TOY have always been a little strange. They’ve always existed between genres and dimensions, teetering within the scope of ambient rock. Their sound, both drifting and delirious, has a place in melancholic shoegaze, though it is atmospheric and wandering - anchored by a softer, post-punk edge.
Three years on from ‘Clear Shot’ and six from ‘Join the Dots’, the five-piece - who took up residence in New Cross and found a new home with Tough Love - offer up ‘Happy In the Hollow’. Self-produced and self-recorded at the Streatham studio of legendary producer Dan Carey (who only gave him the keys to his space and a 40-minute crash course on how to work the sound desk before leaving them to it), ‘Happy In the Hollow’ is TOY at their most ambitious and confident.
The group expand on the sorts of themes and sounds that have made them so distinct to the ear while incorporating new layers of heavier krautrock, as well as melodic folk to further engineer their trademark sound. Dom O’Dair contributed his past experience recording grime to the band to make a more mechanical sound on ‘Energy’ that marries both music human and machine-made - while Tom Dougall and new member Max Claps contribute William Burroughs-style lyrics for ‘Mechanism’. Indeed, when you take into account that ‘Sequence One’ was written by Tom as a reaction to the the daily post-apocalyptic news headlines, ‘Happy In the Hollow’ almost has a slight dystopian feel - a lyrical stream of consciousness that traces paths of paranoia, love and loss - and, finally, optimism for a more positive tomorrow in final track ‘Move Through the Dark’. ‘Happy In the Hollow’ is a sonic survival guide to the post-Orwellian world that is the 21st Century.
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A melodic, sprawling record to wig-out to.