Kayo Dot
Gamma Knife


4.0
excellent

Review

by mcg182 USER (11 Reviews)
January 7th, 2012 | 15 replies | 2,293 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Kayo Dot create an album that revisits the anger and dissonance of motW, while still remaining fresh and original, making it their strongest release to date.

1 of 2 thought this review was well written

Toby Driver has been a mixed bag for me. Everyone seems to like everything he has done so far, but for me, it has been hit-and-miss. His work with maudlin of the Well, with the exception of their most recent album, was by far his best work. No one will argue that (except PtS, in which case I disagree with most of its praise). Both Bath and Leaving Your Body Map still rank as two of the best reviewed albums on the internet, but sadly, have not gained a huge following outside of that, meaning that they really only have gained a cult following, and you won't be seeing them on Billboard anytime soon. After maudlin, Driver opted for more atmosphere, which worked for Kayo Dot, but on motW's Part the Second, my main problem, which seems to be no one else's, was Driver's loss of sense for experimentation, and his drive for a more melodic musical direction, unintentionally ripping off other contemporary post-rock bands, like Sigur Ros and If These Trees Could Talk in some moments while other moments seem like cintrived experimentation. Everyone says PtS was previously unreleased maudlin songs, but the sound was too familiar with Kayo Dot and Sigur Ros, and too homogenous and safe to be even close to sounding like classic maudlin, showing how gullible the average maudlin fan can be after using the “listening to their stuff for years” excuse.

That being said, Gamma Knife was hyped not for being a maudlin flashback, or even at all. The release was not promoted very heavily, at least when compared to Part the Second. I was curious as to what Kayo Dot would churn out after Coyote, probably their most direct release to date in terms of atmosphere and experimentation. After my negative review of Part the Second got so much hatred for being close-minded, I decided to open up more, mainly because this is Kayo Dot, whom no one was expecting a 6 year comeback. And frankly, this is a closer comeback album for motW than Part the Second is, both in musicianship, improvisation, and most of all, honest to God anger. I would call this the “comeback album maudlin never made”, but that would generally be insulting to both the fans and members of Kayo Dot, so let's just leave it at what it is: a damn good LP.

In terms of musicianship, Kayo Dot handles it better than any other of their releases. Usually, some time is previously allotted for violin and sax, but mostly Driver just tries to show off his skills in guitar and songwriting. On this LP, everyone is completely involved. Here, violin, guitar, bass, sax, and even mellotron bells will share the same stage all at once, leaving room for complete unpredictability. Combined with Driver's new found ability to let other members of the band have a big part in composition, the cacophony of all the instruments actually accentuates the randomness of the various opera, making for very authentic experimentation, and in turn, a very musically interesting album. Driver also adds an added bonus to the album that makes it great: shrieking and growling done competently. In the song “Gemini Becoming the Tripod”, the most grating aspect was Driver's inability to shriek or shout with genuine emotion and maturity at the same time. Here, the vocals are downplayed like on My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, and Driver uses his shrieking sparsely, showing maturity, and his slower lyrical recital approach, he shows more genuine emotion here, which is mainly anger.

Lyrically, the album does not provide much, however. The lyrics are inscrutable in what they mean, causing some confusion when you actually take the time out to read the lyrics. The messages of the songs, thankfully, can be inferred from the lyrics. The problem only lies if you are trying to interpret the symbolism and imagery that you would only try to find if you were analyzing at a very detailed level, which was a slight problem with both Driver's and Byron's lyrics in maudlin. However, the lyrics are unintelligible for the most part anyway, so they won't affect your listening experience all that much. However, you can interpret that as a good thing or a bad thing depending on what exactly you liked about maudlin's lyrics in the past. If you liked reinterpreting the lyrics each time you go through them every time, you'll like them. If you liked the concepts and messages they presented, you'll probably hate the inscrutability that exists at the smallest level, but enjoy interpreting the big picture.

The album's main flaw is not the musicianship or the lyrics, but the production. The production is awful. The band got the mix right, but the mastering is off. It isn't lo-fi, but it borders on it, which is worse. It won't necessarily affect you when the music is becoming more mellow, but when the instrumentalists are firing on all cylinders, like towards the end of Lethe, the first track, it emphasizes the mastering problems. However, if you're like me, you can forgive the band on this, because, like most other indie or otherwise self-financed bands, poor production cannot be helped. The production only gets to be annoying in the band's loudest moments, which are unfortunately the album's best. However, I could be generous and say that it adds an indie vibe to it, like that of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., but more accurately, it reminds me of Slint's Spiderland.

