Kayo Dot
Plastic House on Base of Sky


4.0
excellent

Review

by TalonsOfFire STAFF
June 28th, 2016 | 546 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sun goes down behind landscape seeming/alien in its nightmare evening.

The ever-fluctuating beast of Kayo Dot is clearly intent on never falling into stagnation or predictability; subverting expectations is how they work fundamentally. Frontman Toby Driver and a large cast of collaborators never make the same album twice, frequently changing everything about how the previous record sounded. Driver has laughed off fans berating him for changing genres between albums, and has once again shifted his musical focus in the wake of recent events. Since the success of avant-garde metal masterpiece Hubardo in 2013, Driver has made it clear that Kayo Dot would mold into something new once more. Coffins on Io and Plastic House on Base of Sky (PHOBOS, one of the moons of Mars) emphasize electronics over experimental metal. The latter acts as a logical progression from Coffins on Io while entrancing the listener with eccentric, alien compositions.

The most impressive aspect of PHOBOS is how naturally immersive it sounds without relying on typical genre-bending techniques (loud-soft-loud-soft dynamics for a quick dose of variety) within extended compositions. The avant-garde explorations are dense and unrelenting, with the only reprieve in the form of the softer, shorter closing ballad “Brittle Urchin.” These qualities serve as a sharp contrast to the neo-noir, gothic elements of predecessor Coffins on Io. While its smooth nature faintly remains, Kayo Dot have opted for more vibrant, dense layerings of electronics and bass guitars. Overall, the band has again defied categorization or genre barriers, creating a truly original and puzzling album of sci-fi madness. For example, the evocative, spatial epic “Rings of Earth” sees Driver hauntingly singing of satellites circulating like vultures around dying worlds. Apocalyptic keyboards and pounding drums accentuate the death knell outro, reminiscent of some other-dimensional funeral dirge.

Flurrying keyboards and frantic vocals are a near constant throughout, drawing on the styles of Coffins on Io and taking them to frenetic heights. The subtle use of guitars also adds to the wondrous energy the album exudes throughout. These qualities are at their most unhinged in the middle section, with high voltage synthesizers building to massive climaxes within “Magnetism” and “All the Pain in All the Wide World.” The latter begins deceptively, as lush, almost accessible electronica. This transitions to droning synth patterns while odd bass lines provide an unsettling backdrop, soon descending into a chaotic whirlwind of agitated rhythms and haunting echoed vocals. While not the most climactic section of the album, it stands as one of the strangest passages of music the band has ever recorded. The song’s climax contains improvisational vocals not included in the liner notes. Driver has insisted that Kayo Dot’s music is always planned and rehearsed ahead of time, with this moment marking an uncommon departure from that formula.

The lyrical themes are fitting for Driver’s frantic, eccentric vocal delivery as he explores an unsavory Orwellian nightmare. “Amalia’s Theme” carries a mystical tone as it tells the story of a female oracle within a degraded, dystopian future. Themes like these throughout PHOBOS are reminiscent of sci-fi films like Bladerunner, Brazil, Total Recall, and Logan’s Run. More arcane and occult imagery appear throughout as well. The esoteric subject matter of “Magnetism” marries these elements together exceptionally, the music swelling and permeating the listener’s mind in the album’s climax. A high-pitched droning synth pattern plays over keyboard layers in highly unconventional time signatures; frantic percussion patterns drive along the otherworldly chorus as vocal wails paint surreal, haunting imagery of drug-addled wastelanders in alien cities, perhaps here on earth in a far distant, unfamiliar future.

As previously mentioned, the dust settles on “Brittle Urchin,” a comfortably odd, reflective outro reminiscing on the album’s abstract themes. It ends PHOBOS on an unsettling yet tranquil note fitting for the band. Some will find Kayo Dot's latest difficult to digest, at least before the quieter closing song. Ultimately, it is a demanding listen, one of the most challenging the band have released. Driver and co. have always made a point to subvert listener’s expectations, and this latest ranks among their hardest to grasp. Each listen yields fresh discoveries, particularly with the role of guitars subtlely adding to the screaming walls of sound the album at times descends into. To reveal all the album’s secrets would lessen its impact, and a full listen of the esoteric Plastic House on Base of Sky will show how rewarding Kayo Dot can be, as evolved and mesmerizing as always.



