Archive for March 29th, 2010

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Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye

Monday, March 29, 2010

Choirs of the Eye (2003)

This has to be the weirdest, most confusing album I own.

And where to start?

Extremely experimental meets post-rock meets classical meets jazz meets metal. None of those things should go together. But somehow, Kayo Dot have managed to do it. Whether that leaves you with something listenable is debatable. Personally, it leaves me dumbfounded that it has been done so well.

I got Choirs of the Eye because I’m such a huge fan of maudlin of the Well. I was expecting much of the same. While there are some similarities, Kayo Dot takes it to a whole new level of experimentation and challenge.

I’ve owned this music two and a half years. To this day, I haven’t wrapped my mind around  it. The music is an explosion of every instrument imaginable, from trombone to flute to heavily distorted guitars to strings to drums. It’s violence cuts, its numbness subdues, its ethereal beauty entrances. Like other maudlin of the Well music, the lyrics are sheer poetry, when you can understand what Driver is saying. He croons like Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke (though is not as talented as either).

But it isn’t for the singing that you listen to Kayo Dot. It’s the fact that it’s insane, not only for its extreme intensity, but also for its laid back moments where it almost grooves, lulling you into false sense of security before it blows up on you again.

Choirs of the Eye, at least for me, is a musical challenge unlike any other. What it accomplishes has likely never been done before. Sure, there is avant-garde music. Maybe there’s even avant-garde music that’s been blended with metal, jazz, and classical. But I doubt that it’s been done with as much success as Kayo Dot did with Choirs of the Eye.

Before listening to Choirs of the Eye, I never would have believed music like this could exist. For at least this one thing I can consider Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye a success.

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Sigur Rós – ( )

Monday, March 29, 2010

( ) (2002)

If Ágætis byrjun were Spring and melting snow and rushing rivers, then ( ) would be Fall and glaciers encroaching their icy claws over an already icy land.

Sigur Rós slows down here. The music exchanges the extreme range of emotion of Ágætis byrjun for the deep melancholy of ( ). This work is sadder, and deeper. If Ágætis byrjun were joyful exuberance, then ( ) is sorrowful wisdom. If Ágætis byrjun were youth and dancing, then ( ) is regret and old age.

The music is minimalistic in comparison, and shows another side of Sigur Rós’ brilliance. The music has a cold and haunting quality, like the year’s first rush of cold wind. It numbs and freezes you with its strains of sorrow.

Like Ágætis byrjun, ( ) strikes deep into my soul. The notes eerily describe how I often feel. But unlike Ágætis byrjun, it strikes solely into feelings we do our best to avoid – like sadness and pain and distance from a world that always seems to be going the other way. There’s the feeling of a scaling a beautiful, snow-capped mountain, hoping to see a promised land beyond of eternal spring, but instead of only finding a desert of ice.

( ) might be too bleak for some people’s tastes. But it is bleakly honest. To me, it’s about searching and searching, yet coming up short. It’s always trying to find home, telling ourselves it’s beyond the next mountain range. And then the next, and then the next, and then the next…

Maybe this sounds too depressing for you. But when describing this album, it’s impossible for me to do otherwise. And I think we mature when we contemplate the hard questions and enter the house of mourning rather than the house of feasting.

This album will mean different things to different people, making it all the more difficult to describe. But one thing is for certain – if this music enters you, it will get you thinking and feeling. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave for you.