Kayo Dot

Choirs of the Eye

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Not calling Kayo Dot a metal band is difficult, because there aren't many other genres that leave you with the punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when listening to the group's debut. Calling them metal and pointing out they're on John Zorn's Tzadik label makes things worse, because Kayo Dot is not a frenzied Naked City or Boredoms-styled band either. Plus there's the classical side, woodwinds and all, rubbing up against a mighty guitar's echoing bar chord. When they let loose they're like Sleep or Isis, and when they calm down they're like Rachel's or This Mortal Coil minus the noodling. That's probably the most satisfying thing about Choirs of the Eye -- it's an extremely well-paced and a structured listen from start to finish, with little that's overdone. It's crushing, epic soundtracks one minute and precious chamber music the next. But Kayo Dot isn't buying into the soft-loud-soft thing like all of the Mogwai followers; the band should win your trust when it comes to composition right away. It takes nearly 13 minutes to get to the quick thrash and riffing that closes "The Manifold Curiosity," but it wouldn't be the wall-puncher of a payoff it is without the reflective buildup. Follow it with the Spanish guitar of "Wayfarer," and it becomes obvious right away that this is not wallpaper music but an album to get lost in, preferably alone and uninterrupted. To throw another comparison around, lead singer Toby Driver does sound a heck of a lot like Jeff Buckley, but Buckley would have a hard time hitting the primal screams as loud as Driver does. It's a lot to take in, but it's worth it. Plenty of bands have practiced this cerebral, absurd kind of genre combination, but Kayo Dot makes them seem like charlatans. One wishes the very idea of chamber rock had never been explored before and saved for the skilled and attractively arcane Kayo Dot. Think Pink Floyd's attitude around the time of Meddle: try anything to see if it pays off while paying close attention to the details. Plus you don't so much "get it"; it's more about "feeling it."

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