The Immutable Tor House

by Tor House

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about

It’s not uncommon for musicians to step away from time and place, to write and record in isolation. Many sulk in solitude, but most will also woodshed. It’s simple. It’s human nature. It’s a practice that needs no back story.

Daryl Jason Lazaro and company spent eight months of this process on their latest work, The Immutable Tor House. An album that, really, isn’t so immutable after all. It’s pliable, vulnerable, still waiting for its resolution. Like the characters you meet, their stories are subjective; you only find out as much as each one knows about the others and nothing more. And yet, their meanings become universal.

You’ll never love someone as much as you did when you were 16, 18, 21, and it’s always difficult to articulate grievances at those ages. The 24-year-old Lazaro does it in a significant way. On “Shoot the Half” he sings about a classic scenario: saving a friendship plagued by the “does she or doesn’t she?” chase-around — but he presents it to you as if they're verses from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey.” Past the mountains and the vultures, he’s crestfallen, but as the ending ventilates into a triumphant “ah!” he senses hope, as if to say he’s figured out how to put it all behind him.

To hear a track like “Fields of Anatoli” for the first time, with the way Lazaro delivers words with conviction, you’re pushed into a cloying dive. Even when his voice is fragmented like it is here, it rides your desire to be nowhere else but with your lover, leaving you amazed at how a person could ever yearn to be without. It’s cold, sexy, and somehow uncompromising.

But not all these cuts are love songs in the traditional sense; Tor House also treads brotherly and familial territory. On “Mates” we hear Lazaro croon about an untethered friendship that evolves into an unbreakable bond (specifically, the 12-year bromance between him and bandmate Alvin De Los Santos). His most important relationships are always caught somewhere between brave and foolish, along a continuum shaped less like a line and more like a circle, so you can slide around and around knowing that things always return full of respect and full of loyalty.

Getting there is another story: throughout this rural route, Lazaro owns up to his faults. On “Tule Fog” he walks away from his loved one to avoid further torment. Both have fallen, and their disdain builds in the song’s human pulse and nature’s sound effects. But album closer “Back to Shore” is an invitation to reunite with that same partner, while bearing in mind that second chances don’t often come easy. Luckily, scraps can always be pieced back together, if the effort is mutual.

Any creature with a heart can relate to the indie folk ballads of The Immutable Tor House. Very few musicians provoke such reflection, but it happens on this album, over and over again. Its concepts are enough, but most listeners will measure the greatness of the songs in the weight of their own memories, how much they hear themselves in the singer. It’s an involuntary gesture, born out of an artist’s resonating lyricism and intonation. A good beat rattles the nerves because it is so familiar — and in that, you find something comforting. For most, that’s the difference between a bad day and a good day.

— Vanna Le

credits

released September 7, 2012

All songs written by Daryl Jason Lazaro,
then arranged and performed by Tor House.
Track 7 composed by Daryl Jason Lazaro & Andoni Chaniotakis.

Tor House is:
Daryl Jason Lazaro: acoustic guitar, cajón, claves, cover art,
design, electric guitar, hand claps, harmonica, mastering, mixing, producer, recording, Roland FP-5, shaker, tambourine, trombone, trumpet, voices
Andoni Chaniotakis: Cretan lyra (tr. 7)
Adam DeBow: electric guitar (tr. 1, 2, 3), slide guitar (tr. 3, 8)
Rondy Michael Lazaro: violin (tr. 9)
Alvin De Los Santos: Roland FP-5 (tr. 1, 2, 3, 8, 10),
alto saxophone (tr. 10)

Recorded, mixed and mastered October 2011-June 2012
in Hayward, CA, Davis, CA, and Charlottesville, VA.

© Tor House Music, 2011-2012. All rights reserved.

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Track Name: Central Coast
Wandered for years, chasing in vain such a harsh one
till I pushed her away and left her to waste in the wild sun
Had to escape, so I packed up and left for the ocean
and where I go today: what’s to find waiting for me?

I called up a friend and said to surrender his hard life
so we hopped in the car, driving through towns in the dark night
Then came the dawn, made it down to Big Sur with our tired eyes
and where we came today: what’s to find waiting there
deep in the woods where we rambled along?
Death, in the trails of a crumbling log
To think, that will someday be me
withered and done, to be dirt for the trees forever

Sunday night, in our hotel room in Monterey
I could smell the smoke looming—
a cigarette, a heavy heave of air into your chest
I will call you friend till the fleeting of my days

Sunday night, at a bar along the Cannery
after just a quip or two
I heard him say he would shove that barstool in your face
but I’ll defend you, friend, till the fleeting of my days
Track Name: Sour Mash
Once all the coast debris rolls outward with the tide
I’m gonna break my ties
Beneath a brumal sky, I’ll cut right down the line
I won’t back down this time

This bold rock bottom climb
That goddamn college try
Old age imparts new ways
The sour mash of days

So mind and nurse the wounds that scar
cause when the cold wrath hits you…boy, it hits hard
But when a faithful kindred comes to help you out and say,
“Gather what’s left and try again—”
you gather what’s left and try again!

