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Tartar Lamb - Sixty Metonymies CD (album) cover

SIXTY METONYMIES

Tartar Lamb

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars Rating: B+

They've already made wave upon wave in Kayo Dot (and are sure to make more with the new release scheduled for March '08), but Toby Driver and Mia Matsumiya have also shown that they can do the same in a different setting, in this case the far more minimalist Tartar Lamb. Their debut CD, Sixty Metonymies, is vastly removed from the world of Kayo Dot. There's no metal, no jazz, no post-rock - in fact, there's no rock at all. Instead, the listener is treated to avant-garde (though not entirely inaccessible) classical music.

Whereas Kayo Dot's music is characterized by its climaxes and the buildups to them, there isn't anything comparable in the music of Tartar Lamb. The energy level stays relatively constant for the duration of Sixty Metonymies, and its always low. There isn't the slightest hint at a climax. Why then, is Sixty Metonymies so successful? Because it, quite simply, doesn't need any climaxes to make its point. The lack of climaxes does not imply a lack of tension, and it's indeed the tension that's omnipresent on Sixty Metonymies that makes it such a masterpiece. The tension of each moment draws you to the next, hoping for a resolution, but the resolution isn't delivered until the end of the CD. Sure, each track has it's own mini-resolutions, but there always remains enough tension to keep the listener hanging on.

Not only that, Sixty Metonymies is undeniably beautiful. It may be inaccessible due to the lack of any hooks whatsoever, but it also doesn't have any glaringly avant-garde moments that would scare off the listener. While it may seem boring at first, as repeated listens reveal the substance behind the beauty, it starts to make sense and proves to be a masterpiece. It may not be as exciting as Kayo Dot's music, but it's just as good. Those who don't like Kayo Dot would probably do well to stay away, but if you like what Kayo Dot does so well, Tartar Lamb is the next place to go (along with Toby Driver's excellent solo CD).

Report this review (#162401)
Posted Friday, February 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tartar Lamb is close relative of the ever popular modern avant-garde project Kayo Dot. Kayo Dot, at its core, is a twisted sea of aggressive metallic minimalism, clashing with serene classical music and meditative themes. Here, in Tartar Lamb, Kayo Dot has been stripped entirely of the the metallic edge, and implanted with more obtuse classical avant-garde music. Drums, bass, electronics: all banned. One obvious effect of the changes is the unsoiled organic texture. A second is the musical intimacy between the core personnel: Toby Driver, whose presence and contribution is most prolific, but not dominant, and Mia Matsumiya, whose impeccable violin shapes this album.

Guests Tim Byrnes Andrew Greenwald contribute trumpet and percussion respectively. Both instruments appear repeatedly and prominently, but not to the extend of the violin or guitar. The trumpet's touch is one of atmosphere and colour; appearing characteristically in layers, sometimes stabbing softly, sometimes washing in waves. Percussion, however, contributes flavour and texture, and appears more liberally, with a distinct free and improvised form. No instrument is under or overplayed, and never appear unless their timing is genuinely perfect.

What I find most appealing about this album is the precision in which it is written. The complexity of this release lies not in the intricacies of the composition, but rather in the sophistication of the vision. There is no sorely impressive musicianship, no flurry of needless notes. Every sound played is done so with the utmost precision and care, and the most is drawn from each single noise. Every note is milked to its maximum, every sound is equal. There's something magically perfect about the composition that draws me so.

At its core, Tartar Lamb is Kayo Dot lacking metal and aggression. It has the organic spirit of a forest left to grow of its own accord, rather than the geometric shape of a city. Its beauty is subtle and may take numerous listens to detect. Sixty Metonymies is a renewing, refreshing, wholly unique experience.

Report this review (#162885)
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tartar Lamb serves initially as an outlet for Toby Driver to release his guitar/violin duet (augmented with trumpet and percussion from a duo of Friendly Bears). Sixty Metonymies shares with his first solo album in it's leaning towards spacious avant-garde concert music. Dissimilarities arise when one examines the album further as this has a totally different goal, sound, and feel to it.

