Review Summary: Not only did Toby Driver create a triumphant follow up to "Sixty Metonymies," but also a love letter to his fans everywhere...
This week my area was hit with a massive snowstorm, with blizzard like conditions and freezing rain crippling travel, and knocking out electricity all across the city. The next morning, wind strewn branches littered the ground, and trees, with their mangled limbs coated in lucid, crystalline ice, stretched out in every direction. Yet despite the chaos and uncertainty that was the terrifying event, the aftermath made such a tortuously beautiful scene. Like the storm, Tartar Lamb’s second album, Tartar Lamb II: Polyimage of Known Exits
captures the tempestuous, disorganized elegance, even though at its core lies a deep seeded, formless darkness.
The feelings and moods mentioned above are not unlike those found on the project’s previous release, Sixty Metonymies
. Because of its capricious, unrestrained, and uncondensed nature, the album seemingly dissolved out of thin air, or rather, straight from the mind of Toby Driver. Driver, of Kayo Dot and maudlin of the Well fame, created Tartar Lamb as a method of releasing his long form violin/guitar duet, “Sixty Metonymies.” Although the project fulfilled its purpose, Driver expressed his hopes to release more material under the moniker, Tartar Lamb.
With the help of some incredibly generous fans, Driver has created the follow up he‘s been hinting at for some time now, and one worthy of standing tall next to much of his previous works. Polyimage of Known Exits
follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, but mixes up the formula a bit, carving out its own niche. The most obvious alteration is its buffeting of the minimalism, and adoption of a more fleshed out sound. Now, that isn’t to say this album is chock full of bombast and flair, but Driver has beefed up the number of instruments, influences, and styles, making this album feel much more full
. It’s a pretty interesting sound to say the least, especially when things start to get more morose and dark. In that respect, it’s somewhat in the vein of Kayo Dot’s more recent releases, Blue Lambency Downward
. Also like those works, it scoffs off traditional song structure, and features more rhythm and brass, as opposed to strings and piano.
Yet despite the changes that have been made, Polyimage…
is lacking something vital, something that gave its predecessor so much character and poise: Mia Matsumyia. Mia, the violinist, and other half to Toby Driver’s violin/guitar duet is strangely absent here, being tagged as a mere “Guest Musician.” She makes an appearance in the fourth track, but other than that, she’s been completely removed from the picture. Her emotive, expressive delivery has been a staple of Driver’s work for the past few releases, and when you take into account how much she added to Sixty Metonymies
, the void left becomes much more apparent.
Regardless of whomever is absent, the album still works, and damn well at that. The same format has been retained, with Polyimage…
being split into four tracks, with each being a “movement” of a larger whole. However, Polyimage…
feels more complete; like an actual fully realized song separated by four distinct yet completely related pieces. The ebb and flow of each track is seamless, and from a songwriting stand point, everything is wonderfully solid and cohesive.
The album starts off with “1st Movement.” The track is the most sinister and ominous of the four, with strange, creature-like sounds clicking and clawing at the very outset. A solemn woodwind segment leads into some very distorted and murky singing, courtesy of Driver. The brass enters in, and the mixture becomes a phantasmagorical clamoring of synths and convoluted instrumentals. The same feeling featured here--the twisted, uneasy feeling--lessens as the album progresses. “2nd Movement” sounds much akin to the first movement, opening with distorted vocals and swelling, pulsating brass and electronics. The volume lessens, but the tension still constricts, as the track silently drifts away, only to welcome a tormented saxophone into the fold. This segment is strange, as Daniel Means and Terran Olson manage to contort their instruments into doing things not though possible. It gives the track--and the album as a whole--a very intriguing, but very bizarre sound. After the track dissolves into blended concoction of noises, it quietly drifts into “3rd Movement.” This track is where things begin to shift in atmosphere. It opens with undistorted singing, and subdued instrumentation. The synths and electronics are brought down considerably, and Driver enters in with a somewhat “groovy” guitar. It’s much more different than the two preceding tracks, and paves the way nicely for the final movement.
“4th Movement,” to put it simply, is in a class all its own in respect to the rest of Polyimage…
. Retaining everything that was prevalent throughout the album, “4th Movement” adds more melody, rhythm, and overall beauty
to the mix, making it an absolute standout. Mia makes her triumphant return, and does an absolutely commendable job, with her sensual, yet tragic sounding violin passage. The same melody featured by her is then picked up by the saxophone and synths, making for a very creative use of two very dissimilar instruments. Mia then takes over again, leading the album to its triumphant finish.
Polyimage of Known Exits
is a fairly difficult album to get into; it’s dark and unwelcoming, and unlike a lot of what Driver has done before. There really aren’t any “themes” or “concepts” that underlie the piece either, as all of that is kind of obfuscated for the sake of, what I assume, is self-interpretation. Regardless, the album still manages to be a musical experience, and one which takes what was so great about its predecessor, and adds even more. It’s weird and unconventional, but those who have enjoyed a Toby Driver project before, will truly find something to revel in here.