The second full length from Japanese instrumental band Toe.
Toe – For Long Tomorrow (Machupicchu Industrias 2009)
Instrumental bands always walk a fine line between interest and monotony, trading exciting/memorable riffs for precision guitar wankery and only appealing to the music nerd audience. What kills a band in the post-rock instrumental realm, to even the most devout fan, is the failure to expand their sound and a failure to realize that most people aren’t excited to hear a song that is essentially one riff stretched well past the 7 minute mark. Bands like Pele and Mogwai were good in very small doses but proved to falter in the long run. More recently Battles has come along to turn the genre on its head and open the sound to a whole new group of listeners and it looks like Toe is trying to do the same.
What Toe has done well in the past is to keep the songs at a listenable length as well as differentiate the riffs from one another with the use of acoustic guitars and great guitar work. The most noticeable thing on “For Long Tomorrow” is the willingness to adapt and grow their sound even more with the inclusion of vocals and voices on several tracks. Adding vocals helps them transform a unique, but easily repetitious sound into something exciting and different. It allows the band to keep their trademark jangly guitar riffs and tight drumming while pulling in a new group of listeners. The song “Say It Ain’t So” is a great example of a relatively simple riff made interesting with a tasteful vocal line and the 7 minute time of “Goodbye” isn’t even apparent because of the vocals that have been added. “Our Next Movement” is filled with all sorts of textures with horns and plenty of percussion filling in the groove, this is the sound of a band growing up.
Toe runs a great balancing act avoiding the pitfalls that have plagued many bands of the same genre, expanding on their strengths and creating new ones they will be a band to watch. With dashes of Tortoise, Pele and a unique sound all their own, Toe is moving forward with another exciting album while their counterparts wallow in their stagnant sound to be forgotten in the years to come.