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user ratings (206)
Chart.
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 27th 2016


16935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

Stream here: http://noisey.vice.com/en_au/blog/kayo-dot-plastic-house-on-base-of-sky-stream



Thanks to Gameofmetal for proofreading



EDIT: This review has since been cleaned up and heavily edited, as I had accidentally submitted a first draft.

Digging: Tom Rogerson with Brian Eno - Finding Shore

Asdfp277
June 27th 2016


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

dece album

TVC15
June 27th 2016


8979 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

oh cool

Digging: Alkaline Trio - Alkaline Trio

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2016


15788 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

LP listen to Blue Lambency Downward

Digging: T. Rex - The Slider

TVC15
June 27th 2016


8979 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I really should huh. Kayo Dot's discog is really intimidating to go thru tho...

Jasdevi087
June 27th 2016


4666 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also listen to all of their albums

Jasdevi087
June 27th 2016


4666 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

may I ask what in the ever loving fuck about this makes it a 1.5 for you and not a 1?

Relinquished
June 27th 2016


36750 Comments


no don't, it won't do your brain any good

sach's right sans rating

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
June 27th 2016


6444 Comments


what makes it a 4.5 for you and not a 5 or a 4?
I'm guessing Sach likes this more than the albums he 1s and less than the ones he 2s.
(a simpler explanation than what he'll likely respond with, so)

Jasdevi087
June 27th 2016


4666 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

no, I asked the question

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2016


15788 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I wouldn't worry, he actually doesn't listen to these albums

Asdfp277
June 27th 2016


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

opinions

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 27th 2016


16935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

I don't think the language I use is reminiscent of a thesaurus, which I only ever use when I need to avoid repetition. All the descriptions I came up with off the top of my head, and not that you have to like it, but this is just my writing style.

Asdfp277
June 27th 2016


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

ur writing style is not havin a writing style tho

Relinquished
June 27th 2016


36750 Comments


don't even say it's your style, that cements it in your head and you and everyone still have their way to evolve in all types of style and flow

be better than that asfpdfeweqbqou cuz 1) I'm drunk and your name is still lame and 2) this dude is cool to criticism from what I see

iloveyouall
June 28th 2016


6319 Comments


jspot got it in one tbh.

Asdfp277
June 28th 2016


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

style is a difficult thing imo, but ur already at that level so gotta push up one more



idk it's like, i know when a review is a knott- review, even w/o his name on it, and that's ur personal style

Asdfp277
June 28th 2016


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

and yea talons is cool

Artuma
June 28th 2016


29175 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

futures giving some on-point constructive criticism here, you better take notes talons

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2016


6444 Comments


i have a couple tipsies

- don't ~force~ intros. it's really common for newish writers to use some really cliche intro and slot it into their reviews; and, the obvious problem with this is, eventually, you run out of these. so just don't do it. honestly, it's better to awkwardly jump into song descriptions than to waste the reader's time with boring, long-winded analogies that aren't relevant to anything.
- don't stuff sentences. ask yourself, "are any of these words unnecessary? could i say this more concisely? do i repeat myself?" example: "They never make the same album twice, usually changing everything about how the previous record sounded unapologetically. - you basically said this earlier in the same paragraph. really, all the intro does is point out how Kayo Dot like to mix things up. you could make some minor adjustments to your second paragraph and just delete the first paragraph entirely.
- there's nothing wrong IMO with showing off some vocabulary; but, be careful that it flows naturally, still. i've had this issue in the past, and it's taken me quite a lot of practice to sort out. lines like "Along with the engaging, bizarre electronics, lyrics are expectedly esoteric." feel stilted.



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