The first two songs are very mellow, and the album doesn't get its first glimmers of heavy until halfway through the third song. It was a bit off putting at first, but after going through some of the heavier segments I found myself wishing that Townsend had instead pursued the mellow parts to their fullest.
Songs like "A Monday" and the first half of "Coast" have a pleasant lullaby like quality to them, which makes for easy listening. The album has a number of songs like this and the vocals on each are typified by the sort of breathy atmospheric sound that Townsend has used elsewhere. The heavy moments interrupt these passages and that is largely the problem with this album. Songs generally build towards rocking, metal moments, but they are not full-blown, not interesting and frankly disrupt better music.
"Terminal" suggests a greater push towards a record that is pure background atmosphere, something you might hear on one of those new-age compilations or a device that lulls you to sleep. It's agreeable and while it is possible this could have become bland, Townsend doesn't push it far enough to find out.
Right after "Terminal" he opens the next song "Heaven Send" witha light kicking drum beat, which tears down any atmosphere "Terminal" had established. "Trainfire" reminds me of the sudden break into polka that disrupted the listening pleasure of many a Synchestra virgin. However instead of polka he experiments here with that other cultural disaster: country.
The title track "Ki" is a good example of the wasted potential on the album. It opens with a spacey chord progression with just the right vocal mix on top and feels like it is building towards something impressive, but it doesn't. The song gets terribly simplistic from there until the last two minutes that start to build again. This is a 7.5 minute song, so it takes a while to go nowhere.
The album closes with "Demon League," a return to slow plucky guitar strings over a droning synth background noise. Townsend whispers something over all of this and it is over quickly. My media player was set to repeat and this last track circled around quite nicely to the intro, reinforcing the superior parts of the album: when the pretense towards metal is stripped away and the music drifts towards lullaby.
Townsend is unfocused here and each different style suffers for it. The same could be said for several of his albums. This doesn't get me excited for the forth coming sequels, but I suppose he could be working on something here which required a relatively mundane base. Time will tell.
Verdict: Fail [4/10]