toe Hear You

toe Hear You
8
Despite their name, Japanese math rockers toe wash ears clean with crisp rhythms and melodic experimentations on their third full-length album, Hear You. On drums, Kashikura Takashi provides swift, complex beats, while toe's instrumentals and occasional vocals opt for a more starkly minimal sound than they employed on their previous effort, EP The Future Is Now.
 
There are many surprises on Hear You for fans who've followed their 15-year long career, notably the inclusion of vocals that offer a reflective tone and nuanced complexity. Track "Song Silly" opens with bare bones piano, letting male vocals, bass, guitar and drums flow in and out like water. The lyrics "I've forgotten what I know" on "Song Silly" seem to suggest that toe themselves have pushed a reset button with their new, markedly gentle approach. "Time Goes" features rapping in Japanese with sparse organ, while "オトトタイミングキミト" boasts a hip-hop beat and piano motifs reminiscent of the late Japanese producer Nujabes. On "Commit Ballad," female vocals stretch out over the tight rhythmic structure, at times soft and at times tense, summing up the mood of the album.
 
While Hear You is a departure from toe's past work, the consistent and cohesive quality of the album is a marvel of fluidity and control. (Top Shelf)