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On “Blasphemy,” avant-rockers Kayo Dot are still innovating

Thursday, March 5, Communication, 7:30 p.m., presented by Tone Madison. Info

After nine studio albums, the name Kayo Dot may still conjure connections to the extreme music scene or they heyday of post-metal, as the band’s initial recordings dramatically executed some of the most transfixing and dynamically daring compositions of the aughts. However, in the past five years, lead singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver has not only consistently demonstrated his artistic perseverance and adaptability but his outright commitment to creating music that challenges classification and expectations of genre. In ’90s critical circles, Keigo Oyamada (Cornelius) may have garnered a reputation as being truly boundless in their inclusive free-form approach, but in the 2010s, the progressive music crown belongs to Kayo Dot.

The New York-based band’s most recent album, 2019’s Blasphemy, is a continued evolution of what began on 2014’s Coffins On Io, which saw Driver generously deconstructing his own serpentine songwriting into the arenas of gothic rock, slowcore, and electronic music with a previously unheard directness that has since carried over onto his tempered solo output. With a new lineup that includes two percussionists (Leonardo Didkovsky and Phillip Price) and returning guitarist Ron Varod, Blasphemy emerges as a multifarious beast that is perhaps as much of an expansive love letter to Driver’s equally chameleonic inspirations like Tiamat and David Tibet (of Current 93) as it is an engrossing expression of the increasing intimacy of ideas in his own musical canon that dates back over 20 years to maudlin of the Well.

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Although the record’s lyrics are penned by longtime lyrical collaborator Jason Byron, and comment on narcissistic greed and perversity of religion through an allegorical, apocalyptic lens, there’s something unmistakably original and distinct about their delivery on the synth- and guitar-driven single, “Blasphemy: A Prophecy.” Driver assumes the role of the song’s omniscient narrator, theatrically chanting, “See the fools and see the lies / The bargaining of lives / Remove their hands / Put on their eyes / Walk away as airship dies.” Another highlight, “Lost Souls On Lonesome Way,” pairs well with the craggy, aquatic landscapes of Jenya Chernoff’s cover art in all its percussive, tom-heavy thunder, with Driver’s agile voice, shifting between fiery croons and hushed spoken word, anchoring the song’s cryptic course.

Not to be overlooked is touring act Psalm Zero, featuring former NYC avant-rock guitarist and innovator Charlie Looker (Extra Life, Zs), Varod of Kayo Dot performing double duty on bass, and a drum machine. On their long-awaited third full-length, Sparta, Looker maintains the intense philosophical bent to his lyrics while transitioning from a more industrial rock aesthetic that defined his earlier songwriting to a cleaner, more organic alternative metal sound with his signature sticky hooks on teaser track, “Animal Outside.” Local support will be provided by the spacey, structured Krautrock improvisations of Telechrome. This show is presented by us here at Tone Madison, there is a no-fee presale, and there is a discount for Tone Madison Sustainers.

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