KAYO DOT — Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue

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KAYO DOT - Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue cover
3.36 | 32 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2006


1. Gemini Becoming The Tripod (10:43)
2. Immortelle And Paper Caravelle (9:42)
3. Aura On An Asylum Wall (7:44)
4. ...On Limpid Form (18:00)
5. Amaranth The Peddler (14:07)

Total Time: 60:17


- Toby Driver / compositions, guitar, cello, bells, double-bass,
- Greg Massi / guitar, voice
- Mia Matsumiya / violin, viola
- Ryan McGuire / bass guitar, double-bass, keyboard
- Forbes Graham / trumpet, euphonium, guitar
- D. Thomas Murray / live sound engineering and samples
- John Carchia / guitar
- Tom Malone / drums

About this release

CD and LP Robotic Empire 2006

Thanks to progkidjoel, The Angry Scotsman, Pekka, Lynx33 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
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.
Phonebook Eater
After the astonishing and beautiful debut, Kayo Dot in 2006 releases their second album, with a rather strange title, "Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue". At the release of this album, and still today, there has been a pretty big controversy: some think that it's a masterpiece (PA collaborators named it album of the year), while others think that it's a really bad and useless effort, where the use of avantgarde goes too far.

"Gemini Becoming the Tripod" starts everything. Copmpared to the genius "Marathon, it isn't much of an intro. But there are some moments here that really scared me: after a pretty soft intro, accompanied by Driver's soft voice, the song slowly becomes more enlivened, and Driver's voice begins to be more angry and creepy, thanks to some screaming and to his suspended vocals. Now the atmosphere is tense and kind of scary, it seems like it could explode into a fierce song any second. But that moment never comes, leaving the audience pretty stunned.

"Immortelle And Paper Caravelle" is much more minimalistic and calm, with many delicate moments. In fact, some are so delicate that you can barely hear them. A big contrast to the previous song, but very effective, so you can take a sort of a break from all those sinister moods.

"Aura On an Asylum Wall" is yet another contrast: the song is violent, with a very bizarre feeling, a little disturbing and creepy, but much more violent compared to the previous song. At least for the first couple of minutes: after a while, the sax comes in, the atmosphere is suspended between calm and strong, a peculiar balance that probably makes "Aura On An Asylum Wall" the best song off this album.

"__On Limpid Form" is the most controversial song off the album. Many have hated this song, because of it's excessive and repetitive moments. It's a 18 minute song, the longest Kayo Dot song so far, where at least ten minutes are stale and bleak, if not also monotonous, where the same chord is played, with a pretty violent and rude touch. I personally am not a big of this song either, even though I do find it quite interesting in many points.

"Amaranth The Peddler" is the final 14 minute song. Like "Immortelle...", it is quite a minimalistic song, and it seems like just a few cymbals are playing. Some moments are enjoyable, nice and calm, but certainly not melodic, a word that obviously does not exist in Kayo Dot's vocabulary.

In conclusion, I must say that it is a bit overlooked, and it really should be more appreciated by prog fans, since generally all the songs are worth listening. Of course, I don't think any die hard metal fan would like "Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue", for the fact that it truly has some excessive touches of avant garde. 3.5 stars.

Conor Fynes
'Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue' - Kayo Dot (6/10)

It's always a real dissapointment when you get really worked up to listen to a band and album, and it satiates very little of your musical thirst. That seems to be the case here with Kayo Dot's 'Dousing Anemone...' Having already been a huge fan of maudlin of the Well and what Toby Driver had accomplished with that project, I was greatly excited to dive into what is generally considered to be the continuation of that band. While maudlin really seemed to get the concept of balancing beauty and experimentation just right, Kayo Dot goes overboard with this one, going as far as throwing a 19 minute drone-texture jam in the middle of what otherwise could have been a much better album.

'Dousing Anemone' certainly has the potential to appeal to some people; I won't contest that. However, with the exception of the few beautifully done, more 'conventional' parts of the work, most of the time it's either too quiet or too uneventful for it's own good. Believe me, I'm all for musicians being creative and tripping into the realm of the avant-garde... I rescind that belief when being 'avant-garde' means bursting out with barrages of guitar sludge for fifteen minutes however, or whining in monotone for minutes on end.

The only two songs that manage to be throughly good and interesting compositions are the second and third tracks, 'Immortelle & Paper Caravelle' and 'Aura On An Asylum Wall.' The first of the mentioned tracks has some of the most beautiful orchestrations of the entire piece of music, and the third track is certainly the most consistent; immediately breaking into a vocal section before turning into a beautiful instrumental jazzy section with the violinist at the helm. The remaining three tracks certainly have moments of real inspiration that are reminiscent of Driver's past work, but the real issue here is that I can have a much, much greater concentration of those great inspired sections on any maudlin of the Well release. Why then, would I choose the new Kayo Dot over something that's tried and true?

One of the real highlights of the album is the string work of violinist Mia Matsumiya. While it's clear that every musician working in this avant act is drenched in talent, she really brightens up every section she is in. Without her, this would be a much darker and bleaker trip to take.

Overall, this is quite a poor introduction to Kayo Dot, and while I will definately look at more of the band's repetoire (avant-garde bands have a tendency of changing their act constantly) 'Dousing Anemone With Copper Tongue' has certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth, much as copper would in real life. This is worth a listen for the few truly beautiful moments it has to offer, but it's certainly not worth a purchase when there is so much other stuff that's much more consistent to listen to. Two stars, and at times; that might even be a stretch.

