Review Summary: A bizarre excursion into the minds of Kayo Dot and Bloody Panda.
I enjoy a good challenge. Pertaining to music, this could be applied to something irrevocably complex, something that I’ve never heard before, or even something that completely defies convention. Avant-garde act Kayo Dot have been challenging me for years using these sentiments , and although they are quite possibly the most inconsistent band around, the group always grabs my attention. The beautiful yet grotesque musical movements force the band to continuously stay in the back of my mind, as I strive to unravel their subtle complexities. They’ve achieved mass underground fame, and have been garnered with critical praise. Amongst all of this attention, a little known EP managed to slip under the radar, featuring another band of equal strangeness.
And boy are Bloody Panda damn weird. They play an experimental brand of doom metal, encompassing are really foreboding and ominous sound. It’s oppressive as hell, and for something so menacing and slow-churning, there’s a lot of tenacity throughout. The band meshes incredibly well with Kayo Dot on this three song split, as both bands achieve a very dark and despotic sound. And this is really is the crux of the album; the mood. And oh how moody it is.
Per the usual, Kayo Dot defy expectations, crafting something unlike anything else they have done. The most glaring difference would by Mia Matsumiya’s contribution. Typically, Mia exclusively handles the violin work (and beautifully I might add), but with “Don’t Touch Dead Animals,” Kayo Dot’s sole contribution to the split, Mia is actually the main vocalist. As much a novelty as this is, Mia is pretty weak as a vocalist. Sure she has some style, but the girl lacks veracity and intensity, making things sound forced. She’s even got an odd, yet childish speaking voice, for she also handles the spoken word segments that detail the overly abstract concept. I’ve always loved her contributions to the band, but her addition on the split kind of hurts things in the grand scheme. Yet this doesn’t completely deter from Kayo Dot as an entity. The staples are there, with the unpredictable dynamics, sultry strings, and dreamy atmosphere, albeit everything seems slightly unhinged
. The first part of the song feels lighter, featuring lofty strings, Driver’s chilled falsetto, and a ridiculously smooth atmosphere. Yet it all changes in part two, as a solemn trumpet signals the seamless transition from the reassuring beauty, to the menacing chaos. The last few minutes are kind of noisy, and completely disorganized, but the mood is still prevalent. The trumpets swell and the guitars thrash around, all whilst Mia wails and cries. It’s a strange way to end the song, and the dissonance and veracity is kind of off putting, but it definitely succeeds in leaving an impression.
The second and third songs on the split are compliments of Bloody Panda, and really, they do a decent job following the first piece. If the end of “Don’t Touch Dead Animals” was slightly dark, then “Fever” and “Circle and Tail” are pitch black, because Bloody Panda live up to their expectations of a doom metal act, creating an incredible dense and murky wall of sound. That isn’t to say that the pieces trudge along, because there is a surprising amount of variety contained within. About halfway through “Fever,” the lurid female vocals turn haunting, and the music follows suit. With the minimalist sound and vexing vocal work, the midsection of the track is, I dare say, beautiful. However, this beauty isn’t in the traditional sense, but rather, one that evokes certain emotions and thoughts. “Circle and Tail” then follows, closing the three part split with a rather mediocre piece. It’s down tuned and bass laden, and kind of drags it’s feet a bit as it lacks the intrigue found on “Fever.” As furious as the vocals are, and as interestingly tribal as the drums manage to be, the track is rather tepid. It’s a shame really, because Bloody Panda did a rather fantastic job at the start, yet they finish with a wholly inaccessible and dull composition.
The Kayo Dot/ Bloody Panda split is pretty much the definition of a mixed bag. Each band has their fair share of missteps, but the end result is more than the sum of its parts. The split is a fascinating and moody exhibition, and one that wonderfully captures two very strange, yet wholly intriguing bands.