Artist: The Devin Townsend Project
Subgenres(s): Progressive Rock
Length: 107 minutes
Label(s): HevyDevy, Inside Out
01. A Monday
06. Heaven’s End
07. Ain’t Never Gonna Win
10. Lady Helen
12. Quiet Riot
13. Demon League
The Devin Townsend Project Ki Review
Ki (pronounced key) is the first of a planned 4 part series by Devin Townsend following a 2 year hiatus from recording music after he found himself uncomfortable with the fact that he had difficulty writing music without drugs. During the hiatus he wrote music that he found fitting into 4 different styles and wanted to create an album for each of them.
To help him realise this ambitious goal he enlisted a different group of musicians for each album. For Ki he chose long-time collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Dave Young, who provides much of the ambiance as well as drummer Duris Maxwell (Heart, Jefferson Airplane and Skylark) and bassist Jean Savoie who is a member of a Beatles tribute band called The Bobcats as he thought that they would bring a fresh perspective to Ki’s quieter aspects. Devin Townsend himself takes on lead vocal and guitar duties as well as some bass playing and ambiance.
There are 2 distinct sides to Ki. The first is the moody and introspective music that would be the perfect soundtrack to a quiet winters evening. This is introduced immediately with the minimalist A Monday, which focuses on simple and undistorted guitar playing with some keyboard work to fill in the spaces around it. Other songs like Terminal, Winter and Lady Helen are particularly close to this blueprint in terms of the mood and stripped back musicianship while Coast is slightly more up-tempo, especially towards the end when the music intensifies with layers of voices. Ain’t Never Gonna Win is a loose jam song that never loses the feeling of the other songs mentioned but sounds distinct from everything else in its own right.
Unfortunately there is also the other side to Ki which is made up of irate songs like Gato, Heaven Send, the title track and the aptly named Disruptr (yes that’s how it’s spelt). They all contain the softer side as well but Devin Townsend’s latent aggression starts to seep through in a controlled way. The loud chugging guitars come in, Devin Townsend shouts and snarls in his distinct way as the songs intensify like at the end of Coast before dissipating into soft ambience once again.
There are 2 problems with this. The first is that the anger seems to be allowed out in controlled bursts which prevent it from really taking hold of the music and going somewhere of significance. The second is that the different styles are divisive because the moods that they create rub shoulders in an awkward fashion instead of complementing each other. It would have been a much wiser idea to split Ki into 2 separate albums for the sake of consistency if nothing else.
There are other anomalies such as Quiet Riot, an optimistic sounding folk song that turned out to be a real highlight of the album and I can’t help but wish there was more of this on Ki. Then there’s Trainfire, a tongue-in-cheek rock and roll song with more of the wrath-filled heavy metal segues that eventually gives way to the introverted night time music. This is one of those songs that you’ll either accept as a particularly odd progressive rock song that blends 3 styles of music together or you’ll sit back and think that it’s a train wreck of conflicting ideas. Demon League is another low key song that closes the album while bringing Ki around full circle by revisiting the themes found at the start of the album on A Monday.
Ki gives the impression that Devin Townsend was fighting with himself over what kind of music he wanted to create and ends up with an odd combination of styles that would have been better suited to 2 separate albums. It’s a bumpy ride because of this but if you are either a fan of Devin Townsend or want to hear something different without having to jump into the deep end it would be an ideal place to start.
Devin Townsend: Vocals, Guitars, Fretless Bass Guitar, Ambience
Duris Maxwell: Drums
Jean Savoie: Bass guitar
Dave Young: Keyboard, Piano, Ambience
Ché Aimee Dorval: – additional vocals
Ryan Dahle: – additional vocals on Gato
Bjorn Strid, Peter, Christopher, Grant, Corey, Jeremy, Ryan: additional vocals