The T 666
It's obvious that the word "music" doesn't have the same meaning for everybody.
For some, music is just the art of making sounds and recording them, arranged in such a way that the results can be called "songs", "pieces", or whatever term that fits.
For me, music has always been about more than just sounds: it's been about using those sounds to create melodies (though music with no melody can still be good), about using those melodies to create phrases (though simpler music can also be good), about playing with those phrases and ideas to create a structure (though shape-less music does exist and sometimes of high quality), and about making that structure coherent enough as to create a song (or an instrumental piece for that matter). Once this is achieved, the other part of the music experience comes from hearing how each artist chooses to do that, how each musician puts a note, a melody on top of another and how that juxtaposition actually sounds, or harmony. If the artist chooses to put a melody on top of another different one, then I admire the counterpoint work. Of course, all of these has to have a rhythm, has to be played in a tempo, in a speed. Finally, music, for me, has to change within a single song or piece: the themes or melodies can't stay untouched; some variation has to be present. Repetition makes music coherent, it helps the brain predict what will happen and judge in retrospective, but over-repetition can make music a boring, painful experience to follow.
After saying that, it's even more evident that every person has its own particular way of understanding music, because for me, what I get in KAYO DOT's "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" isn't good music, but just a pile of experimental waste.
This album has receive widespread acclaim in some circles. I will not use the word "overrated" because the term implies a "I'm right, you're wrong" meaning to it; so I will say that I just don't like what I hear and I can't join the fuzz. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm getting left behind by the train of time, maybe what I cherish is dinosaur-metal. Maybe... But I'm glad I'm still able to make the difference that works for me: this is not good. Period. If this is the metal of the future, well, no wonder I'm feeling a little bit sad about it.
I have to make this clear: it's not that there isn't anything worthy of mention in KAYO DOT's album; sure, there are some moments here and there during which my brain actually felt like if good music was coming to it through my ears; the drummer is quite capable; I can't say that this music is not original, for it certainly is, it's unique, I'll admit that. But, is it good? The album has 5 songs: of those, one I sort of accept, even like; two are forgettable, two are just too much for me to handle. And the biggest problem for me is that those two unbearable songs actually amount to half the record's total length.
Gemini Becoming The Tripod (6/10), at least this song is short (short by this band's standards, that is, for its actual duration is almost 10 minutes) so it doesn't get too boring. I have to say it also has a couple elements of interest. It starts quietly, slowly; it immediately goes into full-fledged "sludge" mode, but with some interesting harmonies here and there. The first thing that turns me off with this track is when the vocals appear: the singer sounds like RADIOHEAD's Thom Yorke but after a large dose of... something; he screams, yells, his voice is a series of laments, cries; is he actually in pain? This kind of singing is over-self-indulgence at his most annoying, because I really can't find any musical sense into it, just a desire to set the listener in the same mood as the band: STONED. And maybe that's the key! Toby Driver, KAYO DOT's mastermind, knew that this music was better enjoyed with the brain a little bit off-touch with reality. The torture-session with the singer reaches an end when, suddenly, the guitars start playing a heavy riff; it's a good moment, because it's probably one of the scarce moments throughout the album that are performed at a different tempo. All in all, not an atrocious track, but nothing that makes me hold high hopes for the remainder of this opus.
Immortelle And Paper Caravelle (5/10), mmmm, incredible, another very quiet, almost impossible-to-hear start! The guitar work consists of a few very high notes over a weird effect. When the bass comes into the mix, the music begins to take shape. The low, quiet mood gets a makeover when finally the singer comes back from wherever the last song sent him. He actually SINGS here, in that usual narcotic tone that these musicians seem to love. The trumpet gives us hope that this song will be good. Sadly, silence strikes again (I have to say that if we were to add all the minutes of silence on this disc, we would easily have a medium-length track only made of... SILENCE - John Cage's dream this would be). The quiet mood is with us again. The guitars are joined by violins, playing falling series of notes that sound like the last gasps of a dying man. Then the song ends. And we didn't know what the heck just happened.
Aura On An Asylum Wall (8.5/10)unbelievably, this track starts LOUD. Vocals over drums, with some trumpet accents for effect hit us with a force I couldn't believe. Then, the incredible: music! The trumpet plays a solo! Over piano and very frenetic drums, the brass player is doing what we bought this cd for. The mood of the song is like some dark-jazz-blues, it feels good, we start to believe. Yes, this track is good, almost very good. At the end we have some speed, some virtuosism. It still doesn't have an easy-to-grasp structure but the good playing makes up for it. But it's the last moment of relief we will get.
