For such a massively populated nation, Japan has given us surprisingly little in the way of music that has made the distance to these shores. Aside from possibly “visual kei” act Dir En Grey or screamo band Envy, could anyone out there realistically name more than a handful of acts from the Land Of The Rising Sun? Maybe more feasibly in the post-rock arena, where Japan have given us Mono, Boris and this four piece, toe. This four track EP is their first release since 2009 and to say their rapidly expanding fanbase were expectant of this would be an understatement of the highest kind. The great news is that, much like the rest of their material to date, it’s absolutely wonderful.
Starting off with ‘Run For Word’, this album instantly mesmerises; a simple looped guitar line over a hooky bass undercurrent and quite spectacular drumming – the musicianship on display here is almost second to none. Not throw out a comparison at all, but if you think the drummer from progressive metallers Meshuggah must have limbs beyond the average, wait until you hear toe. Second track ‘Tsuki Kake’ reminds me more than a little of ‘Let My Fish Loose’, an Aphex Twin remix of a Japanese jazz/trip-hop musician Nobukazu Takemura, which can be found on Aphex Twin’s remix compilation, ’26 Mixes For Cash’. A rather esoteric reference point I realise, but look it up, it’s a goody. This track is possibly the highlight of this EP, a collision between ambient/glitch act The Album Leaf, Rodrigo y Gabriela-esque flamenco guitar licks and gorgeous male/female trade-off vocals.
<a href=“http://bsmrocks.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-is-now-ep” data-mce-href=“http://bsmrocks.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-is-now-ep”>The Future Is Now EP by Toe</a>
‘Ordinary Days’ kicks off with some instrumentation that may feel familiar to fans of Oxford act This Town Needs Guns, until about 2 minutes in, when the track implodes slightly and becomes a spectacular display of drumming from Kashikura Takashi. A requiem to those who lost their lives in Japan’s 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami, every proceed from this particular track will go towards ensuring northern Japan goes back to its “ordinary days.” Title track ‘The Future Is Now’ builds and releases in the same fashion as early 65daysofstatic, although not nearly as reliant on electronic instrumentation. It smoulders and tenses until finally releasing in the final minute, ending the EP on the highest of notes – the last noise you hear are tired fingers sliding off a fretboard.
A frankly stunning display of instrumentation running concurrent to a highly enjoyable set of songs, this brief encounter sees toe in a transitional period – gone is the hyperactive sense of adventure and experimentation which made for a slightly more psychedelic experience, replaced by a measured and mature approach to songwriting. This is their most accessible set of songs yet (especially the R&B flavoured ‘Tsuki Kake’) and gives us a sense of the potential for their third full-length.
‘The Future Is Now’ by toe is available now on Big Scary Monsters (UK) and Topshelf Records (US).
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)