TOE is a name that many post-rock and math-rock enthusiasts will be familiar with. The musical wizardry from this quartet not only just captures the rhythmically intense, mechanistic character of math-rock, but also has a keen eye for calm melodic ambiences that would perhaps draw resemblances to the nostalgic sound world of Sigur Ros.

Their debut album The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety absorbs the listener in a world where Steve Reich minimalism meets alternative rock. The most impressive thing is the way TOE manages to construct a body of music that is musically attractive, thought provoking and action-packed with only the bare necessities of a typical rock line-up. Listening to tracks like ‘I Do Still Wrong’, ‘Metronome’ and ‘Everything Means Nothing’ is enough to show off their exceptional performance abilities and manner in which they juggle with electrifying rhythms, irregular gear-and-piston structures and enchanting melodies to produce something that sounds epic but liberating in equal measures.

The camaraderie between each member is very special and unmatched by other post/math-rock artists. ‘New Sentimentality’ is a great example in which every player of the quartet is cast a spotlight; each instrument plays a significant role in the creative formula. The motoring force set by the rhythmically exciting drums and the groovy bass line stirs up the vitality of the song, while the rich chords and arpeggios from the acoustic and electric guitar and the charming sparkling tones from the Rhodes piano injects a ‘feel-good’ atmosphere to the track.

TOE’s latest album Hear You released in July 2015 is noted for its addition of vocal lines, in a plot to subvert their purely instrumental idiom. While the album itself, particularly with songs like ‘Song Silly’ and オトトタイミングキミ ‘Ototo Timing Kimi’ (literally translated as ‘The Sound and Timing You’) may have swung the musical pendulum towards a funky hip-hop or R&B style, perhaps it is effective in enhancing their musical palette. As a result, tracks like ‘Boyo’ maintain the band’s trademark musical identity, but also benefits from a slightly jazzy inflection to develop their sound.

TOE’s existence in the Japanese music scene is of great significance. Their dynamic musical identity and their appetite for precision and creative urgency will continue to serve them well.

Other Listening:

  • Two Moons
  • Commit Ballad
  • Ordinary Days

© Isaku Takahashi