This album is nothing more than a taste. Live cuts, chosen to sample the new material that Toby Driver, key composer and songwriter behind such acts as Kayo Dot, maudlin of the Well and many others, wrote. This new material, as he tells it, further explores the “balladry” of his last solo album: Madonnawhore
. And though this is the most immediate comparison to make in the wake of that album, I would argue one step further that the compositions presented as they are, here, hearken back to styles and feelings that trace the entirety of his body of work. Duel violins draw us in, deep and moody. The signature synths of Driver’s recent work come next, perfectly melding to help the music roll out like a slowly unravelling tapestry. For a live recording, the music is clear – like we don’t even need a studio recording for this material; it sounds perfect enough as it is, still unfurling. Driver’s vocals seem to take a backseat now, the central focus of these pieces being the playfulness of the violins in tandem with magnetic guitar work and pulsing drum beats. The heart of each track flows with short, sung passages that help elaborate some of the structure, put flesh on the bones of each song. But, time will only tell just how much deeper the material at hand will be explored - should it get the full studio treatment - the full dynamic vigour that such active and ever-changing compositions as these could fulfil.
There’s something to the subtle, grazing post-rock grandeur that sets a spell on the listener. The way in which Driver constructs each track leaves you hooked and dragged along into its clutches until it ends and, if that is one negative thing I could say about these songs, it’s that they all end rather abruptly in comparison to how slowly and carefully they initially build. At anywhere between six to ten minutes, these long runtimes still leave a little to be desired - tracks such as these need all the time and nurturing they can get, to fully realise the potential they hold.
After the four new tracks finish, the release is closed out with an unreleased track from the Madonnawhore
sessions, ‘Marked’. It’s easy to see why ‘Marked’ didn’t make it onto the final release, as it carries a more “upbeat” tone to it and some instrumentation that doesn’t quite gel with the tone of the album as a whole. While not a bad track, it leaves little impact, and its presence here seems like nothing more than a token for long-time fans. It’s hard to complain when such a prolific and consistent musician releases new material with only the promise of more to come, and it’s with that that any Driver fan should absorb and consume these tracks with eager anticipation for the future they promise.