The music of Japanese indie rockers toe is the juncture at which the science of sound composition and the passion of artistic expression meet and forge a powerful bond. This highly effective relationship is especially present on the quartet’s brand new album, Hear You, on Topshelf Records.
Hear You, which is largely instrumental, consists of eleven diverse and expertly crafted songs. A handful of different musical elements go into each: indie rock, mathy post-rock, jazz, and so on. Mostly one encounters the repetition of a song idea which evolves over the course of a few minutes, with subtle changes and minor deviations throughout, utterly absorbing the listener. And this is achieved with clear channel guitar (Mino Takaaki and Yamazaki Hirokazu) that is as fluid and beautiful as running water yet as precise as machinery, bass (Yamane Satoshi) that runs deep and strong like veins beneath the skin of the songs, and wildly brilliant percussion (Kashikura Takashi) which goes back and forth between busy and intricate to mellow and minimal. Overall, Hear You by toe is just pure artistic vision coupled with superb musicianship.
“Premonition (Beginning of a Desert Human)” and “A Desert Human,” the first two tracks on the album, are sibling arrangements, the former flowing seamlessly into the latter, both driven equally by guitar and drums, drawing the listener in close so that his or her ear is able to observe every tiny detail in the music. “Commit Ballad” is one of the few songs on the album with vocals, which are provided from an unidentified female singer. “My Little Wish” is four minutes of indie rock jamming. “The World According to” is a sublime offering would be equally fitting for a skate video as it would a breakdance battle. “Song Silly,” somewhat uncharacteristic of toe, is a combination of indie rock and electro pop, with soft male vocals. “Boyo” is the kind of song one can meditate to for some time. “Time Goes” has a jazzy hip-hop quality, while the following track is full of keys, a punctuating beat, and lovely female vocals. “G.O.O.D.L.U.C.K.” has an experimental and world music vibe, with a cheerleader squad shout toward the end. The closer, “Because I Hear You,” with its chill, noodly guitar and choppy percussion, has an almost Modest Mouse feel to it.
While Topshelf Records is arguably one of today’s finest indie rock labels, toe’s Hear You is not quite the sort of album one would expect from them. In fact, toe’s music seems more like the sort of sonic fare one would get from, say, Naked Ally Records. But I certainly applaud Topshelf for taking them on.
Hear You is available now in digital download. CDs of the album are scheduled for an August 7, 2015 release. And the vinyl won’t be out till October 16th.