Kayo Dot
Coffins on Io


4.5
superb

Review

by Astral Abortis CONTRIBUTOR (37 Reviews)
October 15th, 2014 | 21 replies


Release Date: 10/16/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Coffins on Io is a melting pot of retro icons reborn into unique and intoxicating fumes of dark, brooding thematic theatrics.

Contrary to popular belief, talent, creativity and inspiration don’t all run from some finite source, just begging to be tapped until the last drop has been spread thin over the artist’s dying breath and failed swan song. No artist is doomed to the perdition of running dry, forced to spend the rest of their life desperately sucking whatever leftover nutrients they can from the metaphorical soil, producing bland, lifeless work because their talent has been completely spent. This fallacy is the only reason I can imagine for why some people still act shocked when the ever-eclectic Toby Driver puts his name to an album completely disparate from his last. Over twenty years, from Spoonion to maudlin of the Well to Tartar Lamb and all the rest, Toby Driver has always put out work that stood as a monument to his refusal to pander to trends, requests and expectations. To those who say, “Wow, I can’t believe that Driver consistently puts out great music” and “I can’t believe this is so different from the last album”, I ask: Well, why not" Given his musical portfolio, how does this still come as such a hard pill to swallow" Driver and co. aren’t suddenly going to run on empty because they used up their big ol’ Bucket O’ Talent; they’re going to continue pursuing the sound and artistic endeavour that is relevant to them, whether or not you think they can pull it off. Enter Coffins on Io.

Lo and behold, Coffins on Io is another album fronted by Driver’s desire to step into new and exciting territory, once again expanding the Kayo Dot fold. That’s not to say the album sounds completely unlike anything Kayo Dot has done before, because that’s not true. While Coffins on Io definitely is a drastic change of pace for a band that’s always drastically changing its pace, it still has plenty of moments of familiarity, and it of course has that Kayo Dot feel. Whether you’re listening to Coyote or Hubardo, Kayo Dot’s biggest constant is being able to capture a stylistic familiarity that holds strong throughout their discography, even with frequent line-up changes and genre hopping. When you listen to Coffins on Io, you know right away that this is still the Kayo Dot you’ve always known and loved. The track ‘The Assassination of Adam’ seems to be the one that’s most reminiscent of past work. There’s a segment that sounds like a jazzier, moodier version of the track ‘Floodgate’ from Hubardo, as well as a section immediately after that hearkens back to Blue Lambency Downward’s ‘Symmetrical Arizona’ with its atmospheric noodling and the saxophone crawling. In certain parts it even mildly sounds like it shares similarities with non-album track ‘Twins Eating Fer De Lance’, albeit radically less vicious in execution.

Though each Kayo Dot record sounds vastly different from the last, there’s a new quality at play here that sets this album apart from the rest of band’s discography as a whole, and that’s how deeply it resonates with so many different styles and sounds, yet in a comparable way. Much of the band’s back-catalogue fluctuates from one genre extreme to the next, but with Coffins on Io, the music feels like much less of a loner, so to speak, and more like it wears its influences brazenly upon its sleeve. The haunting ‘Spirit Photography’ recalls sounds not unlike those of Bohren & der Club of Gore and Shadows of the Sun-era Ulver with its slow, atmospheric keys, soft, enchanting drumming and the smooth saxophone gliding over the music like a post-apocalyptic dream. Opening track ‘The Mortality of Doves’ begins with an electronic loop that I wish would go on forever, with its lo-fi hum quickly breaking out into bass-heavy synths and Driver’s almost-sexualised vocals slipping around the listener like silk. The darkwave, synth pop and electronic qualities of this track resonate as if they’re channelling the best parts of the gothic Clan of Xymox and the jazzy, ethereal Perdition City-era Ulver. Indeed, there are moments throughout this album, especially with ‘Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22’, where the music wouldn’t sound completely out of place on a Sisters of Mercy record, though there’s no shaking Kayo Dot’s unique spin on every style they end up handling.

With Coffins on Io being his third album with Kayo Dot, drummer Keith Abrams continues to be one of the most impressive aspects of the band. His drumming on both Gamma Knife and Hubardo was so fantastic that it stole away with some of the best moments on the albums, most notably on tracks like ‘Ocellated God’ and ‘Zlida Caosgi (To Water the Earth)’. True to form, Abrams’ percussive genius on Coffins on Io has yet again struck a chord with me, especially on ‘Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22’, where his opening beat sounds remarkably similar to something you’d hear from drumming legend Benny Greb. His performance on ‘Library Subterranean’ is particularly admirable; the way each stroke and percussive nuance complements the music is a quality most drummers can’t even begin to approach with the same dexterity and complexity, especially his improvisational-sounding approach in the track’s second half where the band goes off the deep end into a polyrhythmic synth breakdown and full-blown fusion jam session that highlights the varying strengths of all the musicians at play.

Driver’s vocal performance is perhaps his most diverse and fleshed-out effort he’s ever put to recording. On this record, we see a significant focus placed on vocal harmonies, and Driver doesn’t hold back. Acting as conduit, conducting the essence of a classic vocalist like Peter Gabriel one minute and tying a melody off with a flourish of his falsetto the next, Driver is a progressive beast of ever-changing vocal lines all throughout Coffins on Io. The way he creates perfect vocal hooks in tandem with the fantastic lyrics all throughout the album create instantly memorable moments that are, without a doubt, classics of the near future.

