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TARTAR LAMB

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Tartar Lamb biography
Tartar Lamb is the duo-project of Toby Driver and Mia Matsumiya, both of whom are also leading members of Kayo Dot. The band was established specifically to perform Toby Driver's composition "60 Metonymies"--which is an electric guitar-violin duet; however, it is extremely possible the duo will delve into future albums and pieces as well. Tartar Lamb was augmented by the participation of Tim Byrnes, who played trumpet, and Andrew Greenwald (of The Friendly Bears) who played drums during the recording of their only studio album "60 Metonymies". The album is self-released, and able to be ordered off of Toby Driver's website.

- Ben Hagy (King Volta) -

See also:

- Kayo Dot
- Maudlin of the Well
- Toby Driver

Tartar Lamb official website

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Sixty MetonymiesSixty Metonymies
Ice Level Music/Public Eyesore 2007
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$44.95 (used)


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  • Kayo Dot + Tartar Lamb at The Stone, New York City on 27 Aug 2015

TARTAR LAMB discography


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TARTAR LAMB top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.24 | 20 ratings
Sixty Metonymies
2007
3.72 | 22 ratings
Polyimage Of Known Exits
2011

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TARTAR LAMB Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Polyimage Of Known Exits by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.72 | 22 ratings

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Polyimage Of Known Exits
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It's very, very hard for me to write about this kind of music. Anything that Toby Driver has a hand in tends to be very challenging listening, and describing it often forces me to come up with increasingly absurd metaphors to try and describe the sounds I'm hearing. Fortunately, this time the musicians involved beat me to it: the kickstarter for this project described the music as "the sound of a whale swallowing a comet, spouting a cloud of ice from its blowhole, and the shards raining down and slicing up your face."

Well, I have no idea what exactly what that means, but it's still a fairly apt description. This is dissonant, swirling, depressive music that makes you feel like you're floating alone through a particularly sorrowful section of space, music that summons up incredibly intense emotions of isolation and loss. And sure, it sounds like a whale swallowed an icy comet and is now pelting you with the shards. This is avant, difficult music that requires your full attention, but will prove incredibly satisfying if you're willing to give that.

"1st Movement" begins with some fairly dissonant winds and bass. The melancholic drones quickly establish a feeling of absolute bleakness, but it still never feels gratuitous or overly melodramatic. It's very subtle, really; with only some long notes from the winds and some minimal rhythm lines from the bass the track manages to establish its mood very quickly. At about a minute in the texturing changes a little bit as some glitchy sounding electronic effects are added. It's an interesting aesthetic that provides a very unsettling atmosphere. These drop out after a bit and the track plays around for a little while with more traditional wind parts, and this middle section of the track is quite beautiful. Midway through, however, the glitchy electronics return, and from there the track spirals through a variety of instrumentations and sounds, from longingly melancholic melodic sections to anarchic wailings. Never, though, does the first movement lose it's feeling of haunted sorrow, and it sets a very high bar for the rest of the album.

"2nd Movement" begins with a bit more craziness, with the electronics going full force over more of those dissonant long notes from the winds. This is the motif for the first couple minutes before the bass takes a bit of a more prominent position in the piece. It's about this time as well that the track takes on a much more dark-ambient feel, moving horns to the back and bringing deep synths and scratchy static sounds to the fore. After this the arrangement strips down for a brief bass solo before the static returns with a muddled, hard to understand spoken word section. After this the horns return to the front of the track to play an incredibly sorrowful section that calls to mind the image of a lone musician standing in the rain pouring his sorrows out through his instrument. The last substantial chunk of the movement features heavy interplay between all the instruments, building in intensity to a screeching climax while somehow retaining throughout the incredibly dark, dismal, lonely atmosphere even as howling and wailing fill the listener's ears. The last two minutes in particular feature an amazing wall of sound layered over a haunting wind line, creating a brilliant juxtaposition of sounds that's some of the most avant and yet at the same time listenable music that I've ever heard.

"3rd Movement" begins with some bass and electronics that have a bit more of a psychedelic feel than either of the first two movements, but it's still very dark. Some ethereal chanted vocals add to this effect, and provide a nice change of pace from the two largely vocal-less first tracks. Those same dissonant winds again make an appearance again, though they seem to be to be a bit more melodic and orchestral in this third movement. The bass guitar remains in a prominent position as well, and I have to say I've never heard someone play the bass like Toby Driver does. His parts aren't super technical or anything but they still have a way of being incredibly compelling, and it's nice to have the bass play such a prominent role. Towards the second half of this movement the feeling changes a little bit, with the tempo increasing and the electronics returning. The bass goes into a hypnotic, repeating line over which the winds and sound effects swirl and howl. The track concludes with another chaotic miasma of sound that fades away to nothing before the last track of the album begins.

