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KAYO DOT

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Kayo Dot picture
Kayo Dot biography
Founded in Brooklyn, NYC, USA in 2003 - Still active as of 2017

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...
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KAYO DOT Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy KAYO DOT Music


BlasphemyBlasphemy
Prophecy 2019
$10.46
$12.12 (used)
Plastic House On Base Of SkyPlastic House On Base Of Sky
Flenser 2016
$13.87
$6.16 (used)
Dowsing Anemone with Copper TongueDowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
Robotic Empire 2006
$36.99
$3.29 (used)
Kay Dot : Coffins on IoKay Dot : Coffins on Io
Flenser 2014
$148.99
Blue Lambency DownwardBlue Lambency Downward
Hydrahead Records 2009
$8.49
$5.37 (used)
HubardoHubardo
Flenser 2017
$14.01
$16.83 (used)
Choirs Of The EyeChoirs Of The Eye
Tzadik 2003
$13.59
$6.17 (used)
Gamma KnifeGamma Knife
Limited Edition
Antithetic 2012
$21.95
Gamma KnifeGamma Knife
Antithetic 2012
$6.00
$17.94 (used)
CoyoteCoyote
Hydrahead Records 2010
$3.23 (used)

More places to buy KAYO DOT music online Buy KAYO DOT & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

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)

4.24 | 379 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
2003
3.71 | 175 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
2006
3.53 | 110 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
2008
3.82 | 180 ratings
Coyote
2010
3.59 | 67 ratings
Gamma Knife
2012
3.92 | 118 ratings
Hubardo
2013
3.76 | 92 ratings
Coffins On Io
2014
3.85 | 107 ratings
Plastic House On Base Of Sky
2016
4.44 | 24 ratings
Blasphemy
2019

KAYO DOT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.70 | 10 ratings
Live In Bonn
2010
4.00 | 9 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)

3.08 | 20 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda Split
2006
3.96 | 54 ratings
Stained Glass
2010

KAYO DOT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Blasphemy by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.44 | 24 ratings

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Blasphemy
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

5 stars 4.95 Stars. Avant-Prog at its most accessible

Kayo Dot are a band that have been on a steady rise over the last decade. After hitting rock-bottom in 2012 where they had to produce Gamma Knife on a budget of $0, they have slowly gone up the ranks by getting signed to the Flesher Label, and now the larger Prophecy Productions. The last time they were signed on a bigger label (2008 with Hydra Head) it all began crashing down on themselves, but thankfully this time they have created something that should appeal to a larger market without sacrificing their "Avant-garde" label.

The best description that can be applied to their new album Blasphemy is if their previous albums Hubardo and Plastic house on base of sky had a baby, with a hazy song structure that harkens back to the ill-fated Blue lambancy downward. For those who are not familiar with the band, image a heavy rock band with black-metal flourishes combined with complex 80's synth arrangements and unorthodox song structure. This album has managed to use the key strengths of each of those albums while avoiding the extremes that turned a lot of listeners off. Blasphemy allows moments of intense heaviness and screamed vocals such as that found in Hubardo, however it never becomes a cacophony of sound that overwhelmed many listeners. The 80's synth arrangements are just as tangled as they were in Plastic House, but the rock elements provide a grounding to the sound and give it a greater impact. Lastly the songs are given the freedom to roam off track, but unlike Blue Lambancy there is end destination and storyline to stop the album from losing its way.

As well as learning from their previous albums, Blasphemy has two new features that have never been done on any Kayo Dot (or MOTW) album. The first is the new, dynamic singing style of Toby Driver and the second is the use of modern electronic dance music (EDM) that Toby has explored in his side project Piggy Black Cross. Toby has always been blessed with a very wide vocal range, allowing him to sing at very high and low notes, as well as being able to use harsh metal vocals. However on virtually every album he tends to sing in a consistent manner depending on the song (or segment of a song) being played. On Blasphemy, his vocal range is constantly changing throughout every song, in order to match the constantly shifting sound from the band. This, combined with the use of auto tune on An Eye for a Lie (the masterpiece of the album, or the worst thing they have ever done depending on who you ask) and other songs has proven to be very controversial with the Kayo Dot fan base, who despite being used to the unexpected, were REALLY unprepared for this.

