Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye
Record Label: Tzadik
Release Date: October 23, 2003
A wise man once said something along the lines of, “you have one mouth and two ears for a reason; listening is far superior to speaking.” It is from the soft-spoken that several great things have come. An example that hits home is Thomas Jefferson, the introverted colonial man, who drafted the Declaration of Independence. Known for his knowledge pertaining to philosophy, political theory, and his ability to write, Jefferson is now a famous political figure, and a father of our country. So perhaps being soft-spoken is a scarlet letter for magnificence; if that is the case, Kayo Dot was destined for greatness from the start.
“Marathon” begins this album with boisterous noise that reveals a somber, bleak atmosphere beneath each drum roll and movement of string. The plethora of brass instrumentation adds a coherent burst of experimentation to this languid track that utilizes dynamics in a rather unique way. These elements force a cinematic grandeur to appear, most notably with the closing spoken word sect that adds a sense of sagacity to this elegant, pristine aural mix. When the lines, “Our eyelashes weaken with a weight that is sweet and fine/And this feels like frogs and spiders in the sweet outside.//Tell me why world/unfathomable and good/the beauty of everything is infinite and cruel.//An airplane, a puppet/an orange, a spoon//A window/and outside/stars and the moon.” escape from Toby Driver's mouth, a ring of sagacity is brought forth to the ear. One is soon swept far away via the album's grandeur and cinematic qualities that are captured through expanses of tranquil instrumentation and a perfect progression that occurs throughout the album. Although this may sound like a somewhat inaccessible drone or post-metal work, tracks like “A Pitcher of Summer” show why that statement is so false.
Beginning on the same languid path that the aforementioned track utilizes phenomenally, “A Pitcher of Summer” is the most accessible track on this album as it utilizes pristine melodies and pop sensibilities. These are most evident when Driver sings out, “And I lifted my piece of summer/Like a piece of memory or a dream.” His croon is abnormal, intriguing, and comforting at the same time, and never grows stagnant. Within seconds, the arrangement progresses into a drone metal arrangement with jazzy quirks. It proves to be a beautiful composition with equally beautiful lyrics such as: “Poured forth gracefully/ this ctheric tincture/lifts winter's coat-of-arms/with coaxing aromas and electricity.//Used with vigilance/a Pitcher of Summer stirs a memory into swooning//And bravely/the flowers of the past will stretch their limbs into the sky/while snow falls quietly all around.” However, we have not reached the most enormous, most experimental, most ineffably exquisite composition yet.
“Manifold Curiosity” is the album's most evident highlight. Beginning with wistful melodies that decrescendo into a delicate guitar riff, this track utilizes Driver's phenomenal soughs which allow the music to increase the amount of intensity. Through vocal distortion, unobtrusive guitar lines, and a diaphanous symphony, this track drones on and on, before a progression ensues that is portentous of either intensity, or discordance. The former is the result here, as a woodwind-based instrumental takes flight. It is the album's utmost highlight, as it shows not only the technicality of the player, but it taps into one's deepest thoughts and is deeply emotional and passionate. As this song goes onward, the listener becomes aware that this song plays not only with a hybrid of classical music and contemporary sounds, but it also showcases the band's metal aspects. These aspects are sewn together coherently and pique the listener's interest constantly. The unclean vocals that “Marathon” made great use of become evident towards the end of the track, which leads one to feel that the album is headed in a heavier direction, but "Wayfarer" proves this assumption to be incorrect.
A variety of different transitions bring this track which begins with a pristine tremolo pluck to a somewhat orchestral soundscape. Rather than unclean vocals, a croon is utilized for almost the entire song. There are more exciting moments that are thrown in here and there, but this track places more focus on the vocals rather than the expansive musicianship that makes this all such a soft-spoken release (that, and the fact that this album is a rather quiet one). However, the track's calmness is apposite for the song's musicianship, which is wistful, symphonic, and relatively soothing. Although this continues for a while into the next track, “The Antique”, this all comes to a screeching halt when it becomes apparent that this outfit is going to spend time going back to their somewhat jazzy roots (maudlin of the Well, for those of you who didn't know), and then experimenting with some extreme metal. “The Antique” also features a large amount of dissonance that adds a great deal to the track that has not been seen utilized as much as it is here. Another highlight featured on this track is a guitar solo. At time, piano melodies trickle over the aural assault like staccato raindrops on pavement. Although this seems like it would assuage the intensity of the music, it does the polar by adding a sense of ominousnes. Although of this seems to be portentous of doom, the album does not end on a discordant note like "Manifold of Curiosity", but rather an exquisite Picardy third. Subsequently, the song is a phenomenal closer, and the album improves tremendously by this extraordinary highlight.
Overall, this album is phenomenal. It is a beautiful, avant-garde opus that should be remembered several decades from now. This alum should be remembered for its passionate soundscapes, distant melodies, extremities in sound and intensity, delicate lulls, and harsh, dissonant complexity. However, there are plenty more positive aspects to the album. The claustrophobic aural textures are portentous, as they allow one to see direction in the song, whilst the song remains unconventional and exciting. The coherency and experimentation should be noted as well, for they are both included in the mix in a just manner. Never once does a transition seem poorly put together, and never does a song grow stagnant. Whilst this album often has its extended absences of vocals and utilizes soughs and murmurs often, this may be a positive for the album. For if it was a living, breathing creature, I would assume it to be the wisest of us all.