"4th Movement" begins with some frenetic wind noises before dropping into a more languid bass and wind part. Dissonance is used to great effect here, with very atonal chords being placed into the music in a way that still makes them sound totally natural, and dare I say it, even very pretty. After about 4 minutes of this the bass launches into a more rhythmic line and violin takes the melody for the first time on the album. It's a great sonic texture, especially after three tracks of mostly bass and winds, and it's also some of the most melodic material on the album, hearkening back to the (comparatively) more accessible maudlin of the Well sound. There's not even very much dissonance in this middle section of the fourth movement, and while the winds and electronics still play a large part in the end of the track the fourth movement has a decidedly different feel than the movements which preceded it.

I admit, when I first heard this album I was a bit underwhelmed. While only passively listening to the album it seemed to all sound the same. As with all difficult music, however, I quickly discovered that this is not music which ought to be listened to as a background soundtrack. When you actually sit down and listen to this music without distraction, an incredible degree of variety reveals itself and Polyimage of Known Exits proves to be one of the most challenging, idiosyncratic recordings I've listened to in recent memory, even by the high standards of Toby Driver-related projects. It may not blow me away quite like Bath or Choirs of the Eye, but it's well worth a listen and personally I think it's even a step above the most recent Kayo Dot project "Gamma Knife." Great stuff.

4/5

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 Polyimage Of Known Exits by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.72 | 22 ratings

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Polyimage Of Known Exits
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by m2thek
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Whenever Toby Driver puts out a new album, you can expect something different. Polyimage of Known Exits is no different and even though it comes under the Tartar Lamb name, it is officially by Tartar Lamb II, a separate band. Ultimately, if you like your Toby Driver projects to be unique and bizarre, you'll probably find something to enjoy here.

Polyimage of Known Exits is a 40 minute piece of music made up of four movements ranging from 6 to 12 minutes each. Although there is an overarching sound to the album, every movement has its own quirks and they are different enough that you could pick one out from the rest. Though there are very brief occasional spoken word passages, the album may as well be classified as instrumental.

If you're at all familiar with Toby Driver's most recent work, Coyote, you can expect a similar level of dissonance here. While that album favored brass instruments, Polyimage sticks mostly to woodwinds but does also contain some brasses underneath. Until the final movement, the album is without percussion and is for the most part very free floating with a weak sense of rhythm. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the moment when the drums do emerge is strangely uplifting. Besides the brass and woodwinds, there are some crazy, static-y sounding keyboards which frequently play over the former, creating a lot of darkness and chaos. Weirdest of anything about the album, is that there's a very strange sense of the music being both improvised and extremely tightly composed at the same time.

It's hard to dissect the individual movements as there is not a huge sense of structure of melody, but they can at least be described on a surface level. The 2nd and 3rd movements are the darkest of the 4, having the most chaotic keyboard sounds. The 2nd also has some very low, almost terrifying brass tones. By comparison, the 1st movement is quite peaceful, and the 4th is a beautiful end with the inclusion of drums and a melodic violin passage. In comparison to Coyote which never resolved itself, the 4th movement here is wonderful to listen to, and leaves me feeling good about the 40 minutes that have just passed.

While this isn't the best album I've heard all year, it's certainly the most unique and with most pieces of music that involve Toby Driver, I find myself intrigued by them and consistently coming back. If you're at all a fan of the man, you should check out Polyimage of Known Exits, but even if you just like strange, different sounding pieces of music, you may enjoy it.

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 Polyimage Of Known Exits by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.72 | 22 ratings

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Polyimage Of Known Exits
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

3 stars I initially considered Tartar Lamb's second album to be the second incarnation of Kayo Dot's Coyote. Bass harmonics, tortured melodies, growlingly distorted deep tones, and a general malaise of despondence make Polyimage of Known Exits an apt choice for a gloomy day. However, this album exhibits a wider range of jazzier fare and no tormented vocals. Overall, it is not a brilliant album, but others say it is, and I cannot deny that it is interesting and unique- I revisit it from time to time.

"1st Movement" The first movement weaves many of the aforementioned techniques, and employs a wailing saxophone and moody synthesizers.

"2nd Movement" There is even more minimalism here. The aspects that are present- animalistic noises akin to birds- are sparse and different. A bass solo over a lonely atmosphere leads to static and dark whispers. The second half changes shape, with mutated wind and brass instruments whirring over a languid, dingy bass.

"3rd Movement" The jazziest section of the album, this brooding, lonesome piece is full of sad, tired emotion. It grows livelier toward the end, but also more cumbersome and awkward.

"4th Movement" The final movement is as unhurried as the rest, using long, sustained notes to create a dreary, sleepy impression. Slightly before the midway point, the piece perks up in its own gloomy way, largely due to Mia Matsumiya's sweet violin.

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 Sixty Metonymies by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.24 | 20 ratings

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Sixty Metonymies
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum 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.

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 Sixty Metonymies by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.24 | 20 ratings

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Sixty Metonymies
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Equality 7-2521

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.]

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 Sixty Metonymies by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.24 | 20 ratings

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Sixty Metonymies
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Shakespeare

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.

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 Sixty Metonymies by TARTAR LAMB album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.24 | 20 ratings

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Sixty Metonymies
Tartar Lamb RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Pnoom!

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).

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