From my perspective Blasphemy seems to be the perfect evolution of the band who is going in the right direction. The song structure of Kayo Dot has always been wild and dynamic, so it makes sense for Toby's voice to follow the same style. The use of auto tune as narration for the character Blasphemy (a demon child who is awoken from her sleep, and then brutally murders everyone on the ship) was a strike of genius, and shows that the band have no limits in what they can create.

Hopefully this album will continue their successful trend so they can continue to increase the scope of their projects. As a final note the deluxe edition is the essential version of the album. It contains electronic/dance versions of the main songs, however the structure of each track was dramatically changed to make them effectively brand new songs. These remixes match very well with the main album, using An Eye for a Lie as the bridge between the EDM and metal sound. To conclude Blasphemy can be ranked as one of Toby and co's strongest albums, while still referencing many of their previous work and moving into new EDM territory. It is a great starting point for those new to the band and in my opinion is only eclipsed by Choirs of the Eye as their key masterpiece.

 Stained Glass by KAYO DOT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
3.96 | 54 ratings

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Stained Glass
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

4 stars Released in 2010, just shortly after the release of "Coyote", this one-track EP "Stained Glass" features pretty much the same line- up as Coyote. However, this 20 minute track is different enough than anything on Coyote, and it is obvious why it just wasn't included there. This track has some definite musical sections and contains quite a dynamic feel to it that was missing somewhat in Coyote. This track seems to pull the best from their masterpiece "Choirs of the Eye" all the way through "Blue Lambency Downward" as it moves across avant prog atmospherics, dynamics and sensibilities. There is also a guest appearance from Trey Spruance (from "Secret Chiefs 3") who plays the guitar solo.

The piece is centered around the vibraphone, a Rhodes piano and an electric guitar. The four sections are broken up into the instruments that are the most prevalent in the section. This first section is led by voice and violin which changes to distorted organ and tenor sax in the 2nd section, bass and glockenspiel next, and then finally to heavy guitar with tremolo effects, harmonium and synthesizer.

The music remains quite atmospheric all the way through, but stands a little differently than most of Kayo Dot's music in that it has a counting meter, though it is rather opaque. There is an air of mysteriousness all the way through and a section where there is a ten chord progression that rotates through the three main instruments, one at a time, and then starts to played with different odd counts, sort of like a round, yet often beginning on off beats. It's quite complicated, yet it the overall sound seems rather sparse and light.

The EP is a definite must for fans of Kayo Dot, and also for fans of avant prog. But as such, it might not appeal to everyone because of the use of un-traditional modes and intervals. I find it very intriguing and a nice surprise buried in the middle of Kayo Dot's discography.

 Blasphemy by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.44 | 24 ratings

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Blasphemy
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

5 stars Kayo Dot continues to be Toby Driver's musical project, and has been since it's formation since the band formed from many of his colleagues from his previous band "Maudlin of the Well". Some of that heavy, extreme metal carried over from that band, but Kayo Dot also took on a huge amount of experimental and post metal sound, and over the years and the course of several albums, that sound has adjusted as needed for each individual album. The music has ranged from the avant-prog-jazz-fusion sound of "Blue Lambency Downward" to the heavy black experimental metal sound of "Hubardo". All the while, however, Driver has retained this avant-prog mentality and has continually expanded his borders to include gothic-style rock and post- punk in some of his albums. All through this time, he has worked with different line-ups of musicians including John Zorn, Trey Spruance, Sunn O))), and many others.

Kayo Dot's album "Blasphemy" is the project's ninth full-length album, released in September of 2019. This album is based on an allegorical story by Jason Byron which surrounds three characters searching for treasure who end up being destroyed by the treasure for which they sought; a sleeping girl with terrible power that goes by the name of Blasphemy. The album is available on LP, CD Digipack, and Bandcamp. There is a 2x CD edition which includes a 6-track CD of remixes (done by Wet Math) from the album and a hardcover book with artwork and a chapter from the book that serves as the album's story. There is also a limited edition box set that includes the full LP on clear vinyl, the 2 CD artbook, 3 art prints and a map of the novel's universe.

