Avant-garde Metal / Non-Metal / Metal Related • United States
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Kayo Dot is a New York based avant-garde rock and experimental metal group which formed in 2003 after several members left Toby Driver's previous project, Maudlin of the Well. Kayo Dot has been subject to several line-up changes, although the constant members are Toby Driver on bass, lead vocals, guitar, clarinet and keyboards, and Mia Matsumiya on violin, viola and vocals.

The band released their debut album, 'Choirs Of The Eye', on John Zorn's label Tzadik in 2003. This album captures atmospheric metal with avant-garde overtones. 'Choirs Of The Eye' continues the combination of metal and atmospheric compositions which maudlin of the Well are known for.

The band's 2006 follow up, 'Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue', combines a more avant and less metal overall sound, and features over an hour of guitar based compositions with less frontal vocals and a higher emphasis on atmospheric textures and avant-garde playing.

In 2008, they
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KAYO DOT Discography

KAYO DOT albums / top albums

KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye album cover 4.25 | 56 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
Avant-garde Metal 2003
KAYO DOT Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue album cover 3.33 | 30 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
Avant-garde Metal 2006
KAYO DOT Blue Lambency Downward album cover 4.00 | 13 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
Non-Metal 2008
KAYO DOT Coyote album cover 4.00 | 13 ratings
Non-Metal 2010
KAYO DOT Gamma Knife album cover 3.72 | 19 ratings
Gamma Knife
Avant-garde Metal 2012
KAYO DOT Hubardo album cover 4.47 | 21 ratings
Avant-garde Metal 2013
KAYO DOT Coffins On Io album cover 3.90 | 12 ratings
Coffins On Io
Non-Metal 2014
KAYO DOT Plastic House On Base Of Sky album cover 4.40 | 6 ratings
Plastic House On Base Of Sky
Non-Metal 2016
KAYO DOT Blasphemy album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Non-Metal 2019

KAYO DOT EPs & splits

KAYO DOT Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda album cover 3.70 | 5 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda
Avant-garde Metal 2006
KAYO DOT Champions Of Sound 2008 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Champions Of Sound 2008
Avant-garde Metal 2009
KAYO DOT Stained Glass album cover 3.61 | 9 ratings
Stained Glass
Non-Metal 2010
KAYO DOT Kraków album cover 4.25 | 4 ratings
Metal Related 2014

KAYO DOT live albums

KAYO DOT Live in Bonn 2009 album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Live in Bonn 2009
Avant-garde Metal 2010
KAYO DOT Coyote - Live on WMBR, August 31, 2010 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Coyote - Live on WMBR, August 31, 2010
Metal Related 2014

KAYO DOT demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

KAYO DOT re-issues & compilations

KAYO DOT singles (0)

KAYO DOT movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

KAYO DOT Reviews

KAYO DOT Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue

Album · 2006 · Avant-garde Metal
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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.

KAYO DOT Coffins On Io

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
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Possibly the most accessible Kayo Dot album of them all, with some sections of the selections here almost sounding like comparatively conventional gothic-leaning alternative rock given an eccentric production treatment. As usual, I find Kayo Dot's approach rather hit and miss, and whilst I appreciate the extra clarity they have attained by allowing themselves to prune back their sound and resist the temptation to turn the experimentalism up to 11 all the time, at the same time that selfsame clarity doesn't reveal much to write home about, at least to my ears. I never feel like I can mark Kayo Dot too far down, because they're always technically proficient, but I do think the album is enough of a love-it-or-hate-it deal that I can't honestly rate it as highly as Hubardo.

KAYO DOT Hubardo

Album · 2013 · Avant-garde Metal
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Hm, this is odd. After the acclaimed Choirs of the Eye and the work of predecessor band maudlin of the Well left me cold, I'd largely ignored Kayo Dot as being a group who, whilst clearly competent, weren't quite to my taste. However, on giving them a second chance on Hubardo I find that either they have changed, or I have changed; this time, their combination of avant-metal and quieter moments works somewhat better for me. Perhaps this is because both sides seem to have been honed to something a bit more cohesive and targeted, the metal portions putting me in mind of a black metal band who's listened to too much Sunn O))) and Blut Aus Nord, and the quieter bits rumble about in the sort of space between post-rock and goth that Swans sometimes visits. Either way, finally Kayo Dot have captured my attention and I will be interested in exploring more of their stuff in future.

