Monday, January 12, 2009
Kayo Dot—Blue Lambency Downward (Hydra Head)
After one album each on Tzadik and Robotic Empire, Kayo Dot lands on Hydra Head for their third full-length. Blue Lambency Downward is their most concise, consistent and enjoyable album. They've always operated on their own plane of weirdness, and the metal roots they uprooted after their incarnation as Maudlin of the Well have dispersed and dissolved into a vat of ethereal rock/jazz/prog styles. While making notes for this review I jotted down moments that reminded me of Talk Talk, Queen, Henry Cow, Ulver, and Sigh. Although your collection of rock vanguard touchstones may vary, you'll probably hear them here. Their second album, Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue, tended to sprawl, but band leader/guitarist/composer Toby Driver has wisely reined this in—the album consists of five short tracks book-ended by 10-minute epics. He's also stripped down the core lineup to himself and violinist Mia Matsumiya, creating a more intimate listening experience. Bombast does erupt occasionally, as on the Neurosis-calibre opening of "Clelia Walking," but this is largely a soothing listen, full of space and loose, rolling rhythms. Guest drummer Charlie Zeleny, who recently left Behold...the Arctopus, shows a more subtle side to his playing, although such is the scope of the material that he also gets to flex his chops on some technical weirdness at the end of "The Awkward Wind Wheel." This album also features Driver's best vocal work to date, both in his actual singing and in the melodies he's wrested from lyrics like "It fell in the shape of a bifurcated ammonite shell." Kayo Dot's peculiar logic still rules over every aspect of the album, but I found it to be a much easier listen, producing a low-level, attention-grabbing anxiety rather than an all-out panic attack. How's that for an endorsement?