Starting off with "Ocean Cumulonimbus" (3:59), the music begins with the gothic mentality, with echoing and jangly guitars, and soon Driver starts with clean vocals that seem to be pushing his emotional boundaries, at least with the clean vocals, but then they become heavier and start to push the clean vocal boundaries, but not quite getting to the screaming or growling style he sometime uses. The music continues going from softer to heavier vocals and the music becomes more symphony- like, moving away from that gothic beginning. "The Something Opal" (5:43) has a sound that seems a bit thicker as far as guitar and synth layers go. The vocals continue in the clean style, but are layered with gruffer vocals at times. The music is cinematic and a bit hazy giving it a psychedelic sound, with rolling drums and a nice balance of guitar and keys. The sound is nice and expansive with just that right touch of dreamy haziness. Driver's vocals are quite expressive, which is a nice surprise. After the lyrics end, the cinematic element continues, and then suddenly the vocals turn dirty as the music remains almost orchestral. It all ends with a short rolling drum solo.

"Lost Souls on Lonesome's Way" (5:20) mix in a bit of the goth sound again, this time more in the attitude in the vocals and the jangly and echoing guitars. As it continues, some pizzicato is added to the guitar giving it a bit of attitude, then the vocals go chant-like as the music softens to sustained notes and continued drumming. Then, threatening spoken word section comes in with synths in the background, and then the music gets a bit complex and dramatic with Driver singing in his higher register. This track is quite dynamic and changes often, but the changes are smooth, even when it slips into a nice guitar solo around the middle of it all. I love the way the track slips from one style to another while still sounding cohesive. "Vanishing Act in Blinding Gray" (8:07) begins quite atmospheric and soft, even Driver's vocals are mellow and pensive. The soft avant- jazz sound makes the track glide along in a peaceful manner, sort of in the style of "Blue Lambency Downward" but a bit more accessible and less abrasive. Just calm and smooth. Now, saying that this music is accessible is only on a comparative with other Kayo Dot music, it truly is not accessible in a traditional sense. The music intensifies later, by the way, and the complexity level moves up several notches. If this is your first time listening to Kayo Dot (and so far, this is a perfect entry level album as it sort of gives you a taste of all of their styles), you will now notice why they are considered avant-prog and art rock. Intensity continues to grow and Driver's vocals get heavier and more expressive even as it becomes somewhat narrative. Wow! This is a definite stand out track.

"Turbine, Hook and Haul" (6:09) starts off sounding quite lush with layers of synths, and a trumpet coming along in the middle, sounding a bit tortured, but controlled. The dreamy sound is very evident in this track, yet it remains softly complex as it stays away from falling into any singular or traditional melody. " Midnight Mystic Rise and Fall" (5:33) starts out a bit heavier, but with a thick and layered sound with a combination of synths and guitars. Between the previous track and this one, the melodies have fallen into what sounds like a more improvised singing style. This is actually fine because of the telling of the story. The theme in this track lies more in the instrumentation than it does in the vocals. The track also remains in the smooth and lush sound of the previous track, but, as I mentioned earlier, a bit heavier. It also intensifies later on with frantic vocals and some squealing feedback and it gets quite dramatic by the end.

"An Eye for a Lie" (5:21) features heavily processed and layered vocals swirled into thick synth and guitar layers. The real experimental side of Kayo Dot shows through here and it all sounds quite exploratory now. Now, if it's your first time hearing Kayo Dot, you have never heard anything like this. Everything, at this point, is totally unpredictable as the music flows and intensifies with the story. The lyrics are quite discernable in the beginning, but as Driver starts to abuse his voice a bit, this becomes totally indiscernible. It all quiets down again to the heavily processed sound as it ends. The last track is "Blasphemy: A Prophecy" (4:13), with the odd gothic feel again, with rolling drums and dreamy synths, but with expressive, mostly atonal vocals at first. This soon changes as the vocals follow the notes of the organ, and then as it builds, the combination of guitars and synth layers gives that orchestral feel again.

