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Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downward

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Artist: Kayo Dot

Album: Blue Lambency Downward

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Jan. 23, 2009

A casual survey of what’s been written about Blue Lambency Downward shows the usual things one would expect from people writing about curious albums. There are a number of stabs at trying to jam Kayo Dot’s style, which sprawls fractally off in a number of directions, into one genre or another, sometimes having to hyphenate new genres until it begins to resemble a German translation. There also is a constant struggle to find some connection between founder Toby Driver’s metal past and Kayo Dot’s current strategy, which contains, at best, remnants of metal.

The fact is, outlier bands like Kayo Dot that sit on the edges of a number of different strategies aren’t easy to grasp and therefore get mislabeled, and through that mislabeling generate the wrong kind of expectations, engendering frustration. There’s certainly a tradition of calling bands like this metal. However, placing them in that symbolic space has real repercussions on how one listens to their music, and with Blue Lambency Downward, any of the vestigial bits from their earlier albums that might be construed as metal are lost in the John Zorn-esque songs, written from the vantage point of modern composition and prog.

If anything, Blue stands in alignment with the music of groups such as Henry Cow or Univers Zero, or in general, any of the Rock In Opposition bands, and it makes more sense to connect them like this, in terms of strategy, rather than trying to have to place them into this bad-fitting genre or that one. There’s a book by Henri Focillon called The Life of Forms in Art that goes into this idea in much greater depth, but the gist is that historical circumstances may account for certain constraints on the forms in art, but the only way to account for the forms themselves is to look at their internal lives. This means redrawing the cognitive map for grouping musicians or forming them into genres, and in Kayo Dot’s case, that means separating the way they make music from their particular circumstances: what bands certain members used to be in or who they’re friends with or any of the other little ways we all artificially create scenes or genres.

By Andrew Beckerman

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