Friday, January 6, 2012

Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife (2012)

By now, it would be safe to assume that many people far and wide have seen and digested the movie "Inception." Well, friends, it may be time to experience the concept in a new way. On their latest album, the far reaching Brooklyn, New York based Kayo Dot have drawn you into a dream world. With massive woodwind sections, rumbling guitars and bass, and a taste for the theatrical, "Gamma Knife" may leave you with a feeling that you are listening to a song within a song, which is inside another song, which is on an album which is in your wildest dreams.

The choir of bells emerges through the silence, joined soon by layers of strings. And while this opening track, known as "Lethe" is both haunting and beautiful, it is merely a precursor for what is to come. A light voice is added to the mix as the strings begin to twirl and flutter onward. There is something inherently calming about the choral sections, with voice upon voice coming together in a wave of harmony. But as the heavens part, an odd roar begins to cut through. "Rite Of Goetic Evocation" finds distorted guitars becoming entwined with woodwinds and percussion, in an immense wall of sound and fury. The heaviness of the background is offset perfectly by the variety of instruments used to construct this foundation. It provides stability for the building to sway and shake with aggressive screaming vocals. At first, it may seem like muddled chaos. But beneath each layer is a sound all its own. As they crash and merge together, it becomes clear that they are pieces of the same whole.

Eclectic as the track before it, "Water Mirror, Lightning Night" begins with a frantic burst of instrumentation. From guitars to saxophone, bass to snares, the tornado of musical curiosity spins. There is an undeniable groove in each sax melody, each passing note taking you to different places. There is a soul, a flow to the way the music is presented, with each drum fill and distorted chord finding a home nestled in the sprawling landscapes of horns and strings. And while there is certainly a more structured "sludge" feel to "Ocellated God," it isn't long before this track, too, goes upside down. Bitter screams and growls fill the air, drawing some of the focus away from the music itself, allowing it all to boil, and ferment. Finally, at the most opportune moment, it all explodes in a thrashing of musical instruments that some may not have survived. The album ends on the most odd of notes, with the beautifully performed "Gamma Knife" containing little more than a piano melody and some light strings. It is played to perfection, sung to a heavenly accord, and left to fade into the night.

Those familiar with music as a whole have surely heard the term "avant garde" used to describe many an artists, from jazz to blues and so on. But it has never been more fitting a title than when applied to the stylings of Kayo Dot. And while the mix of standard metal instruments and big band classics comes off as an odd choice, it is beginning to become a proven formula, one that Kayo Dot execute to near flawless brilliance. They wind and weave through five tracks of sheer intelligence, carving out sounds and spaces the likes of which you may have never heard. "Gamma Knife" is as sharp as its title conveys, but as smooth as Coltrane ever played.


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