On Limpid Form (1/10), we start, how else could it be, quietly, like a whisper. The indulgent vocals come back. We cannot believe what we hear next: a chorus, more than one human voice at the same time! This starts so well, it seems this is going to be THE song, the song that finally shows me why this album has been eventually heralded as a masterpiece. We are about 3 minutes into the song and everything is going just fine. Then we arrive to the fourth minute; the intensity starts to wear down. What we're hearing is still worthy of attention, but it could lose us if it doesn't change quickly; minute 5 strikes and the tragedy has started to unfold: silence, some chords accented by snare and cymbals; silence; some chords, some snare, some tom-toms, cymbals; and we go on and on in the same direction. We check the clock: the song lasts 18 MINUTES! It's a sure bet that it will eventually switch to a different mood... but then, we keep on listening, and NOTHING HAPPENS. And thus we wait till, finally the end of the song arrives, and NOTHING EVER HAPPENED. The same thing played till exhaustion for more than 14 minutes!! I did a sort of experiment the third time I listen to this: at about the 6 minute mark, I went to do something, came back two minutes later, and it felt like I had never left; I did the same thing a few minutes later, came back, and again, like if I had never left! Now, I would like that to happen when I'm watching some sport, my team is winning, I have to go the bathroom but I come back and the score remains exactly the same; but I don't want that in my music, I don't want to be sold the idea that 14-minute repetition is talent. Is it? True avant-garde composers have tried things like these but with much more subtlety and richness of ideas and orchestration. Mr Driver tries to emulate something that he just can't. This song just bores me. All that was good about this track got completely lost in my mind, all I could remember was the 14-MINUTE-LONG NOISE.
For me, that would serve as the best possible explanation of the term "pretentiousness": a musician pretending us to sit through 14 minutes of mindless jamming, of stoned-jamming. Somebody could point out that there's actually a lot of invention going on, that it is a work of genius how they play over and over the same pattern just adding a few percussion effects here and there... I could accept that, if there was a melody repeated till death, like some kind of "Bolero" (how insulting I am by mentioning Ravel's exercise in orchestration in the same review where I'm talking about this waste). Or if the harmonies were so darn interesting that we wouldn't feel like we're being sold the same idea for over a quarter of an hour. But no, it's just noise, glorified noise.
Amaranth The Peddler (1/10), only cymbals played with brushes signal the start of the final song. Some dissonant chords in piano, some violin. You know, this was much more interesting when it was done more than 50 years ago by true composers like Gyorgy Lygeti. This is just a band of rockers trying to impress us with direction-less noise. When the vocals and the drums make their appearance, we're already too scared of the final outcome of the song, as we see that it lasts 14 minutes. Of course, KAYO DOT won't let us down, so they do what they do best: repeat some noise until our ears are fooled into believing we are not hearing music but just the sounds of the environment. Then, at last, the albums fades away.
This is my take on this album. I know some people won't agree with me, but that's the great thing about the internet: you don't have to, and neither have I to agree with other reviews. We can make comments about our music, whether they go with the flow or not. And my position is, this is just self-indulgence and pretentiousness, musical arrogance and narcissism, played till death, an ego overblown to the limit. No melodies, no themes, no songs, just a bunch of guys that, I give you that, seem like they know how to play their instruments, making us believe that their jamming has a meaning, that their jamming is art. For a few minutes, the music actually becomes that: musical. But those moments are few and far between. What we got here the most is silences, repetition, noise, boredom. This is not avant-garde. this doesn't defy anything, this is just glorified drug-induced noise (yes, the ego can also be a drug), played by capable musicians who seem like they could create songs, but sadly they chose not to.
Incredible, where I thought I would find some of the most advanced rock music, turned out to be the place where I most definitely didn't.
Some people, when the album was first released, categorized the music as post-metal. Post-metal? Post-rock? For me, the status of music after hearing this thing is, well, post-mortem.
(More than half the disc amount to nothing. For the good moments of the first tracks, I think a 1.5 star rating is more than enough. They just killed any momentum they had going.)