This is Kayo Dot’s most “accessible” record in the sense that the genres played out are rather recognisable and easily-digested forms of synth pop, progressive rock, post-punk, darkwave, jazz, etc., but the band still does a remarkable job of keeping the avant-garde experimentalism in place. Working with genres that are naturally unremarkable in this day and age with the record’s 80s retro-future noir theme, the band manages to combine all this into an exciting formula. Coffins on Io is a melting pot of retro icons reborn into unique and intoxicating fumes of dark, brooding thematic theatrics.

A lurching sense of familiarity suffuses Coffins on Io, and I’m not talking about the musical familiarity that solidifies this as a Kayo Dot album. I’m talking about something that feels otherworldly, nostalgic, distant, familiar, and yet utterly alien at the same time. The album slips away in no time at all, and the listener can easily get lost in its moody, doom-laden atmospheres. Coffins on Io is a far cry from anything else Toby Driver has done, but in an even more monumental and towering way than most. This isn’t just big in the sense that Hubardo was a massive accomplishment, in both length and scope. This is big in that it evokes feelings and ideas that are almost indescribable--on the tip of my tongue, but still fading as I try to put the thought into words. Coffins on Io is the Kayo Dot record I never knew that I needed them to make.



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user ratings (317)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
HamishObserves (4)
He drew the pictures of his dreams - mechanically....

AlexanderScriabin (4)
I should be somewhere, praying that I'm dreaming...

CamWJohnson (3)
Toby Driver promises a more grounded, '80s-esque flavor with Kayo Dot's latest experiment, "Coffins ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
johnnydeking29
October 15th 2014


11424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Will read later, looks promising

Wadlez
October 15th 2014


4913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Summary reads kind of strange, but he who does not review should not critique.

ComeToDaddy
October 15th 2014


1611 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review is a bit heavy on buzzwords and some sentences wander a bit, but lots of good points and great comparisons, pos'd. Really digging this, though not as much as Hubardo, maybe it'll grow idk

Artuma
October 15th 2014


29132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

lmao these "lol it's snox" negs



honestly, great review

johnnydeking29
October 15th 2014


11424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"No artist is doomed to the perdition of running dry, forced to spend the rest of their life desperately sucking whatever leftover nutrients they can from the metaphorical soil, producing bland, lifeless work because their talent has been completely spent."



Respectfully disagree, although not quite with that phrasing - I think that some artists change as people or run out of good ideas. This is not the case with Toby+co, as you stated.



"hearkens back to Blue Lambency Downward’s ‘Symmetrical Arizona’ with its atmospheric noodling and the saxophone crawling."



I found this for a most of the album, which is good because Symmetrical Arizona is still Kayo's second best song.



"but with Coffins on Io, the music feels like much less of a loner, so to speak, and more like it wears its influences brazenly upon its sleeve."



Good point, nicely expanded too.



"tying a melody off with a flourish of his falsetto the next"



I still can't decide whether or not this is a strength of the album; there's perhaps a bit too much vocal flourish here imo



The penultimate paragraph is strong, but the closing one reads a bit densely; a more concise summary would have been more effective. Feel free to ignore all my nit-picking - this is a well-written review and I enjoyed it. Pos'd hard.

johnnydeking29
October 15th 2014


11424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Also, heya Snox - didn't realise you were back

RoundOnEndHiInMiddle
October 16th 2014


896 Comments


this is a great review, don't really get the negs. have a pos, dude

leviegalapon
October 16th 2014


78 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review, pos'd



I wonder why so much people neg'd it? Perhaps it could have been shorter?



But overall, I agree with a lot of what you mentioned.

Veldin
October 16th 2014


2981 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good "recommended by user" albums, duder

AlexanderScriabin
October 17th 2014


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amazing.

FreddieDelaney31
April 12th 2017


3339 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Listened to this album/band for the first time and I AM IN LOVE. This is such an absolutely spectacular album. Listening to Hubardo next.

Digging: Glassjaw - Coloring Book

BigPleb
April 16th 2017


51493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Offramp Cycle is beyond words.

Confessed2005
July 10th 2017


3909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is a lot more accessible than the rest of their stuff I think. The vocal lines are really catchy too.

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Aiwaz
July 19th 2017


5207 Comments


Why am I just now discovering this....

Digging: Tool - 72826

BigPleb
July 19th 2017


51493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Such an immersive album dude.

Aiwaz
July 19th 2017


5207 Comments


I love this bro

BigPleb
July 19th 2017


51493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Otherworldly, so chill.

AnimalsAsSummit
July 19th 2017


2952 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

perfect nighttime jamming

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2017


16823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Toby's music has always had a Lynchian vibe to me, but this more than any other album by KD or Maudlin feels cinematic. I was thinking the other day how a live performance of one of these songs would've fit so well with Twin Peaks: The Return.

Digging: Tame Impala - Currents B-Sides & Remixes

Evokaphile
September 19th 2017


5981 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really gotta spend some more time with this album

Digging: Chaos Moon - Eschaton Mmoire



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