Release date: May 14, 2009 | Independent | Bandcamp | Toby Driver Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

‘Enigmatic’ doesn’t even begin to cut it when talking about Toby Driver and his longstanding career of presenting audiences with the most brain-twisting, progressive, and artful rock/metal imaginable. Kayo Dot is somewhat of a household name these days, but it was with his previous project maudlin of the Well that he left his first synapse-contorting impact on the music scene. That band’s final album Part the Second remains a particular climax in his far-ranging œuvre; seeing as it turned 15 years old 3 days ago, what better time than the present to give it the ol’ dust-off and have a fresh look at it?

Robert Miklos

Looking back, somehow, it feels forever ago when I first came into contact with Part the Second. However, it was only about fourteen years ago. That still feels like a very long time, though, to me. Anyway, as I gather my thoughts and laser in on that time, it’s shrouded in nostalgia and wonder. At the moment, I was mostly all about metal and classical music and barely anything else (if at all) in between. My main vehicle of discovering new music was exhaustively browsing Metal Archives by genre tags alphabetically. Too much free time will have you doing some wild shit.

One day I figure I should sort in a way that shows me bands with the most genre tags. Surely the more tags, the more diverse the music, and the higher the quality, no? Flawless logic. But, I mean, look, it only has to work once in situations like this, right? And it did! Big time, even. That’s when I first saw the band name – maudlin of the Well. Little did I know right then that this band would become an absolute obsession which would extend to unbelievable lengths.

Looking through their catalogue, I was checking track lists for their records and I just got hung over the one for Part the Second. I was sold on the idea that this album has to be a masterpiece or utterly pretentious trash and nothing in between. Gearing up to find it somewhere so I can listen to it, I had a gut feeling that it has to be good. As the slowly blooming orchestral flourish which is the intro to “Excerpt from 6,000,000,000,000 Miles Before the First, or, the Revisitation of the Blue Ghost” (to which I will refer to only via the first two words in the title moving on) unfolded before me – I was in awe. I didn’t notice that the song is eleven minutes long. At the time such track lengths were still a tad unusual to me, and something rather exceptional.

At this point I was firmly glued to the listening experience. As time passed, with each revisitation I still feel an infinitesimal fragment of that wonder from the first encounter. It’s something I rarely experience with any record. It may have made that much of an impression on me. I’ve never heard anything even remotely near this level of experimentation up to that point. It also passed the vibe check big time. I found the emotional substrate of the record to be equally relatable as it is weird. That part at least still holds up to this day.

I still think that Part the Second is one of the greatest albums ever made. I will attribute some of that praise to its architecture, composition, and production, as well as overarching storytelling capabilities. Its intricacies are incredible at a musical level and I’m still uncovering them so many years later. However, most of that praise I attribute to how electrifying it can still be for my imagination. Every little piece, from the artwork and the song titles to large song chunks, is something to be cut into millions of pieces and interpreted in just as many ways, nevermind the places where all these can take you.

I never once called into question the album title. I just sort of took it for granted and never even asked myself what’s up with it. Until it hit me one day and I started to ponder it while listening to the album. I ended up imagining some kind of massive rift in space, where I, the titular character of the album’s story, riding waves of cosmic light, was splitting the very notion of the second, as a sort of metaphysical counterpart of Moses parting the Red Sea, but with the fabric of time instead, on a mind boggling scale. As if the possibility of dividing the matter of time would somehow reveal some profound, indomitable, and supreme truth about existence.

Similarly, I pictured “Excerpt from” as a far-away tale of a mere moment, from a universe long gone, still shimmering with some kind of sidereal charm evoking a sense of longing for a place I’ve never been to. It would all conjure ineffable images and scenes, unfolding on a galactic level, bound to the eye of my mind via this immutable sonic thread. In that same breath, I can say something of the sort about every other song on the record. It’s an incredible journey.

I do not have the means (in any and all senses) to expand as I’d like about this record, nor any other Toby Driver record, although I can confidently say that, even if you might argue that this isn’t one of the greatest records ever and whatever exaggerated praise I may throw in its way is unwarranted, it’s worth listening to at least once and surrendering to the outstanding worldbuilding in it. This is maybe less an album, as we know albums, and more of an anthology of stories which have been plucked from extradimensional trips and adapted to our comprehension.

