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Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io CD (album) cover

COFFINS ON IO

Kayo Dot

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.75 | 91 ratings

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TCat
3 stars 'Kayo Dot', the avant-garde progressive vehicle for Toby Driver, has always been a study of extremes and experimentation in different styles. The band has ventured from the heaviness of the album 'Hubardo' to the non-melodic sounds of 'Blue Lambency Downward'. For the album entitled 'Coffins in Io', self-released in 2014 as their 7th album, Driver again goes for a notable change in sound by combining his jazz fusion style that almost always remains the constant foundation of Kayo Dot's music, with a post-punk, gothic and electronic style while combining elements of dark wave music that had been explored by Peter Gabriel and 'Type O Negative'. Driver also said that he was influenced by film music, specifically the music of 'Blade Runner'. He wanted to stay away from anything that sounded like the previous album 'Hubardo' and this resulted in a completely different style from some of the past albums. Repetition and melodic sections are also emphasized in this album which is in direct contrast from past Kayo Dot albums, plus there are no growling vocals on this album.

Originally, Toby had wanted to release this under one of his other bands 'Vaura'. Toby gave 4 tracks to the label The Flenser, and when they reacted positively about the tracks, it was decided to released them under Kayo Dot's name, and the four songs turned into a full-fledged album. The album has 6 tracks that range from 4 minutes to almost 12 minutes, so as far as having a huge variation for track lengths, one aspect of Kayo Dot's music remained the same as past albums. The line-up for this album consists of Toby Driver on vocals, bass, synthesizer and piano; Daniel Means on alto and tenor saxophones; Ron Varod on guitar; Keith Abrams on drums; and Tim Byrnes on synthesizer.

Nearing the 12 minute mark, the album opener is 'The Mortality of Doves' and right away there is a noticeable increase in the use of synthesizers and electronics, and along with Toby's clean and somewhat airy vocals, you get a sound very close to some of Ulver's electronic music. The sound is lush and layered and very exploratory. After 4 minutes, the drums become more pronounced, the vocals more intense, yet the sound remains dark. When the sax enters at 6 minutes, the sound returns to the softer feel, but veers close to a avant-garde / jazz style, while still remaining melodic especially compared to past albums. Still, there is no feeling of compromise in the quality and complexity of the overall sound as there are still changes in the music that can't be considered standard. After 8 minutes, a heavy bass and boiling guitar rise up creating an even darker atmosphere. This guitar-driven sound along with vocals and an almost post-rock attitude continue to the end of the track.

'Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22' starts off with a fast percussion pattern, and a 80's inspired melody line comes out in Toby's vocals, with both high and low register singing. Again, there is that slightly hazy atmosphere to the song, but there is definitely more of a melodic aspect to the song. The goth and psychedelic influences are felt on this one. This could easily fit in with the dark wave sound of the late 80s, except for the fact that it is more exploratory and exceeds the 9 minute mark. There is even a feeling of the amateur vibe that you get with the goth music from that period. At about the 5 minute mark, synths become more prominent and mysterious sounding as the music takes on a different direction, but still immersed in that dark, goth sound. This continues for the rest of the track with no vocals and a repetitive theme, but with subtle changes in the foundation of the music. 'Longtime Disturbance on the Miracle Mile' is a much shorter track and has a lighter feel to it. There is a feeling that it could fall apart at anytime, but it still carries that 80s vibe however the structure is more complicated that the standard new wave song.

'Library Subterranean' starts with the deep bass sound of 'Bauhaus' and others and soon, heavy distorted guitar chords come in followed by vocals and a hazy texture. The vocals later become clearer and the music clears up for this section, but the guitar haziness returns later with a repetitive instrumental break, like way too repetitive. As layers build, an organ comes in making the Bauhaus comparison even truer. Toby brings in a progressive section later with a complex passage. Finally, after 6 mnutes, this fuzzy chaos is broken up with the brighter sounds of the sax, and an increase in speed as the dark guitars continue to swirl around. 'The Assassination of Adam' builds more heaviness in the form of strummed thickness from guitars. The vocals have a thick feeling to them also and the sax is free to roam. All of this creates a wall of noise which gets broken down. Guitars and sax continue in free form without any rhythm for a while, then the thick sound comes back again with vocals and wild percussion. This one still has that dark goth atmosphere, but is more of a noisy experimental style.

'Spirit Photography' is the last track and is one of the longer tracks at over 10 minutes. The track is less noisy by a long shot as it starts with a bass pattern, light drums and vocals that show Toby singing higher than I have ever heard him. You still have the repeated melody, but it is definitely not a standard melody, but ventures into an operatic feel. A sultry sax joins in later and actually takes the track into some lovely territory.

This album is probably my least favorite of the Kayo Dot albums. It is a far cry from 'Choirs of the Eye' and their other, better albums. Fortunately, you have the bookending tracks 'The Morality of Doves' and 'Spirit Photography' that are excellent, but the middle part of the album really sags. I never cared much for the goth rock sound during the 80s, though there were some songs I thought were okay. This album really explores that sound, and it just doesn't seem to be as well thought out as some of their other albums. At least the two highlight tracks help keep my faith in the band, but other than that, all I can pull out of this weaker album is 3 stars. You are better off listening to 'Choirs of the Eye' if you are curious about investigating this band.

TCat | 3/5 |

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