Toe - The Future is Now
Record Label: Topshelf Records
Release Date: November 6th, 2012
I don’t, and sadly never will, claim to have some sort of unmeasurable knowledge of every channel of music known to man. So, like much of you, I’ve never heard of, much less dove into, the wizardry and wonder that is Toe. Mixing mathy instrumentals steeped in musicianship with a post-rock edge, the Japanese band certainly isn’t that far under the radar – Topshelf Records’ release of their latest EP shows at least someone was paying attention to them. Yet, The Future is Now clocks in at a healthy sixteen minutes over four tracks, just long enough to mesmerize without turning to bore. But why would it? The musicianship is something special, and the build-and-release methodology of the band only proves their mettle in their decade plus existence in the music scene. But regardless of your knowledge of their work, The Future is Now is sure to capture your attention, whether it be through quirky, yet catchy rhythmic pulses, spot-on songwriting or some seriously impressive instrumentation.
“Run for Word” doesn’t waste any time soaking us with tapping lines and pungent percussion, as the addition of pieces strings us to the hesitant pause in the backbeat before re-structuring and ascending to the ultimate pinnacle of the track. There’s a fine line between noodling and just plain riffing, but Toe show their structuring smarts with the give and take of the parts that make up the whole. Taking down a notch in tempo though, “Ordinary Days” again impresses with jaunted drumming and smooth bass to compliment the dual melodic weaving compliments of the organ and guitar throughout. Even with the slower tempo, the insistently ridiculous drumming and floating vibe of the EP doesn’t feel watered down or lost but somehow accentuated slightly.
Kind of bringing it all together though, the title track ends the EP on a harmonious, yet smoothly crafted finale. Bringing mallet and auxiliary percussion to the already frantic drumming in the mix, the blistering plucking almost plays as the beat to the driving rhythm section – a musical juxtaposition if there ever was one. It works though, entrancing through looping melodies and intricate stickwork to solidify the ending to quite a sonic adventure.
While it would be easy enough to say this is an instrumental project, the sparse vocal harmonies make for a nice, but often secondary addition. Be it the soft ‘nah nah’ to cap off “Ordinary Days” or the pop-like lines of “月、欠け”, the vocals arguably play a second if not third fiddle to the much more intricate guitars or drumming sounding almost like a maelstrom behind the much gentler, delicately approached vocals. It certainly doesn’t take away from anything in the process, but only at times on “月、欠け” does it seem like the vocals entangle themselves enough with the music to truly mesh and push things forward. Another brief qualm here lies in the wandering moments heard both on “The Future is Now” – manifested in some strange distortion – or on “Ordinary Days”, where a complete tornado of sound takes over the proceedings as a method to resolve to simpler, less aggressive tendencies. While not worth truly sulking over, they are a bit of a splinter in the flow of their respective tracks when still getting used to the twists and turns of Toe.
That being said, Toe will not disappoint your need for some This Town Needs Guns-style guitarwork or some truly interesting instrumentals that push multiple melodies and ideas instead of going from one block to the next. But above all, The Future is Now serves as an excellent starting point for anyone looking to open up the book on Toe – a band both exhilarating and technically strong in their craft.
This is a well written review. I started listening to Toe around 2004 and they, along with enemies and mouse on the keys, totally changed music for me from both a listening and a writing perspective. With ordinary days, I always figured that since they released that song after the earthquake / tsunami as a fundraiser that the "tornado of sound" at around 2:30 represented the earthquake and tsunami itself. Afterwards, it sounds like he's saying "乗る" or "noru" which means ride.
I would say the best starting place for Toe would be "For Long Tomorrow" because it has some of their more accessible songs on it. Goodbye and Two Moons in particular; those songs are two of the most beautiful songs I've heard in all my existence.