Alright, I think you get it, and if you don’t, that’s also fine. Just hit play and go down the endless river of stars into the wild and deep unknown. I just restarted the record for another spin, so I’m going with it. See you on the other side.

Jean Pierre Pallais

Maudlin of the Well is one of those bands that is an enigma, in the truest sense of the word. The only argument that would make any sense against this statement would be to refer to the fact that Kayo Dot exists as they’re equally as enigmatic. The funny thing about that is Kayo Dot is the ‘same’ band as Maudlin, simply put, so it doesn’t really count. Anyways, my introduction to Maudlin, and the rest of the expansive Toby Driver-verse not long after, came in the form of Part the Second, the fourth and ‘final’ album released under the Maudlin moniker.

Definitely not unique to this album, but everything that came out of the Maudlin/Kayo Dot camp was in a league entirely of its own. The album that brings us here today was and still is an absolute fever dream, similarly to the double album that preceded it and the many that came after under Kayo Dot or different projects. Looking back and reflecting on the current state of the music industry, one of the wilder thing about this record is that the band released it entirely for free following crowdfunding, and it is still available for free download in various formats from their website despite being released way back in 2009. It is extremely rare for artists to do that, especially one as niche as this band. I’d wager many people wouldn’t have given this band a chance if it wasn’t for that.

During the time in which I stumbled upon Maudlin of the Well through some buried reddit comment suggestion long ago, I was deep in the prog rabbit hole. In actuality, I was only scratching the surface. Bands like Dream Theater, Animals as Leaders, and Haken occupied my earholes as I naively thought the pinnacle of musicianship was being able to play your instrument as fast and as complex as possible (yes, I know I am generalizing their music – those bands have great songs/albums here and there). I finally got around to Maudlin’s ”An Excerpt…” and at that moment I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong in my entire life; this is what it truly meant to be prog. I was like Shaq on Hot Ones  eating that spicy chicken wing when that overwhelming wall of intense musical flavor hit me. The flavor was what I’ve been looking for all along and I didn’t even know it at the time.

My first listen through Part the Second left me perplexed as hell, but it was the best type of confusion in which I wanted answers. I needed to understand. I was up for a real musical challenge and at the time, I was messing around with bands that pushed musical boundaries purely from a technical standpoint and not a musical/compositional one. Enter Maudlin the Well and I had finally found what I was unknowingly looking for. All these years later and I still have as much understanding as I had when I first listened to them. Absolutely nothing makes sense, yet I am still as drawn to it, if not more, as I was upon first listen. The level of ambition is as high as possibly can be, yet somehow this overambition doesn’t take away from the music but rather adds to it. Their way with music is something that isn’t meant for human comprehension, and that mystery is what is so alluring.

This record in particular is so bubbly and charming, yet eerily sinister. I can’t tell whether to get comfortable and let my guard down or be tense and constantly on edge. The music made zero sense (still doesn’t at times), but it was just so immensely satisfying with every twist and turn it took me on. The weeping violin was the sole guiding light in these turbulent, unpredictable compositions in how it gives the listener something to hold on to. It was never about the destination with this band, purely about the journey and what a journey it takes you on indeed.

I’m spinning my copy of this album on vinyl (this pressing looks like a fishbowl) while putting this piece together and it had just occurred to me to try spinning this record, which was pressed for 45rpm, at 33rpm… doing so opened a whole new can of worms as this cautiously optimistic record turned into the bleakest thing imaginable. Another dense layer of rich atmosphere that I couldn’t appreciate originally is drowning me in the best of ways. Now here I am listening to this record on repeat in that way, feeling as if I am discovering it for the very first time all over again.

Of course bringing the play speed and pitch down would cause any piece of music to sound incredibly different from the original, but there are certain artists/records in which their music takes on an entirely different form when listened to as such; Maudlin of the Well is one such artist. I have unlocked the unofficial Part the Third. Not only that, but I now have the immense pleasure of going through all of Maudlin’s records and anything related to Toby Driver simulated at this slower speed/pitch. Had the preparation of this feature not occurred, I wouldn’t have come to this discovery and fallen even deeper in love with their music (thanks for this Dom 😉). This is something I suggest playing around with when it comes to your favorite music in general, not just once in a lifetime type of bands like Maudlin of the Well.

Dominik Böhmer

Dominik Böhmer

Pretentious? Moi?

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