“Set the time, join the dots, / Watch the hands move round the clock”
After Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong failed to live up to the hype of indie statement-of-intent ‘Lucio Starts Fires’, or even release an album, who’d have thought that the gutted and reassembled core of that band could make a group as sonically intriguing as Toy? A clear case of “rip it up and start again” logic, guitarists Tom Dougall and Dominic O’Dair and bassist Maxim “Panda” Barron jettisoned from Joe Lean and recruited ex-Mudfite drummer Chris Salvidge and Spanish keys player Alejandra Diez to explore ambitious soundscapes. After forming in Brighton the group relocated to their current base in London, signed to Heavenly Recordings and put out their eponymous debut in 2012. Perhaps it was the thrill of actually seeing an album through to fruition or finding a band formula that worked, but Toy quickly set about recording and releasing their even more ambitious sounding followup Join The Dots late last year.
While I cottoned on to Join The Dots a bit late for it to be a contender for my end of year list and Toy had been under my radar until then, any band which chooses to start an album with a seven-minute long instrumental is alright by me. ‘Conductor’ opens with lush arpeggiated keys that bring to mind the opening of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite (a high falutin’ comparison maybe, but listen and you’ll see what I mean) before issuing a primal howl that settles into the motorik beat and chugging bass that leads the rest of the song on a dark, spaced out odyssey. Amid waves of paranoid synths that encroach, successive layers of distorted guitars wail along with the rhythm section which gathers velocity. Toy strike a fine balance between keeping a taut sense of momentum and keeping things engaging with flourishes of drama added by atmospheric breaks and Diez’s pedalboard trickery. Towards the end ‘Conductor’ boils over and then bubbles down into silence before ‘You Won’t Be The Same’s jangling Byrdsy guitar melody. As the opening track, ‘Conductor’ certainly acts as a statement of intent on a compelling album which bridges the gap between psychedelic prog and krautrock.
Join The Dots is available now through Heavenly Recordings