Members reviews

Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue shows a different, but related, facet of Kayo Dot as did Choirs of the Eye. As far as the band's music is describable in these terms, there are post-metal elements on the album, but Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue exhibits more atmospheric chamber tendencies than its predecessor.


Gemini Becoming the Tripod is chaotic on a cosmic level and features some of Driver's most tortured, gripping vocals to date. It winds up like in a slow death march, building in tension one twist at a time, until the coil reaches its breaking point, and the listener is catapulted into a remote sector of the universe where the stars shine grey and copper. And then... silence. Song rating: 10/10

Immortelle and Paper Caravelle is one of Kayo Dot's most beautiful pieces, and my ears interpret it as an audio manifestation of the white "copper tongues" on the album cover. The music shimmers and waves back and forth like a fragile organism deep beneath the sea where little light reaches. It is peaceful there, as if a white blanket of multitudinous tongues envelope the listener with gentle metallic clanking. The piece ends with gentle waves of plucked violins which transition to layers of repetitive violin melodies before fading to silence. Song rating: 9/10

Aura on an Asylum Wall is a brooding, jazzy track which meanders along until its pace suddenly increases and without warning bursts into a violent noise section with static-y vocals. The song is strong, but it doesn't seems as well-developed as the two preceding pieces. Song rating: 8/10

___ On Limpid Form shows Kayo Dot succumbing to the fate that their music was always liable to fall victim to; it implodes on itself. The track begins and ends as a dark, spacious piece of music, but in between there is about 10 minutes of atmospheric meandering that adds nothing to the song or the album. There are successful moments in the song, and it certainly maintains a strong sense of its atmosphere, but it is too unfocused to succeed as a piece of music. I suppose something this atmospheric was a necessary centerpiece for the album, but the band takes it slightly too far. Song rating: 6/10

Amaranth the Peddler slowly drifts up to the water's surface and reveals a scene to the listener. The song opens with straight-forward (though restrained) vocals, but it slowly pans out to a monotonous, minimalistic musical landscape. Although there is a person in the scene, he is a dot against the twilight-lit sea. And all fades to silences as wind blows at the end of the song. Song rating: 8/10


I initially gave Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue 8/10 because of its weak atmospheric piece, but I decided that was too harsh a rating. Despite its imperfection, the album stands as an incredible musical achievement, and I can't regard the album as a whole as anything other than a masterpiece.

Rating: 9/10
Choirs of the Eye, Kayo Dots debut album, was a large departure from the music of the bands predecessor maudlin of the Well, and a hugely successful one at that, but Toby Driver possesses anything but a stagnent imagination and the band has once more moved on. The results this time, however, are quite a mixed bag.

Frustration is the word that comes to mind to describe this album. Half of it is captivating, rocking, beautiful, calm, dissonant, melodic and many other adjectives that could probably fill this review on there own, in short an emotional rollercoaster that never fails to leave me on a high. The problem is its just the half of it. The first half to be precise. The second half touches on the emotions of the first, but doesn't quite reach the same heights and for large swayths brings in elements that I really, really don't care for.

Of the five tracks on this album, its the first three (Gemini Becomeing the Tripod, Immortelle and Paper Carravelle and Aura on an Asylumn Wall) that capture me fully. Gemini... sounds something like a continuation of the music from Choirs of the Eye, however it quickly becomes apparant that Post-Rock has become a major part of the music. Its this that has lead to the long time (and in my opinion errant) labelling of Kayo Dot as a Post-Metal band, but its only one aspect of the music and, though I am by no means a fan of the Post-Rock genre, its been used exceptionally well here. Immortelle... is the first Kayo Dot song to be completely devoid of metal, and as an experiment into the direction that Driver would eventually take the band, it works fantastically. Its one track were dissonance isn't called on too much and instead makes way for a calmer melody building slowly but surely to a moment of triumph. Aura... is an unuseul track in that it sounds the closest to Choirs of the Eye Kayo Dot of any of the first three tracks, but also sounds fairly different due to the fact that metal is pretty much missing from here as well. The sound can be charecterised as a heavy rock, where the heavyness comes from the tones of the bass, guitar, violin and trumpet rather than the distortion, except for the last minute or so which gets pretty close to being metal through the domination of the very heavily distorted bass, think the ending to The Manifold Curiosity but more so. In a way the track as a whole works as a paired down version of The Manifold Curiosity, so its no surprise that this is my favourite track on the album.

From here on out its where the band lost me for one simple, but very important reason: they introduced drone music as a major element. Both __on Limpid Form and Amaranth the Peddler start out in a similar vein to the first three tracks, but around the 6 to 7 minute mark they veer off into a drone that lasts well over half of each song. Though I've heard plenty of arguments for the development present in these tracks, I don't hear it at all. ..Limpid Form has the same crashing guitar chords going for most of the songs and the work done over the top of this comes of as noodily, and a half hearted attempt to liven things up. The live version of this song condenses things down a lot and adds direction to it all that just isn't present here. Amaranth... is just plain noodily for most of the song and lacks cohesivness, but at least some of the things they try sound interesting.

I think by now its become clear that drone music does not sit well with me at all. As I said earlier, frustration is a the word I'd use to sum up this album because that's the overriding emotion following a complete run-through (I must admit most times that I play this album now, I skip past the endings of the last two songs), which is a huge shame because the first three songs are of an exceptional quality, to a level that most bands could only dream of, but is followed by tedium that actually last for more than half the album. Still very much worth having for those first 3 songs.

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