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Music Review: Kayo Dot – Coyote

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I often hear the sound of coyotes. Living in a rural neighbourhood, the little guys are often wandering around from yard to yard looking for something interesting. At night, they bawl and blubber to one another almost dolefully. A sense of desolation, of bareness, lingers in the sky when the coyotes have completed their chorus.

Kayo Dot’s aptly titled Coyote indeed captures the hollow woe of the animals in my neighbourhood. More than that, this record perhaps captures mourning itself as an expression of sadness, loneliness and misery.

Created initially as a long-form composition by Toby Driver and NYC-based writer/filmmaker Yuko Sueta, Coyote’s evolution is stunning in its emotional strength. The intention was to create a film to go along with performances of the music, but Sueta eventually became incapacitated with the breast cancer she had been fighting. Driver adapted the music for his Kayo Dot and, while the record was in post-production, Sueta passed away.

It isn’t often that an album sums up grief, fear and despair so well. Some might criticize Coyote for a lack of activity or of movement, but this record is a process and a journey more than it is a set of songs with motion.

Divided into five pieces, it’s difficult to consider Coyote as anything other than a complete work. The songs exhale into one another attentively and it is as though we are following a dim voyage of conflict, contemplation, anguish, denial, and even betrayal.

Coyote opens with barren, distant violin from Mia Matsumiya. Driver emerges with perhaps one of the most frantic, haunting vocal portions I’ve heard in a while. “Help me, I’m disappearing,” he sings pathetically.

When one considers that Coyote is essentially a journey of disappearance, the emotional weight becomes hard to take. Whether through avant-garde jazz or startling moments of funk and adamant echo, this is an album of insightful misery.

In many respects, Coyote reminds me of Bergman’s Cries and Whispers. Bergman’s use of the colour red in the film is a lot like Driver’s use of sparse horns and violin. It is an all-encompassing value, this grief, and the band is able to utilize it for strength without capitulating to its weakness. The results are overwhelming at times, but never uninteresting.

The panic and doubt contained on Coyote is remarkable. Kayo Dot’s natural fusion of styles, this time called goth-fusion, expressively works through the emotions of loss and expectation. Much like the coyotes in the distance, there is incongruity and despondency. And peace, oddly enough.

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