Toy – Join The Dots

by Sean Phillips

Rising to prominence nearly three years ago, thanks in part, to the patronage of The Horrors, Toy have come to define the current East London psychadelic scene based around the ‘Shacklewell Arms’. They’re like no other band in a burgeoning scene of British psych-influenced bands; Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs and newcomers Telegram to name just two.

Just fifteen months after the release of their critically acclaimed, eponymous debut album, East London’s finest return with a sophomore release which sees both a continuation and development of elements which garnered so much interest in the band to begin with. Join The Dots ultimately represents a definite shift toward aesthetic rather than melodic value. No bad thing, except Toy tow an extremely fine line between innovation and reliance on a wealth of tasteful inspiration.

Opening track Conductor is a case-in-point. In an explicit nod to a revered set of krautrock forefathers (Neu and Can, in particular), the 10-minute instrumental jam showcases everything both exceptional and cyclical about Join The Dots; seering guitars, keyboards and feedback spill over and around a rumbling, repetitive drumbeat. Recording Join The Dots in analogue to tape was clearly an excellent aesthetic move, and Join The Dots is stylistically faultless, but it’s hard to define exactly what part of the sound Toy can call their own.

The opening guitar line from You Won’t Be The Same wouldn’t sound out of place on NME’s C86 cassette tape (an explicit nod to The Pastels and The Field Mice), whilst closing track, Fall Out Of Love, begins off sounding like Ride or Chapterhouse. It’s good though. Lead single and standout track Join The Dots could easily be the mischievous younger brother of Kopter (the closing track from Toy’s debut album), and is a definite highlight of the entire record; it sees Toy at their most melodic and accessible. This is a fantastic modern psych-pop record in which excellent references abound and a good trip which demands to be listened to from start to finish - but one you might feel like you’ve been on before. Nevertheless, we are witnessing a band that feel increasingly at ease with their sonic space.