I haven't heard the remixes that come on the bonus CD, so I can't say whether they add to or take away from the entire experience, but the album proper is quite excellent. I have felt for quite some time that Kayo Dot is one of the most important avant-prog and experimental bands that is still quite relevant. At the first few listens, I tend to like the first two- thirds of the album the best, but I think with time, that the last part of the album will also grow on me. This always seems to be the case with many of the Kayo Dot albums. I do know the musicianship and the composition of the songs is outstanding and it lends itself to one of their best. I like all of Kayo Dot's albums to some extent, but this one feels really strong. It also tends to by more variant, and that is also a plus. As I mentioned before, I think this is one of their best albums to start on if you haven't heard them before. It give you a good overall picture of what to expect from the band, that is, the unexpected. Their sound is unique, and each album has it's own unique traits, but this one seems to encompass them all at one point or another, but the overall sound is mostly thick and layered, yet to a degree, maybe a bit more accessible than some others. Anyway, if you are totally confused now, I don't blame you. I just know I love it and it is definitely one of the best of the year.

 Coyote by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.82 | 180 ratings

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Coyote
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

3 stars Kayo Dot is another one of those bands that I admire and look forward to everytime they release a new album. The band is the brainchild of Toby Driver, previously the lead from Maudlin of the Well as most people know. Toby's music has always been challenging, sometimes harsh and noisy, other times thoughtful and inventive, but always challenging nonetheless. And that is one of the reasons why I love this band so much, is that you never know what to expect, and the music always takes time and exploration to really get it. Toby's constant companion with Kayo Dot has been Mia Matsumiya who always lends her talents on violin and guitar. Other than that, the band's line-up is often in flux, as the music can be quite demanding and often requires a change in style between each album.

"Coyote" was Kayo Dot's 4th studio album and it came after the less appreciated, but still excellent "Blue Lambency Downward". Many people weren't sure what to expect this time around as that previous album seemed to focus around a lighter, jazzier sound than the heaviness of the albums that came before. So, the question was, what is this album going to be like? Well, behind the scenes, right away there needed to be a different tone for this album. It was going to be a return to a darker sound. The reason for this is because the album is based upon a story and text from a close friend of the band who was also terminally ill from breast cancer, her name was Yuko Sueta. The story was written in a the last stages of her life, in fact, she died while the album was in production. Toby said that this album was going to be in a goth-fusion style, reminiscent to Bauhaus and The Cure. Coyote is more of a singular piece broken up into 5 sections, and Yuko actually toured with Toby and others to perform the piece before she passed away. Toby then re-adapted the piece for Kayo Dot who performed it on the road during 2009 while touring with "Secret Chiefs 3". Both Toby (bass and vocals) and Mia (violin and guitar) were joined on the album by David Bodie (drums and percussion), Daniel Means (alto sax), Terran Olson (tenor sax and keys), and Tim Byrnes (trumpet and French horn).

The album is obviously darker than the previous album right from the start, the music is more sustained, but also complex as expected. "Catonyction Girl" (7:59) begins with the strained sound of violin and sustained brassy notes along with a more taxed and emotional vocal from Toby. The melody is in his higher range causing him to stretch to sing, and that tenseness pushes the music. Later, more instruments are added and a complexity develops as the instruments vie for attention. The melody follows more the emotional charge of the lyrics than it does any traditional style tune-based melody, so it is tough to pick out any returning phrase or organization. Same thing with the instrumental lines. There is a lot going on here, and the melodic phrases are there, but those new to this kind of complexity may have a hard time with it. A more steady feel comes along in the sixth minute along with a more thematic element in the melody as the note structure gets more repetitive, but this is used for the text which the music also centers around. Though it is hard for some to understand, the music and composition is as brilliant as ever.

'Whisper Ineffable" (11:13) continues with the contrasting sounds of the instruments, again starting more sustained and hesitantly, with the bass and trumpet working against each other with the occasional shaking vibrato of the violin. At 3 minutes, a sudden explosion of drums bring in forceful vocals. The trumpet continues by supporting the vocals in a contrasting and also complimenting way as the bass thumps along and the drums roll along maniacally. Synth effects also swirl around and the violin starts to squeal and screech. Toby again pushes the envelope with his angry vocals, but still remaining clean, though angry. Finally a break in the intensity just before 7 minutes see the end of the vocals for now, and the brass takes on sustained notes while the violin whines and the bass and drums thump out sudden outbursts as the music returns to it's hesitancy of before. At 9 minutes, a more relaxed atmosphere comes in with the simpler sounds of French horn, sax iron things out a bit, yet the bass still remains heavy, playing hesitant and sporadic sets of notes.

