KAYO DOT – Blue Lambency Downward (2008)

Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downwards With 2003’s Choirs of the Eye, Kayo Dot did the impossible: they made a deeply expressive, well-composed, engaging (and above all, endlessly replayable) experimental album, one that fused abstract metal with an indie sensibility, and interpreted it all with a classical, yet diverse and ever-changing, instrumentation. Choirs of the Eye is one of my favorite albums of all time, and honestly, once you’ve done the impossible, really the only thing you can do next is release Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue – a damn good, but thoroughly possible album.

So, what’s in store for the listener on Blue Lambency Downward? Well, it might be easier to start with what isn’t. While the new album is a great many things, one thing it isn’t is ferocious. This is the tamest album that Kayo Dot have released to date (which is odd, considering their move to Hydra Head Records). Here, the band’s trademark primal outbursts are, for the most part, conspicuously absent. They’re not absent entirely, however. There are a few sections in Clelia Walking that recall the opening death throes of Marathon, and parts of The Awkward Wind Wheel feel like little brothers of the ending of Aura on an Asylum Wall. But these sections are scarce, and relatively controlled. Overall, the tone of Blue Lambency Downward is much more subdued.

The song that sets this tone is the title track. Overall, it’s quiet, with a few moments wherein the band hint that they could erupt at any second, if they felt so inclined (my favorite of these is the middle section of the song, which sounds like the echoes of the Sunn O)))/Boris track Etna, as heard under fifty feet of ice). While the decibel levels here never ascend into the stratosphere (and lead vocalist/omni-instrumentalist Toby Driver never unleashes his bloodcurdling scream, a scream that puts even the dual wailing of Johnny and Jordan from The Blood Brothers to shame), the song still showcases what Kayo Dot are best at: composing remarkably intricate songs which emphasize texture over memorable melodies. At their core, this is what makes Kayo Dot who they are, and on Blue Lambency Downward, they’re not throwing away the recipe. They’re just altering a few ingredients.

And they succeed in their experiment, which more often than not brings us surprises, like when the band’s usually free-form motion locks into a light groove in parts of Right Hand is the One I Want – the instrumentation had me thinking “Tortoise”, but the relationship is distant, at best (you’ll notice I say some variation of “distant” a lot here – that’s because Kayo Dot’s sound is so confounding that, in a way, “distance” is the only thing there can be). Then there are things like the string sections of The Useless Ladder, which sound akin to what the theme from Psycho might sound like, were it to be fully rendered by a devious Dadaist trickster.

The band save their best for last. Over the course of eleven minutes, they seamlessly transform a simple beginning (consisting largely of a muted guitar which makes all kinds of unorthodox leaps from note to note) into a weirdly ethereal dance (I want to say waltz – it sounds waltz-like, but it isn’t in 3/4, so what does that make it?), before finally closing it out with a descending clarinet line. This ending is so understated, and yet so perfect, that you may wonder (as I found myself wondering) why you didn’t see it coming every step of the way.

Critics have always attempted to subvert Kayo Dot under the rational yet overly-used “art for art’s sake” line of reasoning. And those same critics will have a field day with Blue Lambency Downward, an album that revels in the atypical. Now, I’m not out to define art – I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. But I will say that the music Kayo Dot have created (including that on Blue Lambency Downward) has always triggered an emotional response from me. It evokes images in my mind, moods, even ideas. That’s gotta count for something*.

HD RATING: 9/10

* = Hint: it’s a nine.

NOTE: If you’re intrigued by what this album could be like, and would like to hear it (legally, of course), the album can currently be streamed here.

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One Response to “KAYO DOT – Blue Lambency Downward (2008)”

  1. […] as much as I love Kayo Dot (Choirs of the Eye is one of my favorite albums of all time, and their latest release is growing on me with each listen), I kind of missed maudlin of the Well. Enter Part The […]

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