Additionally, his EP, already available electronically through iTunes, will soon find its own way to record store shelves following its own rigorous journey. The Alyosha EP, named for the quietly sublime yet mortally-invested brother of Karamazov fame, is aptly titled given the character’s struggle to maintain his softness amid the unfolding horrors of the world.
Tobie’s music holds to this same dichotomy: the horror and grace of humanity. But here I contend the two do not exist in binary relation to one another. Rather they exist co-dependently. It is the maintenance of our humanity in suffering that gives us our grace. The sound can be ominous while remaining inviting, optimistic while approaching despair. The song "Death!" on Alyosha opens with the noise of a violin viciously succumbing to a fast-moving bow. This noise, aggressive and elevating, does not yield to the playful plucking pattern added a few seconds later. Instead, the two layers interact. The result is not a tepid mixture like combining hot and cold water but an authentic expression of both simultaneously.
Alyosha was leaked by local listeners to early mixed reviews. I must admit myself to some initial hesitation when I first hit play on Alyosha. The live, one-take approach to recording is certainly an admirable venture, particularly when an established recording artist strips down the shiny, fancy studio style to a raw abilities performance. With Tobie, however, his loyal fan base has been built upon his unique live shows constructed using only his voice, violin, and a few looping pedals to create the dramatic symphonic quality his music manifests. I confess to being part of this fan base, and along with them I continually want more, newer, different things. We ask too much of those we elevate through admiration. Then we immediately begin to resent them when they give in to our demands.
One man who seems to understand this is strange relationship is Cary Miller of Surface to Air Studios. Responsible for the production of Alyosha and Tobie’s guide through the transition from hobbyist to professional, Cary recognizes the value of Tobie’s musicianship particularly in an era when PC-centered recording has made everyone feel capable of making an album. Tobie’s unique talent and deeply-felt delivery should be the highlight of his introductory recording. Too many young artists are pushed to alter their natural course of development by labels. It’s good to know Cary has learned something of pacing from his own experience in the industry.
A poetry professor once explained that the worst mistake his students made was rushing to publish their work. Overly-eager to find acceptance amid the larger artistic community, they try to overstep their own development and deny the needed transitional phases that move us between points in our lives.
Already Tobie’s life has reached a divergent place where both he and his music will contend with the winds of change. The recent loss of his mother, to whom Alyosha is dedicated, has added new dimension to his collections of songs that address intersections of loss, change, and hope. Even in grief we continue to learn and develop.
I can’t wait for Tobie’s first LP. Not only to hear what Tobie can do without the constraints of a live exhibition but to determine if Cary’s abilities as a producer match those as a mentor. If both continue along this wisely chosen, or conveniently selected, path we can expect more spectacular recordings to come. In the meantime, I’ll wait patiently and enjoy Alyosha, proud to be one of the privileged, early listeners who will later be able to say, “Oh, well, I liked him back in the Alyosha days.”