"Abyss Hinge 1: Sleeping Birds Sighing in Roscolux" (3:45) featured heavy drums and bass and dissonant guitar and synths. The music isn't necessarily thick, but it is very grating and dissonant, especially in the tortured guitar. Layers of brass come in towards the end of the track and play contrasting melodic lines. "Abyss Hinge 2:The Shrinking Armature" (13:40) begins with several different lines that tend to come together and break apart often, this time involving pretty much all of the instruments. Dissonance and contrast is hard at work on this track and chimes are added to help brighten the darkness up a bit. The beat stays slow and steady, but it is really the only steady thing here as it grounds the more seemingly, chaotic randomness of the instruments. At 4 and a half minutes, things quiet down quite a bit and subdued vocals come in to a minimal bass and percussion accompaniment, later joined by sustained brass and ambient effects. After minutes, a start and stop bursting of bass and drums interrupt the quieter sound, and then this leads to more fighting between the guitar and other instruments. The harsh guitar again contrasts the smoother brass sounds as they create conflicting musical lines and the drums beat out its own contrasting rhythm. The music is thick and complex, abrasive and yet dark. All the contrast gets to be almost unbearable at this point especially with the stark contrasts of all the instruments and this track drags on a little too long. The last track is "Cartogram Out of Phase" (3:11) and features Toby singing slow and almost drunkingly as mournful brass, bass and drums lead him in a short funeral march of sorts. This ends everything on a giant downer, even if it is short.

The first 3 tracks are pretty good, while the last two are harder to enjoy as the sound gets to be a little overbearing and depressing. Where the previous album had some nice avant-jazz sounds to it, even if the melodies were complex, this one is just overbearing in its darkness and contrast of melody lines. It's not a bad album, and its pretty much the strange sound you expect from Kayo Dot, but it is also far from the masterpiece status of some of their other albums. However, the complexity saves it, especially in the first half of the album, yet in the end, is its downfall as it gets so dark and depressive. As much as I hate to, I have to go with 3 stars on this one, mainly because it doesn't hold my interest as long, even after many listenings. But, its not a complete failure, I just wouldn't say it's the album I would use to introduce others to their music.

 Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.71 | 175 ratings

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

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars After the original breakup of Maudlin of the Well, Toby Driver found a new direction to steer the avant-garde smorgasbord that mixed art rock, post-rock and progressive rock together in the cauldron with extra servings of extreme metal mixed into the pot but Driver didn't waste any time putting together a new band that could carry these avant-garde tendencies to the next level. KAYO DOT was assembled in 2003 with Driver himself behind the steering wheel and a welcoming debut release called "Choirs Of The Eye' on John Zorn's Tzadik Records. Several Maudlin members also went along for the ride and together they created one of the most unique sounding albums of the entire 2000s. "Choirs Of The Eye" was part modern classical, part post-rock, part chamber music and part avant-garde metal. While the debut album caught the world's attention and instantly brought KAYO DOT into spotlight at least in terms of the prog rock and metal underground, Driver decided to take the band into even stranger arenas from then on.

Arriving three years later, the surreally named DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE delivers the bizarre avant-garde fortitude that the title suggests. With a label jump to Robotic Empire Records, the band continued the intricately designed sprawling compositions and took them into even more bizarre and complex experimentation with a huge army of instrumentalists delivering an orchestra of bleak sonic oppression that exhibited a truly labyrinthine fusion of modern classical, avant-garde jazz, post-metal and chamber rock. It was clear that KAYO DOT's instant popularity wasn't heading in a more accessible direction and on the contrary DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE is one of those albums that requires a multitude of listening experiences preferable in a wide range of moods to really find its way under your skin but ultimately casts a long-lasting spell as it slowly sinks into your psyche like a parasitic hookworm!

