It's as if Driver is challenging the listener to dislike the album just so he can say "Well you just don't get it." Well I'm calling the bluff. This is drivel. And I do get it, because I've heard him use the exact same elements to better effect on other albums.

Some critics of the album bemoan the lack of heaviness here. Well MotW's PART THE SECOND doesn't have many heavy elements either, and it's brilliant. The difference? The most important was probably that Driver actually had to work directly with others throughout the process. But there's just more melody, rhythm and interest than on this album. And everything that is remotely beautiful on BLD is even more beautiful on PTS. Another good comparison is early Weather Report. Also very free form, the jazz masters still are able to keep a bit of interest and movement in their music despite being extremely challenging.

To be fair, after the cacophonous catastrophe that is the opening title track, the album improves somewhat. Track 2, "Clelia Walking," sounds like the soundtrack to a modern art- horror flick. Bassoon and violin are haunting, and the sounds Driver employs are a bit more varied and interesting. What's more, the song gets its point across in five and half minutes. Interestingly, the song has a line that characterizes the whole album, "I don't want to be the melody, I prefer the choking sow." Umm, ok, mission accomplished. Track 3 returns us to atonal snooze land. Track 4, the ironically titled "The Sow Submits," is a bit more orchestral, veering somewhat into RIO territory, and actually makes some bit of musical sense. It's still among the most avant-garde pieces of music you'll hear, but at least it has something to say. There are actually some ebbs and flow in mood and intensity, some meaningful interaction between the instruments. Subsequent tracks are mixed bags, with some promising sections but also extended periods of essentially nothing happening.

For lovers of really avant, atonal music, this may have some interest. Even then, it may still bore you to tears. I certainly take notice that some think this is a work of genius. It may be the work of A genius, but this one goes way too far into introseptive territory. It's trying too hard to be arty, trying too hard to push the boundaries, and not just letting it flow nearly enough. Again, there are moments, but it is actually painful for me to sit through some of this music to get to those moments.

I intended to give this album 2 stars when I started, but I think this one actually rates a 1. It's actively unpleasant and all too often boring. Off to listen to HERESIE to cheer me up.

Negoba | 1/5 |


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