Posted on August 1st, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Michael Negron

If you're familiar with Japanese math rock band Toe – as you should be – the first thing that usually comes to mind is the drumming. Kashikura Takashi has been consistently named as one of the foremost drummers in math rock history, and in a genre known for its quick tempo shifts and time signature quirks, that's saying a lot. Of course, they're completely right; the band's debut, The Book About My Idle Plot On A Vague Anxiety, has grown a cult following over the past ten years as much for his odd drum designs as the album's intricate and complex songwriting. While that virtuosity is still present, Toe takes a more varied, vocal approach with Hear You, an absolutely brilliant work that is as diverse as it is captivating.

Understand that when I say a more vocal approach, it's only at select points in the narrative. In the first track, "Premonition (Beginning of a Desert of Human)," the focus is not only away from the vocals, but also the drumming, leaving the guitar as the centerpiece. It doesn't feel like a "fake out" so much as the introduction that it is intended to be; it's followed up with the aptly titled "A Desert Human," and as you might imagine, they share a similar thematic framework. This is where the Toe faithful will be right at home, and again, it's entirely instrumental.

But Hear You is an evolving experience, misrepresented by the simplicity that it is just a more vocal take on Toe's old formula; it is that – the very next song, "Commit Ballad," being one of the most vocally-driven on the record – but it's not only that. Hear You shifts in and out of various modes with ease while retaining that essential, defining sound Toe has long since mastered. Whether they're utilizing the drums to their full capacity ("My Little Wish"), slipping into the painfully personal and electronically-driven ("Song Silly"), or even something more than a little groovy ("Time Goes"), it never feels that an instrument or style is being forced or even explored so much as given the spotlight.

There are snippets of all these things throughout, and it is that reservation the band exhibits, the ability to allow someone or something else to surface to the forefront, and not subject the work to idea fever, that makes the audaciousness of their project not only a reasonable prospect, but also one that is entirely logical and necessary. Not only that, but when they do decide to take on something a little outrageous – the obvious example being the literal cheer-leading in "G.O.O.D L.U.C.K" – it actually is noticeable, and is supported by a structure of tremendous talent and technical skill.

Hear You may find some contention with purists, but they're only doing themselves a disservice in their elitism. Toe don't need to prove that they've mastered their craft; they did that long ago. Here, they show us that they can transpose their ideas to virtually any medium, any form, from the commonplace to the radical, and still create something magnificent.

Track List:

  1. Premonition (Beginning of a Desert of Human)
  2. A Desert Human
  3. Commit Ballad
  4. The World According To
  5. My Little Wish
  6. Song Silly
  7. Boyo
  8. Time Goes
  9. オトトタイミングキミト
  10. G.O.O.D L.U.C.K
  11. Because I Hear You
Toe - Hear You
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

82 / 100
© Inyourspeakers Media LLC