While classified as metal, the heavier parts are intermittent with much focus on the slithering slow chamber rock and jazzy touches ratcheting up the tension in the same fashion as any good Godspeed! You Black Emperor style of apocalyptic post-rock however KAYO DOT's sophomore album exudes a much more interesting turn of events with violin solos unleashing haunting melodies over a dark atmospheric backdrop of guitars, viola, trumpets and keyboards. The drums and the bass provide the rhythmic drive as with most rock bands but the tempos and time signatures ratchet up often with zigzagging riffs, sudden start / stop syncopation and jittery uncertain gloomy mood enhancing timbres that climax in explosive outbursts of dissonant power chords unleashing their fury in metal bombast. Out of the five lengthy tracks, the shortest running time of "Aura On An Asylum Wall" still hovers near the eight minute mark while the soul crushing bombast of "?On Limpid Form" soars to a majestic eighteen minute run. This is an album to savor slowly as it requires full active participation in its ever-changing stylistic sequences.

DOWSING ANEMONE is quite a different beast than "Choirs" as each track is independent of the other and has a distinct personality trait. While the opening "Gemini Becomingt The Tripod" delivers a distinct metal bombast as heard on "Choirs," the following tracks focus much more on the chamber rock, jazz and 20th century avant-garde attributes of avant-garde classical musical scores. The metal bombast returns on the lengthy "?On Limpid Form" which strangely builds up a textural whirlwind of jazzy melodies with indie rock sensibilities until it creates a monstrous roar of heavy metal thunder that carries it far and wide. The time signatures on this album are off the chart as each track employs a wide range of off-kilter compositional counterpoints with a tapestry of instrumental interaction that is phenomenally performed in manners hitherto unheard. This music is startling and dramatic and sounds like it was beamed down from another world.

Personally i have always preferred this second album to the first and anything KAYO DOT has down to the Maudlin of the Well material that preceded. This album simply takes me to places i never knew existed and that is exactly what avant-garde music is supposed to achieve only this isn't experimentation for its own sake but rather an interesting new way of achieving a full compositional experience with everything tweaked in order to create an alienating effect. While i absolutely love the chamber-jazz- metal-art-rock that's on display, i still find the vocals to be quite weak on several occasions. While they are perfect in some contexts, particularly the more aggressive moments, it's during the really slowed down and whiney parts they are awful and this effect is on full display, unfortunately for much of the final track "Amaranth The Peddler" which exercises the weakest aspects of the bands and crafts them into an entire track. Seriously if it weren't for the closer i would rate this much higher and had it been cut off it would still be a 40 plus minute listening experience. As much as i love DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE it pales in comparison to the even more dynamic perfection of the following "Blue Lambency Downward" album.

 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.76 | 92 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

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.

 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.76 | 92 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Possibly the most accessible Kayo Dot album of them all, with some sections of the selections here almost sounding like comparatively conventional gothic-leaning alternative rock given an eccentric production treatment. As usual, I find Kayo Dot's approach rather hit and miss, and whilst I appreciate the extra clarity they have attained by allowing themselves to prune back their sound and resist the temptation to turn the experimentalism up to 11 all the time, at the same time that selfsame clarity doesn't reveal much to write home about, at least to my ears. I never feel like I can mark Kayo Dot too far down, because they're always technically proficient, but I do think the album is enough of a love-it-or-hate-it deal that I can't honestly rate it as highly as Hubardo.
 Plastic House On Base Of Sky by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.85 | 107 ratings

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

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Plastic House on Base of Sky - Kayo Dot (72/100)

Roger Ebert once wrote of the wonderful director Werner Herzog that he had never created a single uninteresting film: "Even his failures are spectacular." There are a few select bands that bring that quote to mind for me. Kayo Dot's always been one of them. I have less fingers on my left hand than bands I'd say I admire as much; even if every album hasn't hit me with the same awe, it's never been because Toby Driver and company have ever lacked for talent nor inspiration. Is there another band that's been so dedicated on reinvention? Ulver comes to mind, but even then, I don't think their leaps were always so consistently wide. Kayo Dot has fashioned immortal music from metal to drone, darkwave and beyond, but knowing that they'll always move forward makes a new KD album more promising than most.

