Photo credit: Casey Mathewson
You know what I love the most about this post? You guys have literally no idea what you’re about to listen to because this is Toby Driver. At this point in the man’s career, there’s really no way to predict what comes next. Not only with Kayo Dot, but with his own recent release (the marvellous Madonnawhore, which you can catch up on here) and his participation in a myriad either projects, Driver has made artistic freedom and depth of exploration his trademark. With his upcoming album, They Are the Shield, it seems that Driver is keen on exploring the directions first laid out in Madonnawhore in a different light. The result can be clearly heard on “Glyph”, which we are proud to premiere today; it has that album’s distinctive troubadour mark but accompanied by composition that’s way weirder and more unsettling. Head on down and I’ll see you there.
The place to open discussions regarding this track is clearly first and foremost in the realm of theme and mood. In those areas, the continuation of Madonnawhore seems natural. Driver’s voice is once again beguiling and heavy with emotion, describing for us an emotional landscape that runs the gamut between depression, curiosity, personal strength and impassioned expression. But the instruments which accompany this iteration of the theme are different; from the first moments of the track, the presence of strings, arrayed in classical patterns at first, is much clearer.
These are owed to the incredible talent of one Conrad Harris and renowned artist Pauline Kim Harris, two of the immensely talented artists with which Driver collaborated on this record. These strings never quite go silent, always weaving in the back of the composition, supplying touches and scaffolds for Driver’s voice. Later on, they get another moment in the sun, where their structures are elaborated upon and fed back into the main motifs of the track.
Also prominent, as is only natural, is the reliance on a ponder-some bass and drum section (the latter provided by Brian Chase). They give this track not only a ground to lean on but also a sort of aural extension, the track reaching further into places only hinted at by Driver’s singing via their thrums and beats. And suddenly, we find ourselves with a few hundred words about just one track. Having heard the album, I can safely say that the entire thing is this intricate and intriguing. They Are the Shield, like “Glyph” which we have just heard, takes Driver’s recent direction and builds on it, carefully sculpting more delicate and arresting articulations around it in the form of strings, deep synths and the such, all fed from the powerful band he has gathered around him for this release. It’s a ride and a half and one which I can’t wait for you to hear. The album releases on September 21st via Blood Music. You can pre-order it here in the US and here in Europe. For now, meditate upon “Glyph”. There’s much to think on.