I can think of only three reasons why any rock band should be allowed to stretch a song past ten minutes:
1) Mood: Feelings like transcendence and dread take a while to sink in. Just ask Godspeed You Black Emperor.
2) Lots of cool stuff: Despite their sixteen-plus-minute runtimes, Joanna Newsom’s “Only Skin” and Frank Zappa’s “The Adventures of Gregory Peccary” never wear out their welcome. There’s too much awesome stuff happening.
3) Ridiculously good guitar solo: Would you interrupt Jimi Hendrix in the middle of “Voodoo Chile”?
Boston-based Kayo Dot has been writing epic-length songs for five years now (really ten, if you count the time the band was known as Maudlin of the Well), and its contribution to this twelve-inch split gives ample proof that the band has mastered numbers one and two. Like just about everything else Kayo Dot has committed to tape, “Don’t Touch Dead Animals” lurches and sways across a wide-open expanse of structured, unsettling ambient metal. Monstrously dense, three-guitar-thick chords thunder down and never resolve, opening gash after festering gash of dissonant, terrifying sound; violins, trumpet and clarinet offer not-quite-soothing balms during the quietly disturbing segments, then just dig in deeper during the more chaotic parts. All the while, harmonies and time signatures shift imperceptibly, like planets slowly spinning off their axes, giving the track an almost weightless feel despite the crushing heaviness.
There’s not much here that we haven’t heard from Kayo Dot before: a tension-building section in the middle that sounds like massing locusts, an increased reliance on female vocals. But what’s the point of such niggling complaints when you’re experiencing the end of the universe? The only thing missing from “Don’t Touch Dead Animals” is a ridiculously good guitar solo.
In contrast, Bloody Panda’s two tracks boast far less than the requisite amount of mood, cool stuff and guitar solos to warrant their track lengths. The New York doom-metal quintet sounds like a pre-evolutionary version of Kayo Dot, with a similar ear for mood and bombast but none of the textured density and compositional chops that make Bloody Panda’s neighbors from across the wax so impressive. “Fever” is essentially seven minutes of Yoshiko Hara’s nebulous moaning over two-chord progressions, with a lame fuzz-guitar riff and some tribal drumming serving as both intro and outro. “Circle and Tail” is more of the same, only substitute “screaming” for “moaning.” Bloody Panda’s sound is thin and its ideas are thinner. If you’re done with Side A of this twelve-inch and you still have a quarter-hour to kill, might I suggest Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile”?