Coffins on Io from 2014 was a predictably unpredictable turn into 1980s Goth and darkwave from a band that had created an avant-metal masterpiece with Hubardo the year before. The 80s synth fetishism didn't start on Coffins, but it was the first place where the move characterized the atmosphere. In that sense, Plastic House on Base of Sky takes less of a risk than some of Kayo Dot's past transitions. The atmosphere is unmistakably based in the retrofuturist nostalgia of the 1980s; the dark brooding synths draw from the same well as the Stranger Things soundtrack from last year, and the lo-fi but busy drum programming sounds equally as nostalgic.

Vague threads of Coffins' aesthetic have carried over to Plastic House; the new album sets itself apart in other ways instead. While Coffins on Io was thick and bassy, here Kayo Dot have gone relatively light and airy with the style and production. I don't really agree with the notion that these changes have necessarily made the music more accessible. "All the Pain in All the Wide World" is as cacophonous as anything on the earlier album, and it's arguable that they've gone even deeper into atmosphere than before. For all their nostalgic charm, the synth arrangements are cumbersome, usually busy enough to flush out most melodic hooks on the first couple spins. The most immediate track isn't "Amalia's Theme" but "Brittle Urchin", surprisingly. With fewer synth textures to wash out the mix, Toby's vocals finally get a better chance to shine through.

Even if Plastic House on Base of Sky is actually one of the less immediate albums Kayo Dot have put out, I think there is something to the way some listeners have been interpreting this new evolution as a lighter, poppy alternative to Coffins on Io. There probably is a pop musical skeleton laying here, but the atmospheric arrangement drowns it out. I don't think that's a bad or a good thing, really; "Amalia's Theme" and "Brittle Urchin" are brilliantly written enough to have succeeded as standalone unplugged pieces, while "All the Pain in All the Wide World" would probably feel just as overloaded with any approach. The hazy, ethereal vibe is what gives Plastic House its character ultimately; for better or worse, Kayo Dot committed themselves to a specific artistic niche and fleshed an album out of it.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.92 | 118 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Hm, this is odd. After the acclaimed Choirs of the Eye and the work of predecessor band maudlin of the Well left me cold, I'd largely ignored Kayo Dot as being a group who, whilst clearly competent, weren't quite to my taste. However, on giving them a second chance on Hubardo I find that either they have changed, or I have changed; this time, their combination of avant-metal and quieter moments works somewhat better for me. Perhaps this is because both sides seem to have been honed to something a bit more cohesive and targeted, the metal portions putting me in mind of a black metal band who's listened to too much Sunn O))) and Blut Aus Nord, and the quieter bits rumble about in the sort of space between post-rock and goth that Swans sometimes visits. Either way, finally Kayo Dot have captured my attention and I will be interested in exploring more of their stuff in future.
 Plastic House On Base Of Sky by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.85 | 107 ratings

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

Review by jazz2896

5 stars Toby Driver delivers again. This album's promotional material stated that "Kayo Dot never makes the same album twice", and while this is largely true, this is definitely the most similar two albums in a row have been. This definitely is not a bad thing in this case. Coffins on Io, while fantastic, had a tendency to drag for these ears, where many tracks seemed to be built off of repetition over the usual compositional depth that Driver is known for. Now for this album, sonically it is very similar. There is still a heavy reliance of analog synthesizers, even more so than the past album, but this time, it is coupled with the depth and complexity of composition that was missing from the past album. The album is still filled with the catchy 80's crooner lines from Driver's "David Sylvian" voice, but this time the music further separates him from his influences, creating a way more original sound. In fact, after multiple listens, I found myself actually humming some parts (especially Amalia's Theme and Rings of Earth). With this album, Driver struck the perfect balance between accessibility and sheer experimentalism, for even though there are parts you can hum to, there are equally as many parts that I still have no idea what's going on, but in a good way. Coffins on Io was definitely the foundation, but this album has fully solidified Driver's newfound obsession with the 80's as artistically viable. One of my favorites of this year so far, I can't give it any less than 5 stars, not a single low point to these ears.
Thanks to useful_idiot for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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