MP3 Premiere: Kayo Dot, “Whisper Ineffable”


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

New York art-proggos Kayo Dot have broken metal’s final taboo. Sure, they’ve been living on the bleeding edge of avant-metal for three albums, filling their impenetrable stew with freeform jazz, unglued Stravinsky, and King Crimson’s most abstract blurble — but they may have broken metal’s only commandment on upcoming fourth album Coyote, due April 6 on Hydra Head. “Not really any guitar on this album,” says frontman Toby Driver. “A tiny bit, but it doesn’t even sound like guitar, so it perhaps doesn’t really count. There’s that quest to make some brutal rock sans guitar.” In turn, Coyote is a 40-minute narrative composition that swirls with cooing violins, whining trumpets, jangling xylophones, and haunting blasts of cosmic debris — easily their most cohesive, heavy-hitting and best album yet. Influenced by early ’80s goth and Herbie Hancock’s more psychedelic excursions, Coyote is a mini-suite that’s at once punishing, sad and gloriously free. The 11-minute “Whisper Ineffable” is the album’s second act, an indescribable gust of jazz-fusion, minimalist John Hassell trumpet howl, Zappa-esque blender-benders, and Hawkwind-ready space junk. Says Driver, “I mean, almost everything about this one is different for Kayo Dot, but what makes it familiar to our identity is the escapist quality, the adventurousness, and my compositional idiosyncrasies that I hope, at this point in my life, are recognizably unique to me.”

Kayo Dot frontman Toby Driver on “Whisper Ineffable”:

What is “Whisper Ineffable” about?

That track is the second movement in the overall five-movement suite of Coyote, so in terms of the greater narrative, this track is the part of the story in which the protagonist, the Calonyction Girl, is lying there feeling all terrible, and she sees her heart and viscera climb out of her body and stretch around the dark room, helping her to separate herself from her sensations. This enables her to have visions, which she draws in the air. The images become connected to one another by the organs and viscera, creating a map, which she dreamily enters.

How did this song come about?

The first three minutes of this movement were the first elements of Coyote that were written. The entire remainder of the album is based around that, musically. My inspiration was partially sonic — my exploration of this particular ’80s art-goth bass guitar sound mixed with unisons of clarion trumpet and alto sax with tons of reverb — and partially in the narrative, which had been provided by Yuko Sueta. Since I had this objective in mind to faithfully use these particular art-goth aesthetics, it was especially tricky and time-consuming to come up with parts that communicated this well… What I mean is, I couldn’t just write something that “sounded good” — all the parts actually had to follow a specific set of rules in order to communicate this era effectively. So, a lot of time was spent trying to find phrases that worked with the whole 40-minute composition, but also fit into this set of rules. For example, the bass had to use a lot of open “G” string in order to sound like, say, The Cure’s Disintegration, but then we had to find out how to fit this open G into consistent harmonic content across the album while still sounding like there was a lot of motion, avoiding droning.

Tell me about making some of these spacy sounds.

Terran Olson, our keyboardist, says that the swooshy-wooshy sounds were made by a micro-Moog, and the zappy sounds were made via granular synthesis using the original horn tracks, all cut-up and vilified. The vibe and color changes throughout the movement — the opening is loneliness, and emptiness, feeling lost, which becomes action and fear, which becomes a violent spewing, which becomes a calm yet morbid resolution. The synth, by adding an element of non-pitch-oriented texture, hopefully extends the music three-dimensionally. Atmosphere!

What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?

Maybe The Stone because I’m always a big fan of being 100% in control of our sound, and The Stone enables ensembles to do that, whereas big rock venues do not. Also, last weekend’s shows were sold out, even some people came from Florida to see them. That never happens to us! Overall it made us feel like we were doing something right!

What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?

Currently, it’s Sel de Mer, on Graham Ave. Specializing in seafood, it’s super delicious, it’s on my block, it’s relatively inexpensive for the quality, it has a dearth of annoying co-diners, and they do Friday brunch. Perfect!

Toby Driver has been curating The Stone for all of February. The month closes out with performances by Thrones, Oxbow, Evangelista, Enablers and Driver himself. Check here for schedule.

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