Blue Lambency Downward
posted on 5/2008 By:
Although I was aware of this band’s connections with Maudlin of the Well, I had not previously heard Toby Driver’s Kayo Dot prior to wrapping my ears around Blue Lambency Downward. Needless to say, I initially found myself in a state of shock when confronted with the band’s very, VERY experimental sound that resembles the score to an obscure, late-night television serial from the sixties about some drugged-out parallel universe. As frustrating as I found it initially, the more I forced myself to listen to Blue Lambency Downward, the more I appreciated Kayo Dot’s uncompromising attitude to their music and blatant disregard for convention and accessibility.
The album gets off to a shaky start with the ten-minute title track, which feels like an interminable mish-mash of reverb-heavy clean guitar, psychedelic effects, falsetto vocals and manic percussion. Sure, there are genuinely unsettling moments here and there, but for the most part the song is too aimless and repetitive to really hook you in. "Clelia Walking" and "Right Hand Is the One I Want" are thankfully more concise, but no less bizarre bursts of madness, the latter opening with a strong lounge feel and featuring heavy use of clarinet, organ, spacey sound effects and Mia Matsumiya’s violin.
Blue Lambency Downward gets better with "The Awkward Wind Wheel", a faster, satisfyingly intense number with stronger and more prominent use of vocals. But it’s the closing "Symmetrical Arizona" that brings this album together nicely, and is a far more effectively composed ten-minute epic than its opening counterpart. The separation of key instruments early builds the song nicely, before reaching a frenzied conclusion with even some sludgy metal riffs creeping their way in. The track is good enough to gloss over most of the album’s earlier missteps.
I’ve ended up appreciating Blue Lambency Downward as a truly uncompromising piece of avantgarde escapism, but it took many, MANY listens to reach this conclusion. If you’re seeking anything even remotely approaching conventional song structure, rhythm or melody, I suggest you steer well clear of Kayo Dot’s path. This album is challenging, often frustrating but strangely rewarding. Seek this out and take it on if you think you’re up for it, but consider yourself warned.
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