So while the grey-tailed tribe may say they’re satisfied
they’re gonna see me strive
cause I’d rather take that chance and watch it slowly die
than see it just pass me by

This bold rock bottom climb
That goddamn college try
Old age imparts new ways
The sour mash of days

So mind and nurse the wounds that scar
cause when the cold wrath hits you…boy, it hits hard
But when a faithful kindred comes to help you out and say,
“Gather what’s left and try again—”
you gather what’s left and try again!
You gather what’s left and try
Track Name: In the Snow
A northerly voice is calling out
in the madness of dusk with the crows
They leave us to be when the autumn nears
so we fend for ourselves in the snow

The brotherly boys are working out
all the fears they may share while they plow
The shivering sun sits solemn now

and way up over the mountain
deep in the canyon
we learn to sing lightly
burn to shine brightly

And when my time has come, to the ashes I’ll return:
throw my bones to the wind…
But the chimes will ring with the songbirds in the spring,
so we’ll take to the road…
We can do this on our own.

I carry in me lies of long ago—
in the outcome of what I was told
maneuvered the way back before the cold

and way up over the mountain
deep in the canyon
we learn to sing lightly
burn to shine brightly

And when my time has come, to the ashes I’ll return:
throw my bones to the wind…
But the chimes will ring with the songbirds in the spring,
so we’ll take to the road…
We can do this on our own.
Track Name: Tule Fog
Tide the daily din:
automatic, warm within
every time you would hold me

And I’m trying hard to stay
but I see the absence in the way
every time you withhold me

The less we learn the word to say
the more regret we won’t convey
(the consequence of growing by the day)
and out here in the pouring rain
droplets catch the windowpane
to linger there until they dry away

Not for nothing with your love
but we hit the point where we can’t save enough

Can’t tell what this tule fog brings
so I won’t worry ‘bout the rain that falls till the morning

and will this fall in the morning?
Track Name: Shoot the Half
I know the mountain might suffice
although the strong red stream runs dry
But I have loved you long
through the drought before the storm
like the moon and sun
in pursuit across the sky

And while we may not have a shot
it’s worth the try to shake this loss
So if you prove me wrong
you’d remove these wounds I’ve drawn
if the time we’ve stayed
has surpassed the games we’ve played
But when it’s down and out
shoot the half and send me on my way

to where all these vultures wait
over stones that stopped the well from caving in
for your teeth again

But I have loved you long
through the drought before the storm
like the moon and sun
in pursuit through all their days
but when it’s down and out
shoot the half and send me on my way
Track Name: Mates
When I was a child, a faithless face
I could not love another for the life of me
All the while you tread so cautiously
So hard to tame the boy who prod our fourth fight of the day
This no-good light of mine
One low-down way to shine
I’d walk away but you’d stay anyway.

Then summer came around and sowed this heat
I’d always let my anger try your patient care
with words that would barrage the worse for wear
even though I could not say exactly what I need
To change this light of mine
and help my spirits shine
I fell through but you’d stay for my reprieve.

So here these days we’d laugh and joke to cry
I guess we’ve grown a while to see the finer years
while leaving room for fables still to hear
In place of all the demons now forever lost to time:
that selfless light I see
who would not dare secede
whose sympathy will stay with me for life.
Track Name: Fields of Anatoli
Where do I want to be?
On the fields of my home in Anatoli
but wherever I go with the things that I do
I just want to go with you.

Where do I want to be?
Stuck in fall, where the harvest won’t bother me
cause whatever I do with the crops that I choose
it’s enough to stick with you.

Where do I want to be?
In the grove where the branches hang over me
and as long as the coyote yearns for the moon
all the while I yearn for you.

Where do I want to be:
on the fields of my home in Anatoli?
But wherever I go with the things that I do
I just want to go with you.
Track Name: Back to Shore
Never came a day that I wished to
repeat your raggedy love, no
I would’ve rather sailed through a stormy day
straight past the Golden Gate
but now I’d come back to shore
if you still want me more

And getting back the heart that I gave you
wasn’t too terribly hard, no
But I couldn’t say the same of my sorrowed bones
from drinking and drinking, oh
But now I’d be sober for
the day you want me more

And I don’t even know where you are now
and though it’s not tearing me up, no
well, maybe if you come back to town again
well, maybe you would find me here
keeping an open door
if you still want me more