Kayo Dot – Coffins on IO

Toby Driver has overdosed on Ariel Pink albums. Admittedly, it’s not a difficult thing to do. If you can get past the almost impenetrable production of his earlier releases it’s quite clear that Ariel Pink has made some of the most compelling music of the last decade and a half. For anyone with an ear for the weird and the uncompromisingly lo-fi, binge listening is pretty much a certitude. Driver can be forgiven, then, for infusing the latest Kayo Dot album with, if not Ariel Pink’s influence, then the influences that influenced Ariel Pink. Namely, post punk, prog and yacht rock. Sprinkle in a bit of Type O Negative’s later era doom-pop sensibilities (at Driver’s own admittance; Steele is listed amongst a group of artists who “profoundly influenced this album”), and Driver’s own creative force and you’ve got the makings for a seriously bizarre album that warrants repeat spins on the “what the fuck did I just listen to?” tip alone.


Fans of previous Kayo Dot works would do well to gird their loins for an even more radical shift in style; impressive for a band noted for nth gear transitions and prog oddness. Weirdly, this album doesn’t diverge much internally, so much as the entire album is one twisted darkwave prog tangent. Laughing Stock by Talk Talk would not be an unsuitable entry point. Southern Death Cult meets Miles Davis and they all go to lunch with Peter Steele and talk about what would happen if The Chameleons played polyrhythms.


Inaugural track “The Mortality of Doves” opens with a distinctly nostalgic air. “Breathing” by Kate Bush, but not quite… a high quality lost demo that morphs into an even more theatrical crescendo at the 8 minute mark, cranking the nostalgia dial to almost unbearable limits, if the whole thing weren’t so self-aware and catchy.  “Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22” delves into Fixx territory, “Red Sky at Night” consumed by Goblin at the halfway point. Cinematic. Argento’s disembodied black gloved hand commands every instrument and helms the mixing desk. “Nightcall” by Kavinsky if it weren’t so boring and plastic sounding.  “Longtime Disturbance” wouldn’t be out of place on Gaucho if it were recorded by dour post punks instead of coked up pseudo-beats.  “Library Subterranean” opens with one of those bass lines you wish you wrote, dips its quill into Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” inkwell, borrows a cup of sugar from Howard Jones and then goes Dizzy Gillespie Meshuggah for almost four minutes after flirting with John Carpenters Prophet 5 for a few bars.  “The Assassination of Adam” is what happens when Mr. Bungle reforms and writes an 80’s track, and album closer “Spirit Photography” is almost taken straight from the Laughing Stock playbook with some Sky’s Gone Out era Bauhaus thrown in for good measure.


If any of that sounds disparaging or dismissive of the talent on board this album, it’s most certainly not meant to be. If anything, we here at the Deaf Sparrow offices have perhaps too great an affinity for a decade that’s no longer in the spotlight of contemporary “retro” sensibilities. The 90s have largely taken over, for better or for worse, and those of us who truly appreciate the decade can get back to our 30 year old sentimental circle-jerk without fear of oversaturation… perhaps. Coffins on IO doesn’t feel oversaturated, in that respect. It feels otherworldly, as its whole is greater than the sum of its very obviously “homage collage” parts. Coffins on IO is a great addition to the increasingly bizarre Kayo Dot output and a solid album in its own right.  Andrew Eldritch would approve.


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Written by Mort Subite

Kayo Dot – Coffins on IO
The Flenser Records
4 / 5