Kill and Throw (ep)
Home Alone Records
Ben Tolich has been recording (and touring) as Mali Mali for the last decade. A handful of albums, each its own insular world, each almost impossibly perfect as finite statement – a set of songs that could have been imagined up in isolation without ever hearing any music; diaries to the world. Gorgeous and fragile and wonderful.
Kill and Throw is a new (late 2020) EP and is Tolich’s first cassette tape (limited edition via the Bandcamp link there) available also as a CD or the usual streaming options in the usual streaming spaces and places…
It features five new original songs and one cover and is structured in such a way that it all leads – and builds – to that glorious, majestic cover.
That cover is Bob Dylan’s Changing of the Guards.
But first things first. Meditate First is the EP’s opening track. A soft rumination of piano states a fragment of a melody and then that Tolich voice – I’m sure I once described it as being the perfect meeting point for David Byrne’s agitation and Don McGlashan’s calmness – slowly creeps into place. The other most-obvious touchpoint with Tolich is Sufjan Stevens.
The title track is a sophisticated piece of bedsit piano playing, the vocal buries itself down into the tune, Tolich loves to play with musical claustrophobia in this way, sometimes his voice wrings out and soars over the musical line other times its nestled in so deep he all but expects us to lean right in. In either setting it’s a deeply meditative musical experience.
After Under Chimes, another slow rumination of a song with the lyrical theme of rebuilding and re-learning, we have the two slightest tunes from this recordings. Tree Song, at two minutes, features a circular piano motif and Tolich’s voice working in a round to itself. There’s something devotional about the feel of this EP. The hidden (or not so hidden theme) of this EP is the Covid lockdown and there is an overt prayer about Tree Song that is subtle and majestic.
June, July is just over 90 seconds long and is a delicate instrumental piece that works as a prologue to the Dylan cover.
Changing Of The Guards is the classic Dylan that is hidden at the start of his born-again phase. Arriving in the late 1970s it is a big charge of a song, here it is re-arranged for solo voice and playing – Tolich summoning everything to sing this anew. It is one of those moments where a songwriter that urgently wishes they had written one of the great songs has their moment to showcase exactly how they would have imagined it. Guards is one of Dylan’s enduring melodies too and here rendered on solo piano we get to hear just how sublime that melody is.
It’s my new favourite Bob Dylan cover – and there have been a few. And as an EP this lovely, tiny, insular world feels like a precious music box. You take it down from the shelf, crank the handle and feel yourself disappearing deep into it.