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Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.59 | 67 ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5, rounded down

VanVanVan | 3/5 |


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