Saturday, February 6, 2010
Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye
There are only two albums that I feel are truly representative of the term 'neo-classical'. One is Kashiwa Daisuke's 'Program Music 1' and the other is this (although 'Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain' by Mono & World's End Girlfriend comes close); what's interesting about this pairing is that this label is pretty much the only thing these two albums have in common. Let me elaborate on this a little, I think for an album to be modern classical, it involves having both meticulously composed structures, key signatures and changes, all that you'd find in the works of Debussy or Haydn, but done using modern instruments/techniques and what not. It's this last criteria that most people seem to forget and are all too quick to label something as neo-classical just because it's got some violins and was made in the last 20 years. Program Music 1 earns its neo-classical tag by fusing classical composition with electronic and computer based music, Choirs of the Eye does it with metal.
If I were to describe this album in one word, it would probably be dense. Despite running for over an hour, there's so much happening in this album that it never drags. Not just across the album, but each track you'll find the mood shift multiple times, anything from ambience to classical guitar to flute sections to full-blown metal. However, unlike schizophrenic bands like UneXpect, these changes never feel out of place or gimmicky. The key to this is probably that the album has only 5 tracks, meaning there's plenty of time for any stylistic change to take place within the context of both the song and the album.
One thing I particularly like about this album is that I'm always discovering something new in it. There's just so many layers that, upon every listen, you'll discover a horn part or a strings section or bass line that you've never noticed before. It not only adds to the musical sonic-scape, but helps keep the album fresh. I've listened to Choirs of the Eye probably about 11 times in the last 5 or so days and I am by no means tired of it yet; if anything, the more I listen to it, the more I like it. If I were to criticise it (and this is a minor grievance only), the vocals in some sections just don't seem quite as strong as the instruments, but they still do the job perfectly fine.
This albums comes with the disclaimer that it definitely does not fall under the 'easy listening' category. You can't turn on Kayo Dot and just chill out; it's an album best experienced with good headphones and with an alert and open mind. Even then, I probably wouldn't recommend this to someone who hasn't had some experience listening to progressive rock or metal. If you're new to the genre, maybe try some Tool or, God forbid, Opeth first and see how you like them before diving into this. Challenging but, ultimately, rewarding sums up this album nicely.
My initial plan for this review was to slowly go through each track and attempt to describe the awesomeness that unfolds. But I think it would be better for someone to discover this for themselves. Toby Driver has has created the first real modern-classical masterpiece of the 21st Century and has set the standard for avant-garde metal, of which no album has yet equalled. This. Album. Is. Fucking. Amazing.