Kayo Dot - Plastic House On Base Of Sky

Kayo Dot – Plastic House on Base of Sky

There are a few artists out there who pursue a singular vision that probably not even the protagonist knows where it will lead he or she, but the ride will never be less than interesting, and following the work of these driven souls has a strange fascination for those of us who value progression and innovation in art above entertainment.

One such vessel for Euterpe is New York denizen Toby Driver, who for the last 13 years or so has appeared in the ether mostly but not exclusively as the force behind the once avant-metal but now beyond classification musical collective known as Kayo Dot. The Dot arose from the ashes of Toby’s previous band, the very strange avant-metal group maudlin of the Well (partly lower case, intentional) and forged their own dark but magnetically attractive path from the horror circus roller-coaster of 2003’s Choirs Of The Eye, an album that veered between steely dark beauty to terrifying cacophony, to arrive at their stupendous 10th anniversary album Hubardo, an atramentous tale which saw the return of motW growler Jason Byron on the opening track. Hubardo was an artistic triumph that covered more musical bases in its 100 minutes than most bands manage in entire careers.

The development curve of the band then took an unexpected turn, or not when you come to think of it, into Gothic post-rock, with Driver describing the sound of Coffins on Io as “…kind of like a sexy combination of Type O Negative, Peter Gabriel, Sisters of Mercy”, a template they have now expanded upon with the mysteriously titled Plastic House on Base of Sky.

Using a combination of traditional rock instrumentation, analogue and digital synths and sundry weird electronic effects, these are not so much tunes as conglomerates of sound, mostly with very odd rhythms and counter-rhythms that push and pull one’s synapses in conflicting directions. In much the same way that Scritti Politti or The Associates made wonky off-kilter white soul music, Kayo Dot have made an album of wonky off-kilter post-prog pop. Those two groups are definitely in the mix, as it were, along with The Cure, and a generally heady alt-80s vibe.

This is one of those albums where the whole is more than the sum of its parts, as each of the five tracks herein form into an episodic and gradually unfurling black flower in a post-apocalyptic world. At first listen it is difficult to get a handle of the dense soundscape and complicated rhythms, but after a few hearings it clicks, and suddenly you are privy to, or at least scratching the surface of, Toby’s fiery visions.

My review copy is without any lyric sheets, but another collaboration with Jason Byron, a student of the occult, has from what I can discern resulted in obscure phrases and multiple meanings that go hand in hand with the mysterious vibe of the music, which is the main thread linking all of Kayo Dot’s vast and all-encompassing canon. That vibe is at one and the same time comforting yet strangely unsettling, as if a realisation has dawned that after all, this padded cell is actually quite cosy and maybe being cosseted by menace is not as contradictory as it sounds. However, you may wake up screaming.

Kayo Dot are a band that are never content to repeat themselves, and under Toby Driver’s guidance they will always be questing for knowledge in the dark and dusty corners of the human psyche. Join in the fun and dislocate your synapses!

01. Amalia’s Theme (7:32)
02. All the Pain in All the Wide World (10:08)
03. Magnetism (7:29)
04. Rings of Earth (8:40)
05. Brittle Urchin (4:32)

Total time – 38:23

Toby Driver – Voice, Synths, Guitar, Bass Guitar
Keith Abrams – Drums
Ron Varod – Guitar (track 5)
Daniel Means – Saxophone
Sage Riesman – Violin
Stacey Winegyn – Violin
Bing Minz – Violin
Roman Celine – Viola
Dabe Wyche – Viola
Alexis Travelion – Cello
Landen Chelengs – Contrabass
Lemuel Bardor – Harpsichord
Bree Eng – Pipe Organ
Duggan Elston – Hammond Organ
Valentin Dublev – Mellotron
Charmane Tressel – Glass Harmonica
Gloria Hattifer – Celesta
Bhin Turmes – Trumpet
Ephraim Narata – Flugelhorn
George Chamdles – Rhodes
Stelvio Nebulli – Hand Percussion
Guillaume Veltaj – Hand Percussion
~ With:
The Adirondack Twilight Choir

Record Label: The Flenser
Catalogue#: FR69
Year of Release: 2016

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