And so we come to another quite amazing Japanese band, perhaps unfairly lumped into the post-rock genre, although they themselves don’t really agree with that categorization, and their music doesn’t really warrant it, seeing as it’s a very precise, evolving affair that has very little to do with the spatial delirium of post-rock, except for the fact that it’s mostly instrumental. Truth be told, the music Toe plays is closer to math-rock, although to firmly plant it in that camp would also be a mistake. It’s really quite difficult to attribute a simple label to such an unusual sound, and therein lies the fun! This band manages to keep you confused long enough to make the question “what exactly am I listening to?” irrelevant, awash in a tide of simple wonder.
I sometimes get the feeling that it’s nigh impossible to join “relaxing” and “complex” as attributes describing the same artistic product nowadays. It seems that “casual” versus “hardcore” has been established as a conflict with very little middle ground, and this, frankly, puzzles me, especially when faced with Toe’s music. It’s some of the most melodically pleasing rock I’ve ever heard, delicate, intricate, enthralling in every way, from tonal texture to compositional prowess, while being backed up by some of the most genuinely badass drumming in the music industry. Not to be condescending or to oversimplify things but, in all honesty, the drummer makes this band great, and that’s just the way it is. The guitars and bass lines are pretty, fragile things, with a will of their own, but nothing I’ve never heard before. However, mixed with the seemingly boundless imagination of Kashikura Takashi’s drumming, the music simply sprouts wings. The man is unbelievable, working with rhythm like it’s an elastic, luminous thing, playing the drums not like a bunch of buckets with a membrane on top, but like an instrument far more subtle and articulate than the majority of my experience has led me to believe. I’d even go so far as to put him in the same drummer hall of fame in which I think of Bill Bruford (King Crimson), Danny Carey (Tool) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), people who have defined the way the drums sound and interact with the other instruments in a typical rock band.
This is Toe’s debut LP, even though it’s not their first release, as the band seems quite comfortable on the EP format in general, having issued about about four of them so far. It’s a wonderful collection of songs, each of them as playful and challenging as they are soothing. Soothing math-rock… who would’ve thought? Well, this album sets out to prove it’s possible, and does a damn good job of it. The calm, endearing quality of the melodic side of their music manages to keep boredom at bay entirely, throughout the record, either by simply lulling the listener into a sense of comfort, or by initiating scintillating bursts of dialogue with the vigorous but expertly controlled drumming. The fact that the music just can’t seem to sit still, without ever becoming annoyingly hyper provides a subtly tense, playful mood and a thoroughly enjoyable experience from the very get-go to the end.
I found an entire DVDrip of their RGBDVD video, from 2006, on YouTube. I’m pretty sure it’s there illegally, but as long as it’s up there, I’ll embed it. They’re a wonderful band live, so I really hope you’ll enjoy them (by the way, I have no idea how Toe it’s pronounced, whether in the English way, or the Japanese “To-eh”, not that it matters, it’s just a little brain tease I can’t seem to find an answer to online, at least so far), and I’ll see you soon!