Kayo Dot - Blasphemy review

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Band: Kayo Dot
Album: Blasphemy
Release date: September 2019

01. Ocean Cumulonimbus
02. The Something Opal
03. Lost Souls On Lonesome's Way
04. Vanishing Act In Blinding Gray
05. Turbine, Hook, And Haul
06. Midnight Mystic Rise And Fall
07. An Eye For A Lie
08. Blasphemy: A Prophecy

How is it that even the most restrained of Kayo Dot's albums feels constantly out of reach?

Merged from Maudlin Of The Well and being constantly lauded with never making the same album twice, Kayo Dot seemed to have such versatility in the way that they approached metal, classical, ambient, electronica and jazz with their music without ever feeling like any tag other than just "avant-garde" really fits. Now they find themselves at home with a new label, Prophecy Production and a new line-up, and with such a reputation it is quite clear that Blasphemy must be surprising in some way, right?

Let it be clear that I am a big Toby Driver fan. I reviewed both of his solo albums (here and here) and saw both Kayo Dot and his solo tour live. I loved the hell out of Plastic House On Base Of Sky, their latest album. And yet when I first listened to Blasphemy, I couldn't connect with it at all. But I was completely mesmerized with how it could sound as if it is music that is made in a way that music isn't supposed to be made. Even after being so familiar with his music, it still finds a way for it to be challenging. After multiple listens and it obviously finally clicking, it actually feels like the most accessible and restrained of the Kayo Dot releases. Maybe that's an exaggeration, since it does quite a few "harsh" moments, and I remember both their previous ones being less filled with such moments than Kayo Dot usually is.

Blasphemy sounds like a blend of what Toby Driver did on his solo albums but a bit harsher combined with Vaura's last album (especially in some of the synth passages) and the last two Kayo Dot records. Now take that blend and still take it in unmapped places. Much more direct in its instrumental approach, in the sense that there are way less instruments that we're used to hearing from a record like this, with a lot of emphasis on the synths and the drums, but at some points some surprising ones of guitar too, giving it quite a more rock sound than they've had in years. The vocals still sit at the forefront of the entire thing, drifting between suave and passionate in between mellower and angstier moments, usually drenched in reverb, sometimes autotuned beyond repair, sometimes choir-like, always mesmerizing, always dramatically relating the album's tale of allegorical greed. Hearing all of the elements come together with such a spotless and hypnotizing production really does grip me so much that I can't for the life of me understand how it didn't instantly click with me.

Constantly chameleonic, as with most of his work, Blasphemy successfully transitions Kayo Dot into a new sound with a new lineup on a new label, still sounding recognizably Driver-ish, while sounding completely unrecognizable and alien. It may take a lot longer before I completely grasp its essence, but I am along for the ride.


Written on 22.09.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.

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