The composition develops focusing around two things: anticipation and tension. The slowly developing piece, replete with longly sustained notes courtesy of Mia's violin and Toby's swirling guitar, continually causes the listener to dwell on the expected development of the work which rarely bends towards your predictions. As a result palatable tension is created as the piece seems to bend and bend without ever breaking. I believe the success of this album comes from the players' abilities to create and sustain this tension. The initial three tracks accomplish this goal fully. However, in the fourth the desired (I assume) result never comes into fruition. Consequentially, the concluding track fails to maintain my interest, and this amounts to essentially the only flaw in the album.

In particular I love the effect Toby generates with his guitar. Notes appear out of thin air to strike the listener, then wobbly fade and fade, yet never totally seem to disappear from your ears. From this Sixty Metonymies has a nearly ever present backdrop. This album produces visions of many tiny ripples appearing in a calm body of water. The water never perturbs too violently, but it remains in a state of movement unnatural to itself. This visual serves as my best description of what you will hear here.

If not for the break in atmosphere towards the end, this may have been a perfect piece of music. As it stands though I still really enjoy returning to this album. As with his solo album, I think this will appear to fans of avant-garde concert music more than motW/KD fans.

[As a side note: Most music I listen to seems to occur either in the plane or in 3-d space within my head as I hear it. The entirity of this album occurs on the line inside my head though. Usually this would only happen with a single melody being played on an instrument. Not particularly important, but something very strange to me.]

Report this review (#257229)
Posted Monday, December 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
2 stars Clouds erupting from sound

Tartar Lamb is most likely Toby Driver's most ambitious project. Born from the idea for a guitar-violin duo, Driver got fellow Kayo Dot bandmate Mia Matsumiya to play with him on his next adventure in the realm of sound, Sixty Metonymies, a 40 minute minimalistic, avant-garde, experimental, contemporary atonal classical piece not for the faint of heart. Preying on the whims of dissonance, atonality, and all the unconventional playing techniques the man could think of, the album is certainly unique. However, the music that is found on the album is cold and desolate, an expression of mesmerism and frozen nights spent without heat and at the neck of a guitar and the tip of pen on staff paper. When recorded, the music erupts forth like a star swallowed unknowingly by a sparrow, who cringes by the bitter taste but looks for more because the thrill of knowing that nothing else exists in this plane of existence like it. With little to its name musically but the fact that it has little to its name musically, the song leaches your senses and scrapes your ears with the blunt side of a blade sharpened by determination and the will to emerge unique and uncopied. The 40 minutes are like a bleaching period- you enter dirtied and emerge scraped clean by some unnatural force; you are stripped of your musical innocence as your conception of music is violently ripped down, reconstructed, ripped down again and then transformed into some being not of this dimension; any other exposition into sonics sounds like a drab reincarnate of a former existence, and nothing can stop this feeling.

As an album, Sixty Metonymies is pathetic. In conventional terms it is nothing more than noise for minutes on end. But in superflection one can see the true nature of the massive beast, an obvious masterpiece in the modern realm of atonal classical, and in supernatural sonics. Overall, the album (in 'earthly' terms) is pretty boring, so my first instinct was to give this a 1 star rating, but with further exploration the true beauty of this album's ugliness sank in. However, I can't overlook the fact that this album truly has nothing to it; it is a bare-bone, random note following random note, noise driven album. It has, in traditional terms, no melody, harmony, structure, or any of that nonsense. It does, however, have vision, and this shows the obvious modern genius that Driver is. I really, however, feel like this album is not the greatest earthly musical expose out there, and is meant for just those living in another realm. 2+ stars.

Yes, I know, I basically praised this album the entire review, but I can't really break it down, it is too cold and uninviting for any real consideration as a musical work.

Report this review (#444051)
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2011 | Review Permalink

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