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Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye

Tuesday 30 May 2006

Released by Tzadik (the legendary John Zorn’s record label) in 2003, this is Kayo Dot’s first album. I realise I’m a little slow... but heck! This is Soundsmag and I can do what the hell I like!

Kayo Dot existed before getting together to release Choirs of the Eye. Those were the Maudlin of the Well days - a kind of progressive death metal band (a little in the style of Opeth believe it or not... but taken to the next level!) Choirs of the Eye is in a lot of ways a natural evolution of Maudlin of the Well. The guys of Kayo Dotmight seriously get pissed off with me because we aren’t really talking prog-death here. The music is so much more elaborate and compositional, more complex and way more abstract. Words like "thoughtful" or "moody" come to mind - and I guess that isn’t really your typical association with traditional metal poop. Kayo Dot focuses less on metal and more on post-rock, avant-garde jazz and classical music. The "prog/death"-metal parts are less present and more or less replaced with a dirtier doom-type of noisy metal/rock, which in my opinion sounds more natural and fits better with the overall sound. Maybe I’m making this sound a little pretentious but the whole is really organic and warm compared to a lot of what we here these days.

This isn’t to say that Choirs of the Eye is a chill-out record with only quiet and ambient music, far from it! You want proof, just press the "play" button on your stereo and, when you’re stuck against the opposing wall, I think you’ll understand. The wall of sound made by guitars and thunderous drums with a billion cymbal sounds... and all that sampling in the background. Well, to put it quite literally, there is a pretty noisy and intense start to this record. But no worries because it all quietens down for a bit after that with a beautiful French horn melody, quiet guitar work, some background sampling with a flute to top it off.

But no what’s that?! The sludgy doom-metal is back with some gurgling and screaming vocals, creating a pretty manic and intense athmosphere... Then it all quietens down again for the rest of the remaining 5 minutes of the track so relax... have a beer and all. Listen to the nice keyboards, sparse sampling and, yes, the quiet, dream-like jazzy guitar.

Anyway, all this perfectly executed, in an almost natural fashion. You’ll never pick up a forced sound... it all flows in a cohesive and beautiful manner. The album contains five songs but lasts for almost an hour and everything just glues together perfectly.

One thing that separates Kayo Dot from other avant-garde and progressive bands out there that I’ve heard, is their use of instrumentation. Its amazingly varied and original. These guys will combine French horn, trumpets, cello, saxophone, trombone, piano and many different kinds of classical instruments with beautiful soundscapes from keyboards and samples and, evidently, all the rock instruments. This really builds in creating the warm, delicate and beautiful atmosphere and helps the transition to those harsh, massive and oppressive walls of noise!

The vocals by Toby Driver (main vocalist/guitarist and main composer) are great! He has an incredible range and can sing very emotionally at times (can almost make you think of Jeff Buckley a few times) or scream his head off like any great grind-core vocalist. His singing may not be technically perfect, but in my opinion this is a very good thing as it adds to their organic sound, instead of sounding cold and calculated like many other proggessive bands. He also uses lots of different types of effects on his voice at times, making it sound more like an instrument. During the dense and massively heavy sessions he is aided with screams and growls by the rest of the band to add to the textures.

The production here is brilliant, you can hear every instrument very clearly which is essential to their heavily layered music - everything from the low end to the high end sounds crystal clear. Perfect for listening to with headphones, where you can capture every single sound and really appreciate their production work in all of its textures and layers.

After all this blather, I must tell you something you may have guessed after somewhat painfully reaching this point of my article: this is really not the kind of music you can describe in words. You have to feel this shit with your ears, baby! So check out their website and download their song "The Manifold Curiosity" (my personal favourite) as it represents the sound to Choirs of the Eye in the best way in my opinion.



View online : Kayo Dot’s Website

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