KAYO DOT Plastic House On Base Of Sky

Album · 2016 · Non-Metal
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Revisiting the uncharted

Some of the more perceptive readers might deem the title of this review absurd and some of the more radical ones, stupid. And yet, the very existence of postmodernism depends on how good we are at reshaping the old into the new, making it as fresh and intriguing as it was when it first came into being. More important still, is the ability of postmodern art to go beyond this premise, set itself in a world of its own and exist there on its own terms. And who else would I ever believe capable of creating an entire world for their music to exist in, if not Toby Driver. Ever since Choirs of the Eye (and for some, early maudlin of the Well), Toby's musical identity has been shining through layers of inspiration and styles he has so far explored. None of what he did has ever seemed either derivative, calculated or entirely spontaneous and the fact I don't really understand how or why he does what he does made me wonder - is it part of the fun? And yes, it actually seems to be a big chunk of it. It's like admiring someone's brilliance despite being blinded by it.

It's no wonder Toby's decided to go for more focused, more compact albums after Hubardo, arguably the most diverse and, quite obviously, the longest album in his career; a summary of all he did up to this point. Unlike pre-Hubardo records, both Coffins on Io and Plastic House on Base of Sky feature a somewhat vintage sound, marking a change in stylistic direction. Strongly inspired by the Japanese composer Susumu Hirasawa and by some of the greatest 80s icons, with the most prominent being David Bowie, Joy Division, Brian Ferry, Vangelis and the whole era of progressive rock and electronica, Toby does what he does best; he dislocates all elements from their hinges, makes them his own, unique. They all are doors to his plastic house. It's especially true on the new record where the border between organic and synthetic became completely blurred. As radical as ever, Kayo Dot takes no prisoners despite leaving their extreme music roots behind. Plastic House on Base of Sky is a playground for electronic polyphony: jarring, often atonal, rhythmically complex and intense to the point of being exhausting. As with all of their albums, however, a profound feeling of purpose grows stronger with every subsequent spin, a feeling of discovery. This definitely is a record that interacts with the listener on the most personal level possible, mostly because the artistic process itself knew no compromise. That's also why reviewing Kayo Dot albums is so daunting - the band doesn't try to prove anything to anyone. Toby seems to be lost in a maelstrom of self-expression and despite fiercely pushing the envelope, he never loses track of what makes Kayo Dot music so engaging: the unrefined, frantically honest emotional charge put into it.

The latest Kayo Dot release catches Toby Driver drifting further and further away from his extreme music roots, deep into the unknown where the old merges with the new to become something, somewhere. Despite being extreme in a general sense, Kayo Dot was never meant to appeal to metal fans or fans of any other specific genre. I honestly don't know who this music is addressed to, and I doubt it actually is to anyone in particular. All I can say is that an open minded approach is advised and any preconceptions you might have about art-rock, progressive electronica or synth-pop are to be discarded. Plastic House on Base of Sky is neither of those things. It is more.

KAYO DOT Gamma Knife

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
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He could not remember the dream

"Gamma Knife cuts through his skull as soon as he falls asleep. His vision is dim and blurred at first but it brightens with every second and he feels moved by the blissful, eerie spectacle that unfolds before him. The knife suddenly reaches his mind and the bubble bursts. All becomes vivid as the chaos spreads around and all calmness drowns in its foaming depths. How long did it last? Can time be measured in a place like this? He doesn't know. But as the edge of radiation withdraws, he is in a peaceful place again. Soft light soothes his senses as sounds of music sustain his slumber. And it all ends with silence..." Now that I lost most of you with my failed attempt at artistic writing, let's begin.

As by far the most obscure album by Kayo Dot, Gamma Knife is a negative of itself. An amazing case of an album that contradicts itself and yet, by the power of its overarching idea, works wonderfully as a whole. Now, if I just came down to earth for a moment... Gamma Knife is intentionally made that way to create an impact. The album begins and ends with stunningly beautiful and soothing, choral chamber music recorded in studio, but at its core are three tracks recorded live in concert. Could it go any weirder? Well, yes! In short, the middle part is as eclectic, avant-garde and extreme as it could get in less than twenty minutes. It's basically like a surreal 20s film where avant-chamber music meets jazz, RIO and black metal and have a shot of absinthe. The black metal side is somewhat reminiscent of Deathspell Omega and early maudlin of the Well. Compared to other avant metal acts like Ephel Duath, Gamma Knife sounds much more organic and bold in its exploration of avant jazz and chamber music. Strong psychedelic presence in the vein of Swans is also noticeable. However, what binds all these elements together to give them common identity, is the unmistakable Kayo Dot vibe that, like a totem spirit, animates every single album by this band.

I must admit that at first Gamma Knife didn't work for me as well as it does today, and I did not fully embrace its inner dualism until just a few months ago. Just like any other album by Kayo Dot, it's definitely not an easy one to get into but it's all the more rewarding once you do. Less focused on patient theme evolution of Choirs of the Eye and more on tight, aggressive experimentation known from Hubardo, Gamma Knife is a truly unique avant-garde rock ride. Let it sink in and you'll have one damn peculiar daydream every time you give it a spin.

KAYO DOT Movies Reviews

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