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Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downward CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.44 | 124 ratings

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4 stars Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downward

Kayo Dot's third studio album, entitled "Blue Lambency Downward", is nothing short of great, another fantastic niche in the belt of Toby Driver and his oft-changing line of companions (how come avant-garde bands can't hold on to band members?). Instead of the treatments on "Choirs of the Eye", which involved mostly post-rocking elements and slow-paced climbs towards ever-present climaxes, or the drawling atmospherics that helped their second masterpiece "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" plow along, "Blue Lambency Downward" is completely subtle, like a quiet dirk to the back, and it places much heavier emphasis on its precise construction and delivery than on its emotional or visceral appeal.

The album, atmospherically, is much like some moments of "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue", but with many moments of interspersed "Tartar Lamb" (Toby Driver's classical side project) joining the fray. And what a fray it is!

"Blue Lambency Downward" is about fifteen minutes shorter than both previous albums, and yet it features two more songs than both of the other albums, which only featured five songs. This change immediately had anticipating fans wondering what kind of change they could expect from this new adventure by some of modern and avant-rock's most inventive bands. What exactly did the magician Toby Driver have up his seemingly limitless sleeves this time?

The change, much like the change from "Choirs of the Eye" to "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" is a riveting, interesting one that speaks loud volumes on its own about what exactly the word "progressive" could mean, exactly. If there's anything Kayo Dot knows how to do, this album proves that this thing is progress. They have but three albums under their belt thus far, but they have managed to build their tower from many different forms of concrete, bricks, plaster, and you name it. Their tower of sound is as spotted and decorated as that of many other bands, and even more than many. "Blue Lambency Downward" is no exception, rather, it is the largest, most evident example of this idea.

This album features little to no metallic influence, minus a few wayward seconds on "Clelia Walking" which aren't even heavy insomuch as they happen to feature a distorted guitar. This change is drastic, considering the seriously present force Kayo Dot's hybrid-metal style played on both of the previous releases. But, happily, this change is not as drastic in practice as it was/is on paper. Kayo Dot's new, quieter, jazzier, subtler, and more exacted sound is just as impacting as before, in terms of its breathtaking technicality and emotionally-driven undertones, it just takes longer to appreciate this impact than before.

Indeed, "Choirs of the Eye" clicked with me in a matter of but two or three listens, and "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" took but maybe five or six to begin sinking in. The truth is, I am still not fully comprehending "Blue Lambency Downward", as moments like "The Sow Submits" seem to pass right over my ears during certain times of listening. But then again, perhaps I am, as there are just as many times that I seem to be paying painstakingly close attention to each and every note this album offers. No, I do not think this is a matter of comprehension, but rather a matter of the album itself.

Because you see, as good as this album is, it took more time to appreciate, because, unfortunately, I was expecting it to blow any and all of my anticipations away, and, truthfully, it did not. While both "Choirs of the Eye" and "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" hit my emotional hamstrings with a blindingly heavy hammer, this one, while certainly fantastic, is lacking that huge, glorious impact that I felt each and every time the concluding moments of "Marathon" came into play on "Choirs of the Eye", or each time the cataclysmic booms of massive sonic proportions came to life in "___On Limpid Form" from "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue".

"Blue Lambency Downward", like the albums before it, certainly has its highlights--and many of them--it is just that these highlights seem rather tame and pale at times when compared with the highlights on previous albums. Certainly the vocals on the title/opening track are some of the very best Toby Driver has ever managed to sing, and the strict lines of compositional music that seem to flow right in front of your face on "Clelia Walking" are, indeed, mesmerizing. The obviously masterful clarinet work that melds seamlessly with the surrounding instruments, like some giant swirling witches' brew, on "Right Hand is the One I Want", and the driving, intensely realized power that pulls "The Awkward Wind Wheel" directly into your tingling spine--all of this is, quite honestly, is brilliant; just not as brilliant as on the previous Kayo Dot albums.

In order to stop myself from rambling even further, I will start trying to conclude this review, which is proving difficult to do. The music on Kayo Dot's "Blue Lambency Downward" is something richly textured, and very unique, and yet in this I have one complaint I need to address quickly: the production, while certainly fine, is nothing near as good as that which was found on both of the previous albums. Instead of the crystalline, yet sonorous palpitations that led both "Choirs of the Eye" and "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" through a field of clarity, "Blue Lambency Downward" stands naked in a dreary, foggy world of subtle silence. The production, while certainly effective, can't help but to disappoint some when compared with the production work on previous releases.

Still, almost every moment on this album is something close to perfection, minus some of the work of "The Sow Submits", which seems a bit too overdrawn and slightly out of place considering its central position on the album. "The Useless Ladder", the shortest Kayo Dot song to date, is about as tense as tension can get, threatening to break at any moment before it lets up into the finale--the excellent, surefire favorite entitled "Symmetrical Arizona" (a title that, admittedly, I am not very fond of). The music here is breathtaking, with Driver fashioning himself with a long, beautiful guitar solo--something that seems, oddly, to hint back at some of the old maudlin Of The Well days.

"Blue Lambency Downward" is a special album, this is for sure. As Kayo Dot's third record, it serves its place very well and uniquely, a separate entity completely from the preceding albums. Yet one can't help but notice that, at the end of the day, the album just doesn't hit as hard on an emotional level, perhaps because of its high level of structure (which, while present on previous Kayo Dot entities, was handled in a much more visceral-sounding way), and fails to rouse as much as previous Kayo Dot records and sounds did.

Still, "Blue Lambency Downward" is a hefty, promising success that marks but yet another stage in the ever-changing phantasm that is Kayo Dot. What can we expect next? Only the most stringent fans could even try to predict, and even they would likely be incorrect. This amorphous band has struck, yet again, some special mineral--some beautiful and bountiful metal (ironically, without the metal this time). Yet, instead of the gold that appeared under the mining picks of the previous albums, this one yields a much different, and perhaps preferable ore of silver. So, while certainly masterful and obviously excellent and worth owning, I cannot safely give this new one from Kayo Dot more than a 9 out of 10 on my scale, which cannot earn more than 4 stars on this one.

Still, this excellent record deserves to be heard by all who know and do not know Kayo Dot, as I think that even those experienced in Kayo Dot could find something new to love here, perhaps even more so than on previous records (The T, I'm looking at you!)

Worth hearing multiple times, and certainly a more-than-adequate successor to the two albums that came before it, "Blue Lambency Downward" is a beautiful beast of a Kayo Dot record. Do not pass it over, under any circumstances! 4 stars.

Figglesnout | 4/5 |


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