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Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife CD (album) cover

GAMMA KNIFE

Kayo Dot

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.59 | 62 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TCat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Kayo Dot pretty much stays in the avant garde prog genre, but it is pretty fascinating how many different styles they can explore within that genre. This particular album is a shorter one compared to the others in their discography, clocking in at around only 30 minutes with 5 tracks. But the songs on this one are loaded with so much music consisting mostly of layers piled on top of each other, enough that if the music and the musical ideas were broken down, you would have enough to fill over an hour. That is one of the drawbacks of this album, which was totally funded by the fans. I would have liked to have heard a little more development of some of the musical ideas here, but some of them are sort of buried in the noisier passages on this album.

The first track "Lethe" is not an indication of what most of the album sounds like. It sounds almost like a Gregorian chant with a minimal instrumental background which doesn't change throughout it's 5 minute length. The background fits to the chant strangely enough, even if the harmonies between the vocalist and the instruments have some strange harmonies. Very nice start to the album. Suddenly, that serenity is interrupted by the 2nd track "Rite of Goetic Evocation, which is layers of heavy guitar and black metal vocals. Yes, it's the first time since the "Choirs of the Eye" album since we have heard growling vocals, but they have returned as have the original Maudlin of the Well sound. This sound continues through the entire track, without letting up and no clean vocals. The vocals are somewhat buried in the mix, but they are there. The most surprising thing about this track is, even though this guitar orchestration is very dense and loud, the most dominant instrument in the mix is in the woodwinds and brass instruments, and their dissonance is the most crushing sound in the song. This is really close to black metal, but let's not forget it is actually avant-metal because it is not traditional in it's harmonics....there is a lot of dissonance in the track as there is throughout the album.

Next is the track that falls mostly between the extremes of the first and second track called Mirror Water, Lightening Night. This one is an excellent exploration of dynamics among the layers of instruments and features clean vocals, even though the overall feeling of the track leans towards the heavy side, there is a breakdown of the layers not prevalent in the 2nd track. Individual melodies and ideas are easier to pick out here and a lot more beauty shines through even among the most dissonant parts. This one is my favorite on the album. The 4th track returns more towards the 2nd track, but again not quite as dense even though the vocals are growly and screamed again. Throughout tracks 3 and 4, the woodwinds and brass instruments continue to be featured among the heaviness of the guitar layers. Both of these tracks meld the sound of black metal guitars with avant garde jazz which results in an interesting sound. The heaviness of these tracks probably would turn off a lot of casual listeners, but the avant garde sound of the music would also turn off a lot of metal fans.

The last track which is the title track is a quiet study with clean vocals and flowing yet dissonant instruments. It is, like the first track, a study in minimalism, but this time the song stays away from the Gregorian sound and remains unquestionably avant garde. It utilizes chromatics, as do the other tracks, and this is the reason that you get the atmosphere that you do on this album and also throughout most of Kayo Dot's sound. The vocals are a little wobbly and sung in falsetto, which Driver does on a lot of his quieter works.

Overall, this is another great exploration in sound and harmonics. Better than "Blue Lambency Downward" because of the variety, but a step down from the great "Choirs of the Eye" and "Dowsing Anemone..." this one is still an excellent addition to any avant-garde library, be it classical or modern. I love the way Kayo Dot explores the realms of classical style music utilizing modern instruments, genres and techniques. I only wish some ideas were more fleshed out here, but it is still a great album.

TCat | 4/5 |

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