After wowing progressive rock listeners with both their perfect (literally) debut Choirs of the Eye and their almost as good follow-up, Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue, Kayo Dot have returned with an EP split with doom metal band Bloody Panda. I am not familiar enough with the Bloody Panda material to review it (though I would recommend checking out their debut full length, Pheromone, as it’s quite good). Thus, I will restrict this review just to the Kayo Dot half, the song “Don’t Touch Dead Animals.”
“Don’t Touch Dead Animals” is split into two parts, each introduced with a short spoken poem by violinist Mia Matsumiya (who is featured on vocals because Bloody Panda also have a female Japanese vocalist). The track marks somewhat of a shift in sound for Toby Driver and co, but it is still recognizable as distinctly Kayo Dot, holding true to Driver’s compositional style and disdain for traditional song structures.
In some sense, this song is a mixture of Choirs and Dowsing; the first part is jazzy in a similar manner to “Aura on an Asylum Wall” from the latter, and the second utilizes heaviness similar to “Marathon” from the former. In the first part, a powerful trumpet duals with dissonant, swirling violin, building up to a semi-climax, then fading away in a seeming anti-climax. Then, however, Mia begins her monologue that opens part two, and the song fairly immediately climaxes with some awesome crazed vocals from Mia and more fantastic trumpet work, as well as some heavy guitar riffing. This relieves the tension of the anti-climax wonderfully, bringing the track to a powerful resolution.
But how does it mark a compositional change for Kayo Dot? Well, the song is far less minimalist than either of their other CDs. For the first time (in a Kayo Dot song), there is a lot happening that all exists in or near the song’s foreground. Sure, on their two full lengths there was generally a lot happening, but it was done in a subtler manner. Here, on the other hand, it is more obvious (though still fairly subtle). While both good on the whole, both the semi-climax and the full climax are simply too full at times, and it’s impossible to comprehend everything at once. That is the one major flaw with this song. However, if Driver can take this style of composing and perfect his technique, he should be able to deliver a third masterpiece.