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Kayo Dot

This Boston octet's 2003 debut album, Choirs of the Eye, was merely a serviceable schizoid goulash of Naked City, Swans and metallic noise, so I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed by the group's second effort. However, this album--five songs averaging about 12 minutes each--features far subtler dynamics than its predecessor, and it's much richer for it.

Touches of everything from Tin Hat Trio and Hugo Largo to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, or maybe even Pink Floyd--not to ignore elements that might not be out of place on a Nine Inch Nails or Tom Waits album--will convince listeners that the ensemble has grown beyond the self-imposed boundaries of its earlier art-metal incarnation as Maudlin of the Well.

"Gemini Becoming the Tripod" ranges from loud and hard like a steel sledgehammer on a gong, to scary-quiet like a vaguely threatening nightmare. The vocals drift from moans to screeches, but are always intense and represent extreme emotions.

"Immortelle and Paper Caravelle" is an unsettlingly acoustic folk meditation with decipherable though still abstract vocals accompanied by a jazzy/medieval trumpet. A delicately plucked electric guitar and bowed bass help build rising tension. The climax of this remarkable album is the Zen-like dissonance of the meticulously composed avant-psychedelic chamber jazz piece "Aura on an Asylum Wall."

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