Anyway, before the review gets too long, Kayo Dot make an album that recaptures the first time I heard motW. It's unpredictable and more aggressive than Kayo Dot's previous work, and is reminiscent of motW while having a fresh and innovative sound. This is a blossom that thankfully revives the level of bonafide inspiration that Toby Driver had with motW. It recaptures that same energy while still being
original, which will hopefully constitute the definitive Kayo Dot sound. It might not be as good as some of Kayo Dot's past releases, but it still holdd up as one of their strongest, if not the strongest, of their work.



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user ratings (192)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
LordHugoThePoet (5)
This is not an album of perfection. The album takes it's flaws and holds them at face value, just li...

Eli EMERITUS (3.5)
For the first time in years, Kayo Dot feels musically relevant....

Thomas Michael Morris (4)
"THE FUCKING GROWLS ARE BACK! THE MOTHER FUCKING GROWLS ARE BACK!"...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 7th 2012



10593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I take issue with that entire first paragraph, except for the 'hit-or-miss' part. And this isn't an EP, it's an album.

the release was unexpected and sudden, on bandcamp.com, no less.


No it wasn't. The announced a new album back in summer, with a release date of December (which they obviously missed).

His work with maudlin of the Well, with the exception of their most recent album, was by far his best work. No one will argue that.


Their newest is fairly highly regarded, and I'm sure there are many people who would argue those albums as his best.

Both Bath and Leaving Your Body Map still rank as one of the best reviewed albums on this site, but sadly, have not gained a huge following outside of that, meaning that they really only have gained a cult following.


They are a very highly celebrated band outside of Sputnik. You need to get out more. Besides, referencing the site in your review is amaturish and silly to read.

my main problem was Driver's loss of sense for experimentation


Too referential to yourself

and his drive for a more melodic musical direction, unintentionally ripping off other contemporary post-rock bands, like Sigur Ros and If These Trees Could Talk


Did you even listen to that album??

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 7th 2012



10593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I typically don't go into great depth into describing why I don't like a review, but I made an exception here because you eventually got around to making some very good points and astute observations.


The album's main flaw is not the musicianship or the lyrics, but the production


Glad to see we agree.

Here, violin, guitar, bass, sax, and even mellotron bells will share the same stage all at once, leaving room for complete unpredictability


I never really thought of the unpredictability, but yes, you're right. It is neat how it all comes together as well.

mcg182
January 7th 2012



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes, I listened to the album. That was my problem with it. The impression I got was that Driver kept striving for an album that sounded pretty.

As far as I know, the band is very unknown to many people outside of Sputnikmusic. Their Wiki is almost barren of origin information, and allmusic doesn't even have ratings for their albums.

I don't consider an album to be less than 30 minutes, or 5 tracks approximately 5-6 minutes in length. To me, that's an EP.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 7th 2012



10593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I wanna call this album a tractor so in my mind it's a tractor.

mcg182
January 7th 2012



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Singles were released as full-sized LPs at one time, and guess what they were called. Singles.

P.S. I said the production reminded me of Slint. I think it goes without saying that I dealt with it.

mcg182
January 7th 2012



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Xenophanes, thanks for giving constructive criticism where so many other simpletons would just flat out say "you suck".

mcg182
January 7th 2012



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Alright then, it's an LP, if it really bothers you that much. Happy?

Ire
January 7th 2012



41754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i have fairies who grant me whatever i want when i want. fuck da rule book

NeutralThunder12
January 7th 2012



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"After maudlin, Driver opted for more atmosphere, which worked for Kayo Dot, but on motW's Part the Second, my main problem, which seems to be no one else's, was Driver's loss of sense for experimentation, and his drive for a more melodic musical direction, unintentionally ripping off other contemporary post-rock bands"

Part the Second is better than any Kayo Dot album other than maybe Choirs, and yeah Driver went for more outlandish composition and atmosphere with his more recent works such as the Tartar Lamb stuff, his solo stuff or yeah Kayo Dot. I definitely agree he's been hit and miss his whole career. When he hits its usually amazing. When he misses the result is directionless noise with nothing to hang on to. I love all the Maudlin stuff, half the Kayo Dot stuff, his solo album and the new Tartar Lamb. Better than your horrible review for Part the Second thats for sure

Drsmith4
January 7th 2012



1715 Comments


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Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 7th 2012



10593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

lololol

Joemoe1122
January 7th 2012



28 Comments


Tight album. That's really all I have to say haha.

MaskAtTheMasquerade
January 8th 2012



2887 Comments


yeeeeeeaaaaaa bout to here this!

mcg182
January 8th 2012



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

About the time I was writing this review, I found that I do my best reviews about things I like, not things I mildly like or things I hate. So, yeah, it goes without saying: don't expect much in my review of PtS.

mcg182
January 8th 2012



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

P.S. Internet Explorer sucks when commenting on Sputnik.



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