Thing of the Day

TARTAR LAMB, the quieter side of New York's Kayo Dot, release a new album...

January 22nd 2011

Tartar Lamb Polyimage of Known ExitsTARTAR LAMB - Polyimage of Known Exits

Dark, gorgeous abstract spaciousness... no drums, but slow ebbs and flows of sound. Tartar Lamb are the quieter, more strange and sinister subconcious of Kayo Dot. Currently based in New York, Kayo Dot are a band with a unique vision, a genuinely progressive, orchestral rock band that carves its own furrow and frequently dazzles.  Kayo Dot blur the boundaries between genres of metal, avant jazz and contemporary classical, but rather than going the way of heads-down technical acrobatics they're about emotion, drama, moods of romantic surrealism.

Like Kayo Dot (who mutated out of a previous, equally extraordinary band, Maudlin of the Well), Tartar Lamb is helmed by composer/ multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver, and the line-ups share members - Mia Matsumiya's heartwrenching violin, the synths, wind and other instrumention of Terran Olson and Daniel Means, amongst others.  

This is where Toby Driver gives the softest, subtlest side of his vision the space to breathe, away from full drums and rigid structure.  There is a pattern, a framework of compostion here - it's not quite improvisation, though you can feel the instruments flex with each other.  If I mention other abstract, impressionistic bands - Rothko? - and you're not really going to be getting Tartar Lamb - not the richness of colour, the scale and depth, the sweet or disturbing melodies that drift and flow and interweave with complexity and intention. This has feel and meaning, an almost palpable feel of organic textures.   Just not, not background music - music for a darkened room...

So why dance about architecture when this very day the new Tartar Lamb compostion Polyimage of Known Exits has just been released?  Uploaded to Soundcloud around 4 hours ago, at time of writing.  Four melancholic, spellbinding movements, haunting opiate dreams and delicious nightmares. 

Download, stream or buy Polyimage of Known Exits

Kayo Dot / Tartar Lamb European tour
The January/February European tour is a package  featuring Kayo Dot, Tartar Lamb, and Jeremiah Cymerman

Kayo Dot - Toby DriverHere's the UK dates, the full European tour listing is at

13-Feb:- Brighton @ Hector's House
14-Feb:- Bristol - TBC
15-Feb:- London @ Vortex
16-Feb:- Birmingham @ Hare and Hounds
17-Feb:- Manchester @ Islington Mill
18-Feb:- Leeds @ The Well

Kayo Dot released a magnificent EP a couple of months-ago, entitled Stained Glass, available from Hydra Head - more info from, and loads of music to stream and download on the 'audio' page...  

in fact, here's three extracts from their debut 'Choirs of the Eye':

The Manifold Curiosity

...and  the Organ review of the most recent Kayo Dot album (from ORGAN #267> JULY 24th '08):

Kayo Dot Blue Lambency Downward

KAYO DOT - Blue Lambency Downward (Hydrahead) - This is not fast food. This is a banquet of rare ingredients and exquisite constructions, to be digested over days, not minutes.  It's sweet and beautiful and not for the faint-hearted, dripping with opiate languor in one place, curling into unsettling, chilling landscapes (landscapes out of the films of Jan Svankmeyer and Brothers Quay) in another, building slowly slowly to a peak.  
   Kayo Dot - for all intents the work of composer/multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver - are masters of the slow boil, the long journey.  Listen to the samples of their 2003 album Choirs Of The Eye on and you'll hear ranging avant-thrashouts that melt down to whispered poetry, and woozy, heat-hazed songs that gradually work up to thunderous metal denouements like an escalating arms race no-one can remember starting.  Kayo Dot are, in common with any truly great creativity, almost impossible to describe.
           A good deal of Blue Lambency Downward can be compared to the more abstract passages of A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers, the legendary twenty-minute masterwork of Van Der Graaf Generator.  Kayo Dot are that avant, psychedelic sensibility concentrated and amplified; lusher, more sensual. Their contemporaries are Time Of Orchids, equal in mastery of the romantic and hypercomplex. The lyrics are magnificently obtuse, a fever dream of Dada and Coleridge, both absurd and deliciously tactile, and it all comes together on the opening, title track's swooning, stuttering, richly strange climax.  Driver's elegant voice is endlessly listenable, part torch singer, recognisably from a rock background and wrapping effortlessly around some edgy melodics, hinting at middle-eastern quarter-tone singing.  Violin (from, sax, clarinets, malletophone, organ and synthesizers take equal parts to the band setup (and the synth throbs and drones are treated as part of the arrangements in a way few if any have succeeded with).  Indeed, despite echoing the more psychedelic, stranger moments of Led Zeppelin this is barely a rock band, more a contemporary classical work that can stand up to the high standards of that world, crossing over into classic and avant jazz. Having said that... The Awkward Wind Wheel is the heaviest, most straight-up piece on this album, showing The Mars Volta how it should be done (apparently Kayo Dot are worshipped by contingents of Mars Volta campfollowers) and maybe referencing Voivod a little.  Elsewhere, Right Hand Is The One I Want and the opening build of Symmetrical Arizona meander into limpid backwaters, easy to get lost in if you're in a hurrying mood.  That's the essence of listening to Kayo Dot, and Driver's previous band Maudlin Of The Well: take the whole journey with them, wherever it goes go with it - the getting there makes the peaks and depths that much sweeter -

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